Steinar Koffeld volunteering on Lesvos

Steinar Koffeld is one of approximately 300 volunteers who have travelled to the Greek islands Lesvos and Chios for A Drop in the Ocean during the autumn. Steinar has shared many good pictures with us. After he came back from his stay in Lesvos, he wrote:

en gruppe mennesker i gule vester

“Over a week ago I came home from Lesvos and I am starting slowly to land. It has taken a few days, and has been special days in itself, but now I’m starting to get a little perspective. Some of us who have been down there had debriefing with A Drop in the Ocean in the evening, which was very good.

Firstly, I am very glad that I went to Lesvos. I was very excited beforehand and thought many times to withdraw. To flag, on Facebook, that I should go was probably wise so I stuck to what I decided! My cousin Espen Schive who helped me with waders expressed it well just before I left: Where your comfort zone ends, that’s where your life begins!

Experiences at Lesvos were very special, unlike anything else I’ve done. Drama, fear and desperation is of course perceived totally different when you are standing in the midst of it, than watching it on TV. At the same time, cheers, laughter and joy for having come across the ocean and to have reached Europe. I have never received so many hugs from big and small. Lots of great people, both among the other volunteers and refugees. I was high up and low down and back again – within just a few minutes. Strong emotions, long days, short nights, a lot of work and often physically demanding. But really, really rewarding. The feeling of being useful and a help to others is really wonderful! I think it was Øivinn Øi who said it, a couple of weeks before I left – Self-confidence can be trained, but self-esteem you get only by meaning something to others. Agree.

It is still quite unreal to see how many people around me who really wanted to help – both with money, equipment and encouragement along the way. Finally, there were around NOK 24 000 on the Lesvos account! I have already mentioned that much of it was used for the mini bus and extension of my stay. In addition, I used of this money to buy large quantities of water, MANY boxes of bananas, biscuits, chocolates, hundreds of lollipops.  It also financed some hundred sandwiches that  the hotel  made and we handed out. I have not yet completely track of how much I have left when all bills have been paid, but it will still be a few thousand left. I have not quite decided yet what I will do with this money, but there will still be something left that will benefit the work on Lesvos. Again – Many thanks to all who helped! Great people you are and I’m proud that you showed me confidence!

Following the refugee debate here at home is of course a bit different now after being there and experienced the influx of refugees and individuals closely. What I think is probably the worst thing here now is the polarization of the debate. It’s getting more and more trench warfare and it just does not solve what we face. This is big, we may only have seen the beginning and I do not think there are easy answers. It is a reality that many people are moving in the world and within Europe now, and Norway cannot opt out of this. Europe is going to be changed – so it has changed many times before. We must simply roll up our sleeves and deal with this together in a constructive way.

Finally: Many have wondered whether I should go back to Lesvos and I   say loud and resounding: Maybe. The experience of really being of great help, and in a few days feel that I genuinely could make a difference for people around, was strong. A Drop in the Ocean has really been a fantastic platform for “ordinary” people who want to do something and actually get the opportunity to contribute. And the idea of doing something more with these people, somewhere, sometime, grows in me. At the same time I realize that this is too large to think that my small contribution plays a geopolitical role so I do not rush (yet). But for some individuals, I think my presence ment something.. And it feels good. “