On-the-ground in Greece - Day 2 Lesvos

Day 2 and we’ve travelled to the island of Lesvos where Simon and I are in the brilliant hands of Ines, Mohammad, Anna and the fantastic team of Refugee 4 Refugees volunteers. And I also visited the very lovely Danielle at Gateways2Life showers for women.

After an early flight from Athens, a very kind airport pick-up from Ines, and all the usual hire car admin both ends, we were on the move.

First stop the Refugee 4 Refugees shop and a little tour. Winter clothes distribution stopped a couple of weeks back and the summer stock swap-over has happened allowing the shop to re-open the previous day. Mohammad and the team have helped about 100 people each day. But they’re really low on all summer wear donations.

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Next we went up to ‘Mandala’... the name given to the land we’ve worked with R4R to rent as a safe space for kids. After lots of rain, we were lucky to have a perfect spring day and with spring flowers everywhere, the beautiful painted rocks and the air filled with kids having fun (and an accordion which one boy really took to!) it was perfect. The piece of land is tucked in behind Moria Camp, and feels completely removed. You can come here and forget. I couldn’t love it more and it will definitely we a project we’ll be getting support for in the future.

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Next stop was Gateways2Life where I immediately found Danielle’s smiling enthusiasm contagious! The centre is pretty big with a large women-only (and kids of course) space. It was busy with a lovely vibe. Danielle and the team are doing daily activities with the women, this morning’s had been about ‘hope’ and they’d painted bottles and sown seeds. The walls were covered with previous activities and they would love more arts and crafts donations. Next to the popular washing machines and to the 10 lovely warm showers, where many women wash using the products from the Dignity Packs sent over as part of our LoveOUTLoud collaboration, with so much love from the UK.

We returned to the shop to join the R4R team for lunch and goodbyes as we’d decided to take the opportunity of lovely weather, and a little spare time, to drive north to Skala Sykamineas, Stage 2 Camp and the ever-sobering Life Jacket Graveyard.

It took a little searching, but we found the Life Jacket Graveyard and, even though it was my third visit, the scale of it all just hits you. It really does feel like a graveyard and is so still and silent. The mounds of life jackets serving as a haunting reminder of the people who made it to Europe, and the people who didn’t. The different stories of each and every person who wore each life jacket. How they must have felt when they wore it. Shivers. And shame. That we’ve created this. We can’t stop the wars, but we had a choice over this. This human tragedy is Europe’s to own.

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En route back to Mytilene, and as it was getting dark, we drove past the former House of Humanity, then on past the Attika Warehouse and down to the beautiful location of Home for a Day where we were so fortunate to catch the wonderful Nikos and Katerina, even if we were too late to eat today. Simon loved it the second he walked in and decided to join their volunteer team the next day! Wonderful.