A Drop in the Ocean – 3 years

This has been the best day (apart from when my five children were born) and the worst day of my life! I am spotting for boats with binoculars and a first aid kit. Those were the first items I was handed when I met up with the English couple that coordinates and alerts volunteers when boats enter the shore. Yesterday, 4000 people arrived to the island in rubber boats. They pay about 1000 euro a person to join the boat. And another 100 for a life-jacket. The children are often just carrying inflatable swim rings! There are piles of life-jackets on every shore! – Trude Jacobsen, 30 August 2015.

mange barn og noen voksne på en strand med redningsvester

I published this post on the 9 days old Facebook group Dråpen i Havet (A Drop in the Ocean) after my first day at North Lesvos. It has now been three years since I first set foot on Lesvos. The flight from Oslo only took a few hours, and I carried 14 kilos of luggage. Young Alan Kurdi had yet to enter the boat that would carry him on to his last journey.

Little did I know that when I received the first boat, and that this stay and these impressions, would be the beginning of a substantial mobilization, and later, a humanitarian organization. But three days later, and with 11 000 new Facebook friends in the Dråpen i Havet group, I was certain. Certain of that this was so much more than one person’s desperate efforts for a few days. Certain that the best way to help the situation, both immediately and in the long run, was to accommodate for more people to contribute.

August 30, 2015

…Today we are 4 cars, and 6-8 people who have been shuttling children, pregnant women, and elderly from where the boats enter and the 8 km towards the village. There are probably more people that have contributed, but I have not seen them. I have not seen a single person from any of the aid organizations!!! From this village, it is 65 km into the capital.

A pregnant woman with 24 days to due date was in pain and the water broke. We called an ambulance, but I don’t think it came. Suddenly she was gone.

The police refuse to let us give anyone food, not that I care about their restrictions. But there is also a lot of joy among those who make it across the ocean! They are nice, they take pictures and cheer. Teddy bears and dry shoes make the children overwhelmed with joy. This is heaven and hell at the same time. On the beaches you can see tourists sunbathe and swim in the ocean, and 200 meters further away there are people escaping from bombs and torture. To be continued…

Three years have passed since I in despair asked where the large aid organizations were.

Through these years many of the large ones have come and gone. I would like to see them stay longer. It gives a certain assurance to work with organizations with broad experience and financial reserves. Furthermore, it seems like when all the big ones pull out it signals to media and politicians that the crisis is over. Anyone who follows the situation knows that it is not the case. Close to 20 000 refugees are located on the Greek Islands, and during the last days around 200 people are arriving each day. It is estimated that more than 50 000 refugees are located on the mainland. The numbers are unreliable and vary depending on who is reporting.

A Drop in the Ocean during the last three years become a renowned actor in Greece. At the moment, we work at four destinations, and we are wanted in two additional camps. In total, there are about 10 000 people that have access to our services. We have throughout these years been working in additional ten camps, destinations, and independent projects. Even if we have received several awards and nominations in these years, we’ve never had the time to rest on our laurels. It is simply too much to be done, and those of us working with A Drop in the Ocean constantly strive for innovation that makes it easier for those who want to help, and at the same time ensure sustainability, security, and dignity for those we are helping.

FLEXIBILITY and PEOPLE are our clear strengths. Flexibility, because we can move quickly into new locations, in new camps, with new projects. People, because they are full of good ideas. Those are the ones who spend their time and knowledge and who care for one another and for their new friends. We know that many new friendships have been made through A Drop in the Ocean. Friendship across countries, religion, age, and background. Each and one of those 5000 volunteers that has contributed with A Drop in the Ocean these years, represent an impact towards a more including and warm world. They have become the witnesses of our time and brought back to their native countries important first-hand knowledge about hopelessness, love, and human dignity.

I want to round off by thanking all of you that have contributed throughout these three years. Regardless of whether you have been fieldworkers, administrative support, supporting our projects financially or shared information. We should be proud of what we have achieved so far! I render a post that I wrote in our group when I was on my way home from Lesvos. Later, that same day, the image of a young boy with a red t-shirt was shared all over of the world. R.I.P Alan Kurdi, and tens of thousands of others that did not make it to Fortress Europe:

2 September 2015

Briefly on status and thoughts hereafter, as I stay the night at an airport anyway. Your commitment is huge, and I am eternally grateful for everything you have done! And for all the encouraging words! I have not read all of them, but after every single boat we have dragged ashore I needed a bit of support, and found it in this group.

During these three days, I have lived and learned so much more than I could ever imagine! I have also felt hopeless and angry. All emotions are extremely amplified. When a five-year old throws himself around your neck for a cookie, when a woman cannot thank you enough because of a sanitary napkin, or when an elderly women cannot stop kissing you on the chin and thanking you just because you are there – then things are really put in perspective!

But it feels unbelievably sad to help only a fraction.

A Drop in the Ocean have had a real space launch! My internet connection has been very unstable, and I have not had the time to read both Facebook, messages, and news. I understand that there has been something in the media too. Will have to read it later. I also think that this project has to become properly organized. Originally, I was just going to Greece with some clothing and shoes from my own and some friends’ closets. But with this fantastic dedication you have shown, we have to develop further.”