For the last two weeks, I was on the island of Mytilene (aka Lesvos or Lesbos) in Greece. Peter and I go every other summer or so–he’s been going since 1992. It just so happened this summer the island is inundated with refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and more, who are taking boats over from the Turkish coast.
I wrote a lot about the people I met at the refugee camps on my personal Facebook page, and near the end of the trip, I collected donations from friends to redistribute directly to refugees and to give to volunteers on Mytilene for supplies.
Some people missed that window to donate, so I’m posting a few options for helping out here, if you are so moved.
1) Wire money to the NGO Angalia.
Angalia (it means ‘hug’ in Greek) is a four-person organization that spends all donations directly. It’s run by a Greek priest–read about him on the UNHCR blog. I met another member of the NGO, Giorgos Tyrikos, in Kalloni and immediately gave him cash. He was off to buy sandwich fixings. They do good work. See the bank-transfer details below.
(If wiring money to a random bank account in Greece makes you nervous, or you just don’t know how to do it, drop me an email. I’m happy to take cash via PayPal myself, then wire money in a lump sum, to minimize the fees.)
2) Send a shipment of supplies via Amazon.
I set up an Amazon.co.uk wish list with basic gear for kids and adults. (Shipping from the UK to Greece is cheaper than from the US.) If you’re based in the US, ideally order with a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee (a lot of cards charge 3%).
Whatever you buy gets shipped to Philippa and Eric Kempson, a British couple who live in Eftalou, on the north coast near Molyvos, where the most refugees arrive. From there, the people have to walk about 40 miles to Mytilene town, where the camps are. Philippa and Eric (and other volunteers) feed people and help outfit people for the trip. I first read about them in this story.
3) Donate to International Rescue Committee.
This is the most conventional thing to do–it’s tax-deductible and all. Of course there’s some overhead, and not all your cash will go to help people. But I can vouch for the IRC.
In the short time I was there, they did two substantially great things at Kara Tepe: laid down gravel to keep the dust down in the camp, and built shower stalls for women. They probably did lots more. Giorgos of Agkalia also had a fantastic story about an IRC rep handing him an envelope full of cash earlier in the summer, on the first day Greece kicked in the capital controls–Giorgos had donated money waiting in the bank, but couldn’t withdraw it. IRC gave him 5K euros to buy food.
Many thanks in advance, and even if you can’t help now, at least keep these refugees in your thoughts.
ADDITIONALLY, for anyone with contacts in Greece: Information is in very short supply for refugees. Here is a Greek-Arabic phrase list–please distribute to anyone you know working with refugees in Greece. And here is a map of Mytiline island, with the various camps marked. Also please distribute. (And here is a Google map, for online reference.)