Humanitarian aid collected in West Berkshire reached the Greek island of Lesvos last week and was distributed to where it was needed.
Local group West Berks Action for Refugees worked with UK aid organization Hope and Aid Direct, who organized a four lorry convoy of needed humanitarian aid for Lesvos. One of those four lorries was filled with the generous donations of people in West Berkshire.
Local mum, doula and founder of West Berks Action for Refugees, Lindsey Middlemiss, travelled out to Lesvos to meet the convoy and help with the distribution of aid on the island. Lesvos is the third largest Greek island, with a population of around 86,000 people. In 2015, it received over half a million arrivals of people fleeing war and violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.
Lindsey said on returning from Lesvos:
“Reality hit when we arrived and I realized that the coast of Turkey is easily visible from the coast of Lesvos. Winter has not stopped the flow of boats but it has raised the risks. More and more families and children are now arriving, often arriving frozen and wet, fortunate if they have escaped drowning, hypothermia and frostbite.
Refugee children – mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – are prominent in every arriving boat and every departing ferryload. Our team came across some unaccompanied refugee children, such as the orphaned 13 year old boy who had sole charge of his 3 younger siblings.
The people of Lesvos are doing so much to deal with the influx of arrivals, helped mainly by expats and volunteers from many nationalities. Some major NGOs – UNHCR, Save the Children, IRC – are present, but it was clear that it is volunteers taking the strain of providing humaniatarian aid to the arrivals, whether as medics on the beaches and in the camps, lifeguards and first responders on the shore, cooking food, distributing dry clothing or sorting aid donations.
Coming home I was saddened to learn that 3 lives were lost that day to hypothermia off Lesvos’ north shore, one of them a 4 year old boy. Losing arrivals to death by hypothermia or drowning is an ever present fear for those who work and volunteer on Lesvos. There are insufficient rescue patrols and many are forced to cross in unsafe weather conditions, inadequately dressed and in boats that are dangerous in themselves.
Getting the convoy of aid to Lesvos was impressive and I’m grateful to everyone who helped – from our local volunteers, through local businesses including Vets4Pets, Pickfords, Sainsbury and Camp Hopson, Thatcham Baptist Church to everyone who donated to help cover the costs of the convoy”
West Berks Action for Refugees is not currently accepting further donations of general aid but are always in need of more volunteers to help sort donations. See West Berks Refugees on Facebook or www.westberksrefugees.org for more information and updates.