September 2015 we sent our first team to Chios to assist the refugees as they arrived the shores of the island. Our volunteers patrolled the shores day and night and provided a safe and warm welcome for the people fleeing wars and conflicts.
At that time there were no refugee camps on the island, but fantastic locals provided tents, food and clothes in the park in Chios town. The arrivals could stay there until they were registered, and then move on to the mainland and continue to other European countries.
After a couple of months larger organisations came to the island and together with Greek authorities the first camps were established. Tabakika, Souda, Vial, Dipethe. A Drop in the Ocean assisted wherever there was a need for our services. In Souda we have been present since the beginning, and established the food distribution system together with NRC.
Now Souda is closing down. In a few days or maximum weeks, the space will have no tents and no people. The walls of the Castle of Chios will again tell the stories from the ancient times, but also carry memories from the largest migration in Europe since world war II. Souda was never a decent place for anyone to live. Still, a lot of the people who have moved on from there, look back at this as a place with lots of humanity and love.
Now all the arrivals are staying in VIAL camp. Or even outside as the camp has no more space. We have offered our services to VIAL. We believe our system for distribution through our DropShop would be a great asset to the residents in the camp. However, the authorities have ensured us that they will cover for those needs through their own resources.
As there are no plans for a sustainable and fair transport system from VIAL to Chios town, we can not consider that our DropShop in Chios town to be used as a fair distribution centre for the residents in VIAL. The shop will be closed down, and we will move our resources to other camps in Greece.
We would like to thank everyone we have cooperated with on Chios these past two years. Thank you, all the wonderful volunteers who have travelled to the island to give from their hearts and time. Thank you, all the organisations we have been working side by side with towards the same goal. Thank you, wonderful people of Chios! Many of you have been fighting to make the situation for the displaced people better. Many of you opened your hearts and your homes to assist.
Most of all, thank you to all the fantastic people who have been living in Souda and who we were privileged to get to know during an extreme period of their lives. We wish you all the best of luck.
So, for now we say farewell Chios. Take good care of the precious people who come your way. If we can ever assist again, we will be ready in no time.
Photo: Eirik Johan Solheim, Elisha Nader, Kjartan Bjelland, Trude Jacobsen