Trude, September 5:
Check out this handsome bunch now on their way to Lesvos to help! It’s not just one single drop this time, but a lot! (Image 1)
We received this from Kaja on September 9:
An update from Lesvos.
We are now a group of sixteen Norwegians working and staying at the same hotel.
This is how we go about working:
We have divided ourselves into four groups with a car each. For the most part, we work on a distance of 20 kilometers from Molyvos to Skala. We drive to places where it is easy to spot incoming boats; we use binoculars. We inform one another about how many boats we see and then we mobilize. We fill our cars at the British family the Kempsons’. They have been helping boat refugees for eight months now. They are wonderful. We store our suitcases and boxes at their home. We keep things neat and organized and we are well behaved. So we fill our cars with bottles of water that the Kempsons get delivered every day, and we have unlimited access to these; we bring along clothes, some cuddly toys for the smallest children, blankets, baby carriers, shoes, socks, crackers, fruit and first aid material and the like. We are then all set!
When the boats get closer, we try to direct them to places safe and easy to land. These spots lead to the road where they will get help to continue on foot. It is 70 kilometers to Mitilini, where the refugees have to go and register. It is a three-day walk. We help them along the way giving them water, food and other items. From our cars, we check that the children walking on the side of the roads are wearing shoes and make sure that they are ok. If we see someone who is not, we stop and try to give them what they need. We are too few to drive them anywhere, so we help them on the spot. However, if we see any sick, injured or for other reasons are unable to walk, we drive them to a meeting point where they can safely wait for the rest of their family until the next leg of their journey.
It is very important to assist receiving boats. We stay calm and composed and get an overview as to how many children there are in the boat. We help the mothers and children. We wait until the cheering dies out and we can assist changing the childrens’ clothes, shoes and diapers. Then it’s the adults turn. We show them where to go, because they do not know anything whatsoever upon arrival. We’ve made maps with directions in Arabic.
Many of the people we meet recognize us at some other time. Everyone is grateful; they hug us and call us angels. They are also very kind and nice in return. We have an Arabic speaker in each car. We are a great team putting such an effort down here! We get a lot of energy doing this, because it is so meaningful. If not for us, thousands of refugees would be walking seven miles soaking wet! Some with only a shoe, some no shoes at all; without water to drink and totally clueless about where to go. Sometimes some walk two miles extra in the wrong direction. Totally unnecessary.
They say that 50% of the Syrian refugees arrive on boats on Lesvos. It makes sense, since it’s so close to Turkey.
I know that many are wondering what is happening down here. I therefore hope that I was able to give you an idea of what we are doing here and how important your role at home is, too. We could not have helped the refugees if it were not for the clothes, shoes and other items you have donated so kindly. Thank you very much, each and every one! You are making a HUGE difference.
Kaja Espenes on the evening of September 9:
We received 40 boats today. There are between 40 and 50 refugees in each boat. That’s around 2000 people! Some boats have arrived after dark as well, and that’s just difficult. They arrive on spots where there are no paths to easily access the road. Some had to be carried up the steep hill with soft and lose dirt. But thanks to our strong and brave men in the team, elderly men were carried all the way up. I am just so proud of all the people putting in such heroic efforts! It’s bedtime now. I have to get up at 6 a.m. to drive along the roads where the refugees are walking. We’ve filled two cars ready; we will be two volunteers in each. We’ll be helping those who arrived last night. Luckily, there were two busses tonight and they drove about 1000 people to Mitilini. Good night from Lesvos.
On September 12, Kaja wrote:
Saturday: 22 boats came in before 12:30 p.m. You can clearly see that it is the weekend right now. Not even half an hour between each boat! Things are fortunately under control.
And on the same evening:
It’s quite saddening to stand here on the beach. Just a couple of hours before we leave. It’s the very first time I’ve had the chance to enjoy and take in the view of the sea and the beach, without having to see the fear in the refugees’ eyes. I am thinking of all the people who still wait to cross that short, yet long and perilous stretch of water to get here. From Asia to Europe. We have helped so many thousands of people in just a week! Now we are handing over this important duty to those who will replace us. Beautiful Lesvos. I will come back one day. I hope that by then all the people here have gotten their lives back. I hope that by then the tourists are back, too. I also hope that there is peace in Syria, and that we can meet many of the refugees we helped in our own country, Norway. Thank you so much for everything that I have learned.