The situation on Lesvos is different than some of you might have experienced in 2015 and 2016 when it comes to arrivals. The number of people arriving to Lesvos is increasing in total, which is why boat spotting is crucial. Although, since the beginning of this year there have been several boats trying to get from Turkey to Greece. A lot of the boats get picked up by either the Greek or the Turkish coastguard, and then arrives at Lesvos with them or they get sent back to Turkey.
By: Kristin Sorthe, Our volunteer on Lesvos
Boat spotting is the main task as a volunteer on Lesvos. When boat spotting, we are working together with volunteers from other NGO´s. A Drop in The Ocean is per this date responsible for patrolling by car on the coastline of southern Lesvos, while volunteers from other organizations are stationed at selected locations. When patrolling, we drive up and down the coastline and keep an eye out for lights that can possibly be from a boat. I’ve experienced that it can be quite difficult to spot the boats, as the only light you see could be a light from a mobile phone. We do the patrolling in two shifts, with four hours per shift (from 23.00-03.00 and 03.00-07.00).
During my stay here at Lesvos, I have so far experienced one landing (that means when the boat comes all the way to the shore, and is not picked up by the coastguard). I find it difficult to describe in words how it was to experience a landing and really got to see for my self what it´s like. I´ve seen and heard on the news about the situation with refugees coming to Greece by boat for several years, but it was something else to really experience it. It was a quiet and windy night, with waves making it difficult for the boat to land in a safe place. When we were informed that there was a boat about to land, The Drops and the other teams gathered and prepared for the landing. The only light I saw when the boat came closer, were two phone lights waving at us. The teams then helped the refugees get out of the boat, and assisted them with emergency blankets. From my point of view, the teams worked well together and I see that as important to make the landing as good as possible.
It is really important that the teams work together to make the landing as safe as possible for the refugees, and also for the volunteers. In order to do so, all teams gathered last week to have training. At the training, we walked around the areas we´re spotting and patrolling, to se what places is more suitable for a landing and what places that aren´t. When walking the coastline, you could see a lot of remains from previous landings such as life vests and broken inflatables.
Here´s a picture showing a map over the area where we´re doing the spotting and patrolling and a picture from our training on the 14th of January:
Activities during daytime
The Drops have recently moved from the north of the island, to the southern part of Lesvos. This means that the organization is in the start-up phase when it comes to projects during daytime. Volunteers with A Drop in The Ocean are therefore collaborating with other organizations until we have our own projects settled as we are in the progress of planning.
One Happy Family
One Happy Family is a community centre on Lesvos, and has been here since February 2017. The idea of the centre is to work with the people, not for them. By this, meaning to help the refugees to spot their professions, skills and talent and supply them with the necessary resources to develop them. And by doing so, the centre´s aim is to assist the refugees in getting their dignity back.
During my stay on Lesvos, I have visited One Happy Family (OHF) several times. I think it´s a great place for refugees to have a chance at feeling normal and also get a break from the life in the refugee camps. They have several offers and activities at the centre, for example a hairdresser, a medical clinic and a women´s house. My main focus when visiting OHF have been the women´s house, and the activities they offer there. Only women are allowed inside the house, and they have activities like knitting, yoga and health sessions. As a volunteer with The Drops, it´s possible to come to OHF join the activities and socialise with refugees and other volunteers. Below is a picture of the weekly schedule at the women´s house
Home for a day – Nikos and Katarina
Nikos and Katerina is a greek couple who owns a restaurant called ”Home for a day” here on Lesvos. It is situated close to Moria camp. Since 2014 they have welcomed refugees to their restaurant, giving them a place to eat and feel like they are home for a day. They also have other activities like guitar lessons and they sell crafts made by refugees. They have organized transportation back and forth from Moria to the restaurant, and from what I´ve understand they bring two groups from Moria each day. I´ve been to their restaurant twice so far, and it was heart-warming to meet the couple and see the work an effort they put into this to make it a safe place for the refugees who are coming there. The second time I visited, there was a group of minor boys visiting, and they were playing music and dancing and seemed to really enjoy coming to ”Home”.
At the restaurant, there is also a possibility to pick up clothes from a warehouse just behind the building. Although, Katharina explained that the warehouse is in need of some reconstruction to make the sorting of clothes more efficient. This is a possible project for The Drops, and the volunteers can come and help with sorting the clothes.
Picture from a guitar-lesson at the restaurant:
Attika is a Warehouse not so far from Moria camp. Here they sort tons of clothes by category. The refugees make an order for what they need of clothes, and then the clothes are transported from Attika to the camp. For volunteers with The Drops, it is possible to come and help with the sorting of clothes at Attika. The warehouse is open from 09:00 until 15:00.
The Drops are planning to start our own project for the refugees on Lesvos, mainly focusing on younger, single women. This project is still in the start-up phase, and therefore as a volunteer you will be able to help develop the project.
Here´s a list of the activities/offers we would like to provide with this project:
- Self-defense training (For this project we need to find a trainer, possibly some volunteers have knowledge about this and are able to teach the women)
- Health sessions (hygiene, contraception, STD)
- Social media classes (Facebook, WhatsApp, how to order clothes from Attika warehouse)
- Questioning hour (services on Lesvos, know how and where)
As mentioned above, One Happy family provides different activities, and our plan is to use their women`s space to provide more women with better choice of activities. To do this, we have to plan how to get the women from Moria to OHF in terms of outreach and actual transportation.