Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Various Refugee Projects

Members of six Croatian branches assembled hygiene kits for refugees in Croatia. Diapers and Hygiene kits were then delivered to the Red Cross.

Delivered hygiene kits, hats, and underwear to the refugee camp in Erding, Germany.  Members made contact to volunteer.

Members from the Rome East Stake put together hygiene kits for the Italian Red Cross

The Staines and Canterbury Stakes, together with the Lille France stake members packed, delivered, and distributed food and clothing to refugees at the refugee camp in Calais.

German Lessons for Refugees in Dusseldorf, Germany meetinghouse

Shoes and Necessities for Refugees collected in Birmingham, UK.

Pietasaari Finland District donated children's shoes, boots, sleds and games.

God With Us : How God Watches Over His Children

My new friend, holding baby Amanuel

We had another miracle moment this week.  We went up to the Bad Homburg Church Office building for some financial training.  It tuned out that I already knew all the information and didn't really need to go.  The final thing we did at the office was an unplanned visit to the group of employees that works with church units to figure out how to get better reporting of expenditures on Refugee projects.  There I met Sister S.  After offering some good suggestions, she mentioned that she was about to leave to help a friend, who is a refugee, who was just going into labor with her first child. Sister S has been helping her for months, and mentioned that she needed baby clothes.  I was able to tell her that we have lots of baby clothes and diapers and we would give them to her.  THAT is why I went for training: to provide clothes for this baby.

Here is the rest of the story: 

Sister S tells her story:  My friend E- got involved with helping the Refugees in her town. One day she helped a women from Africa, V- and took her to the store to get a pregnancy test.

V-  had come to Germany in June 2015. She is Christian and had met a Muslim man, A-, on her journey to Germany. They were married and travelled together. At one point he saved her life. When they were in prison in Libya, all Christians were lined up and shot. Because V- was with her Muslim husband, her life was spared. Shortly after their time in prison, they were able to get on a boat to Italy and eventually come to Germany. Both of them were very traumatized by the journey and unfortunately, A- was not able to cope. One day he left V- and has not been heard of since.

E- stayed while V- took the test and verified that she was expecting a baby. V- was very confused. She wanted to have the child but how would she raise the child without a father in a foreign country? When she consulted with some of the volunteers, an abortion was presented as one of her only options.

Heartbroken V- went to have a consultation with “Pro Familia” (Planned parenthood) in town.

Up to that point I had only heard from E- about this “pregnant refugee” who was going to have an abortion. I was praying for her, even though all I knew about her was her name. That day, when I heard she was having a consultation, I felt a clear impression that I should go and speak to her. I felt this love for her, without knowing her. I counseled with the Lord and in the short amount of time that I had, I was able to find a member in the International Ward, Brother G-, that spoke her dialect and transportation for him to come to our town that night. I knew that Heavenly Father was providing this miracle in order for us to help her.

Another friend from my ward, D- and Brother G- met me at the Consultation office and waited for about 2 hours. We did not know if she wanted to speak to us or if she would be even willing to listen to us. When she finally came out we approached her and asked kindly if she wanted to talk and she said YES! Brother G- translated D-’s first question: “Do you know that your baby is a child of God?” and V- was immediately in tears. She told us that she was afraid to have a baby from a man of a different faith and was scared of the consequences this would have for her. We did not speak about all the details, but we promised we would help her and that everything would be ok. When we prayed together after our short conversation, it was as if the Savior was in the room with us. I felt the Spirit so strongly.

We said good-bye that day and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. We have had many dinners together and E- and I have made sure she always had what she needed. E- is a stay at home mother and has driven her many times to her appointments and checked on her a lot. V- remained very strong, even though some volunteers refused to help her because she did not have the abortion. We have now found an apartment for her in S-berg and she has been very happy to be away from those volunteers that she had to depend on for help.

V- told me later on that she always knew that it was wrong to have an abortion and that she had prayed for her help. She said when she left the office for the consultation and saw the three of us standing there, she immediately knew that we were sent by God!

When her due date came closer, she explained her fears to me one day and I offered without a doubt to go with her. And last Friday, I left work to meet her at the hospital. 50 minutes later we had our miracle baby –Amanuel.  According to V- the name means “God is with us”. [RHS note: this is the same as Emmanuel : 'im' means with , 'nu' means us, 'El' means God].
Mother and child

It is interesting that I happened to speak to Sister Stay and that she knew of a way to get more baby clothes and diapers. I was overwhelmed when I saw the overflowing box and the diaper bag that Sister Stay had put together for us.

The Friedrichsdorf Ward, my ward, also donated so many things when V- moved. A washing machine, rugs, bedding, towels, shelves, pots and pans and a microwave. I received so many replies to my email when I asked for things for her, I was deeply touched. On the moving day we all discovered a beautiful fact about the helpers. We all had a different backgrounds: German, Italian, Pakistani, Eritrean, Ethiopian and our religions were, LDS, Methodist, Baptist, Moslem and non-believers. However, we worked together to help V- move and all sat at one table in the end enjoying cake J.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Self-Reliance in Greek Refugee Camps

Refugees in Greece take first steps towards self-reliance

I found this interesting report here:

By John Psaropoulos
IRIN contributor
Masoud proudly lifts his bedding to reveal the construction of his makeshift bed. He has hammered together four wooden pallets and fitted legs underneath. Poorly padded by a yoga mat covered by two woollen blankets, it seems to radiate heat in the airless June afternoon. But the 34-year-old Syrian chef has a solution for the stifling conditions too.
Outside the three-tent compound he has stitched together for his family of four, he has constructed a sort of summerhouse in the shade of some pine trees: a platform raised on several metal drums and rendered private by a bedsheet. Masoud’s wife, Mezgin, spends her afternoons there cooling off, while four-year-old Mohamed digs holes in the earth with a claw-hammer and elder sister Linda, nine, works on a potted flower garden. Masoud has even built an earthen cooking stove, connected to a chimney on one side and an oven on the other. He fuels it with dead wood foraged from the surrounding pine forest.
This Syrian refugee version of the Swiss Family Robinson is part of a growing narrative in self-reliance at Ritsona, a former Hellenic Air Force radar station about 100 kilometres north of Athens. The facility has been abandoned for decades and, even by rural Greek standards, it is the middle of nowhere.
Three months ago, as borders were reinstated across the Balkans and more than 50,000 refugees who had intended to make their way to northern Europe became stranded in Greece, the government began parcelling them out to abandoned military camps. Some 800 landed in Ritsona. Many have applied for asylum in Greece or relocation elsewhere in Europe, but both processes are likely to take months.
For volunteers and NGOs, as well as the refugees themselves, the emphasis has shifted. Initially, it was about providing anything and everything that was needed. Now, it’s more about helping the refugees fend for themselves, handing out tools and pallets for example.
“For the first month it wasn’t happening at all,” says Ryan DeHane Templeton, an American volunteer with Echo 100 Plus, a Vienna-based charity. “But in the last three weeks it’s grown immensely.”
John Psaropoulos/IRIN
Masoud shows his home-made oven

Taking the initiative

Across a dirt road from Masoud, another Syrian, Shem, has built a two-storey tree house to keep his pregnant young wife cool, draping pine needle-covered branches around it to provide privacy and shade. He is trying to coax rose vines out of four plastic water bottles.
The camp has no running water, and only the storeroom has electricity, yet one of the refugees has managed to install a satellite dish and children now sit around an ancient donated television.
Echo 100 Plus is encouraging the refugees to use their own initiative. “We have a couple of sewing machines and a couple of tailors [who are refugees] living in the camp who are going to start making the clothes that we’re having difficulty finding,” says Templeton. “More conservative clothing is hard for us to find here in Greece. So, for example, they’ll start to produce long skirts for themselves.”
Some of the refugees find a sense of purpose by volunteering as translators and in other capacities for NGOs like Echo 100 Plus. One of the most sought-after translators is 23 year-old Soham Yazidi from Iraqi Kurdistan. She speaks Arabic, Kurdish and English, and finds the work therapeutic – especially as much of it is done in a pair of tents that serve as a Red Cross clinic.
“I try to spend my time translating, helping volunteers with food distribution, helping with clothes distribution, helping in the hospital,” she says. “I’m trying to spend my time away from the tents because life is really horrible here. But I’m trying to have hope; talking to people and taking some hope from them.”

Education and sanitation

In another effort to try to achieve a semblance of normality in the camp, a Canadian charity, Light House Relief, has fenced off an area for educational activities. “The kids are wanting to go to school and parents are trying to make sure their kids are on time,” says Patti Fink, a volunteer. “That’s part of the intent – to get kids to understand what it’s like to go to school and get into that routine.”
The Greek migration ministry has announced that it will open schools with Arabic- and Dari-speaking teachers in all the camps by September. In the meantime, the children of Ritsona, many of whom have never attended school, are taught punctuality, cleanliness and the ABC song under the shade of two enormous Aleppo pines.
John Psaropoulos/IRIN
Children are taught the ABC song in a schoolyard set up by volunteers
Other improvements are on the way. An air force excavator has prepared a trench for a sewage pipe – in a matter of weeks, Ritsona will have flushing lavatories rather than a bank of portable toilets.
On the outskirts of the camp, four plots of land demarcated with stones are the beginnings of a vegetable garden, currently on hold until irrigation water becomes available.
Even with all this self-empowerment, refugees at the camp are largely cut off from Greek society, a society that many of them will eventually join if their asylum applications are successful.

The longer term

Some would like to see efforts to integrate the roughly 57,000 refugees currently stranded in Greece go a lot further. Spyridon Galinos, mayor of the island of Lesvos, which received more than half a million of the refugees who passed through Greece last year, wants the European Commission to subsidise a job creation scheme that would allow hundreds or even thousands of refugees to settle on the island permanently.
“The only condition I asked was that a certain number of jobs should be created, half of which would be filled by refugees and half by locals,” he told IRIN, adding that several villages on the island had empty houses where the refugees could stay.
Galinos said such a scheme would serve as a form of compensation for the millions of euros his municipality has paid in water and electricity bills for refugee camps. The European Commission has yet to respond to his proposal and more than 8,000 asylum seekers remain incarcerated on the islands of the east Aegean with no scope for integration. They arrived after the EU-Turkey agreement was signed and must go through a process to determine their eligibility to remain in Greece before they can even begin the asylum procedure.
Another 11,000 were evacuated from informal camps in the border area near Idomeni last month and relocated to hurriedly erected facilities in abandoned industrial sites.
Phoebe Ramsay, an independent volunteer from Canada, describes one of these, set up inside an old tannery in the suburbs of Thessaloniki, as “absolutely filthy. They didn't even sweep the floor before they set up tents. There's scrap metal and debris all around. There's only one tap of (theoretically) drinkable water for 800 people. And this is a good one.”
The more fortunate are those spread through Athens in subsidised rentals and small communities in disused buildings. Not only are they closer to donors, volunteers and charities, but they have the best prospects for some degree of integration, especially as civil society organisations in the capital are starting to launch programmes with that aim in mind. Melissa, an organisation for migrant women in Athens, has developed a crash course in Greek with linguists at the University of the Aegean.
“Its utilitarian Greek,” says Nadina Christopoulou, Melissa’s founder. “We have done focus groups to discover what situational vocabulary is most useful, such as going to a hospital, dealing with children, paying bills… We’d like the seasoned migrants to be the connecting tissue between the refugees and society.”
Melissa is also planning trips to markets and museums, so the refugees can practise using their Greek.
“I think it’s very important for these people to emerge from the camps and start mixing with local society… The key is to forge a path to income-generating activity, where they will be agents of their own learning, not just passive recipients.”

Greek Camps : Petra Olympou and Oinofyta

This video shows the Petra Olympou camp at the foot of Mt Olympus that we visited last week.


ADRA is our excellent partner there: Adventist Development and Relief Agency  Frank Brenda, Jude, and all the translators and counselors there were very helpful.  

We were asking the girls how old they were.  They showed us with their fingers.  Everyone laughed when I used MY fingers to show how old I was : 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 +3!

Ysdin Kret Pesul and his family : he has 15 children.  All in one tent.  They are grateful for the extra tarp from UNHCR that they used to build this 'family room.' Back home, ISIS is killing all the Yazidi men and enslaving their daughters.  THESE beautiful girls could have met that fate. 

Learning from the Sheik and other advisors.

Counseling with councils : at the end of the tour, we met with the whole camp council to ask for their imput

The second camp, Oinofyta, is farther south, about 1 hour north of Athens, and that is where Lisa Campbell is working. Our Greek Mission is involved in helping at that camp, where self-sufficiency and self-reliance are the plan. If you want to donate to help, go to

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Want to Volunteer in Greece?

Almost every week I get a phone call or an email from someone wanting me to help them volunteer with the refugee crisis, especially in Greece.

We are working on effective ways to do that and I will post more soon, but in the meantime, here is a webpage where organizations in Greece post what their needs are.

This allows YOU to be self-reliant and look for exactly what you are best skilled at.