October 2016

They’re still there. The refugees.

Now that the EU countries have more or less closed their borders, most refugees remain in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey. Meanwhile, over 60,000 refugees are stuck in Greece: a country that is still enduring the consequences of economic crisis and financial strangulation. Most of these people arrived before the “deal” that was struck with Turkey in March 2015. Hundreds of people still arrive on Lesvos and the other islands of the North Aegean every week. On Lesvos, for instance, there are now over 5,000 people who are not allowed to leave the island. The vast majority fled from countries where war or other large-scale violence threatened their survival: Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Over one-third are children, many of them unaccompanied minors. Some of these children have not attended school for eighteen months now, or longer.

They’re still there. The volunteers.

Thousands of volunteers are still active in Greece: Greeks and foreigners work alongside one another. Repeated studies have shown that these small volunteer groups are far more effective than the major international aid agencies. See e.g. the following article:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/sep/13/secret-aid-worker-greece-has-exposed-the-aid-communitys-failures.

A few examples from these thousands:

Trace Myers, who played a key role in Starfish in 2015, is still in Greece, where she works tirelessly in Thessaloniki, largely with Syrian families. She has founded the small organisation Filoxenia International, and is slowly succeeding in arranging proper housing for some of the most vulnerable families, who are often living in squalid conditions in camps.

Peggy Whitfield, who also worked with Starfish, is now in Athens, where she strives day and night to help the refugees there, especially the 2,000 who are living without resources in squats.

Lucas Burghardt, the young man who taught me how to make bus tickets in Starfish, founded the organisation SolidariTea, and worked with the refugees for a year. He bought a caravan and distributed tea and comfort. This organisation left Greece in August 2016.

Fred Morlet, who has worked tirelessly in his organisation Humanitarian Support Agency (HSA) to make Kara Tepe a livable camp, is still there. He is also trying to achieve something similar with Agios Andreas, a camp near Athens, but bureaucratic obstacles make it unclear if he can continue at this second camp. Laura Jansen is still on Lesvos, working with a group called MovementontheGround.

Maybe you could go and help too. In Thessaloniki, in Athens, on the islands, volunteers are always needed. You can really make a difference.

Here are a few links for people who are thinking of volunteering in Greece. Please bear in mind that you will need to finance your own travel, and usually also your own living expenses. You need to be able to speak good English. Other languages (Arabic, Farsi, Greek) are very useful.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/informationpointforlesvosvolunteers/

http://www.drapenihavet.no/en/we-need-more-volunteers/

http://www.lighthouserelief.org/volunteer/

Volunteer

Education:

http://www.edlumino.org/blog/edlumino-blog-volunteer-recruitment

 

There are other ways in which you can help.

First of all, by donating money.

  • For instance to Filoxenia International:

Filoxenia International

Euro Account Filoxenia International, Josefstrasse 158, 8005 ZurichIBAN: CH60 0900 0000 9183 0912 4 BIC: POFICHBEXXX

  • Or to the Humanitarian Support Agency:

Home

Bank Name: BBVA Bank

Location: Palma de Mallorca, Spain

BIC/SWIFT: BBVAESMMXXX

Account Name: Humanitarian Support Agency

IBAN: ES74 0182 4901 3102 0155 0306

  • Or to the Hellenic Rescue Team, which recently won the Nansen Refugee Award:

http://www.hrt.org.gr/be-a-sponsor-or-a-supporter.en.aspx

Bank Account Hellenic Rescue Team

ΙΒΑΝ : GR20 0260 2570 0002 7010 0642 665

  • Or to Movement on the Ground:

Home

IBAN-rek.nr: NL86 RABO 0307 9928 10

t.a.v. Stichting Movement On The Ground

RSIN: 855840171

If you can’t go to Greece and you can’t donate money, you might want to consider volunteering with refugees who have settled in your own community.

The most important thing, perhaps, is to try to influence public opinion. Some may choose to exert political pressure, while others will simply disseminate knowledge within their own circle, and counter prejudice. My experiences with refugees and volunteers have made me more optimistic about humanity. But let’s translate our good will into actions, each person in his or her own way.

The net proceeds from A Month with Starfish are donated to one or more of the groups mentioned here.                   

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Refugees in Greece

The situation has changed dramatically since this book was written and the EU struck a pernicious deal with Turkey. The flow of refugees and migrants from Turkey to Greece has greatly diminished, but most who have come to Greece since 20 March remain there. Refugees are now living in diverse camps around Greece in a state of limbo, in conditions that vary enormously. Most await an uncertain future, as EU countries continue to dither — about whether to implement the pledges they have already made, for instance, and whether to admit unaccompanied minors, whose situation here and in northern France is particularly grave. Many refugees are deprived of information and proper legal aid, and feel that the EU-Turkey deal treats them as items to be traded. At this moment in time (June 2016), over 54,000 people, most of them refugees from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40% (!) of whom are children, are stuck in Greece.

A Month with Starfish

The audio version of A Month with Starfish is available on Audible and iTunes! Hope you will feel inspired to buy it! If you know someone who likes audiobooks, please spread the word!! The net proceeds will go to groups helping refugees in Greece: at the moment to Lucas Burghardt’s wonderful SolidariTea — Tea for Refugees.
Please share widely!!

Here is the theme tune by the incompaTrable Tessa Rose Jackson and a sample chapter, chapter 8.

https://clyp.it/cfn4f1uv

https://clyp.it/gwjmrbz1

 

A Month with Starfish is on sale on the Amazon site, both in a paperback edition and as an e-book for Kindle users. The English edition is also on sale at Athenaeum Boekhandel and the Island Bookstore in Amsterdam and at Housmans Bookshop on Caledonian Road in London. The Dutch version is in preparation. The audiobook version of the English edition is ready to be submitted to Audible and will be available shortly.

 

Editing, design, audio production and copyright

© 2016 Bev Jackson

cover design/graphics by TRJ Illustration

Audiobook produced and recorded by Tiny Tiger Studios; signature tune written and performed by Tessa Rose Jackson

English version edited by Peter Houck

All rights reserved.

Bev Jackson asserts her moral right to be identified as the author of this book.

 

Dedication

This book is dedicated to Melinda McRostie of The Captain’s Table in Molyvos Harbour, Lesvos, who founded Starfish. Driven by compassion for the refugees who arrived on her doorstep, she set about taking care of them. She created a flexible group of disciplined volunteers that was ideally suited to responding to the daily changes in the influx of refugees. Meanwhile, she carried on running her fine restaurant.

It is also dedicated to the remarkable couple Eric and Philippa Kempson, who gave up their life as artists to care for the refugees who arrive on the beach near their home.

Above all, it is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of refugees whose lives have been made perilous or unbearable, who have often lost their homes and their loved ones, and who have set out, with heavy hearts, in search of refuge in Europe. Whatever part of Europe they end up enriching,  I hope they find there some of the love and kindness that were embodied by Starfish.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people contributed to this book. In addition to the tireless efforts of graphic designer and producer Tessa Rose Jackson (TRJ Illustration/Tiny Tiger Studios), editor Peter Houck, and HTML guru Shiraz Habib, several people kindly took the time to read the manuscript and to make detailed comments: in particular, Marinca Kaldeway, Chris Holloway, Emma Jackson, and Doena van der Vorm. I am very grateful to them. The text benefited enormously from their incisive criticism.

I also want to add a special word of thanks to Heleen, Emma and Tessa for supporting me while I obsessed over this project for months.

I am grateful to Suleman Akhtar for kindly allowing me to quote from his blog.

Finally, I want to thank all my fellow Starfish, the Greek and Spanish lifeguards, the Greek fishermen, all the other volunteers and the refugees I met for reminding me of the true face of human courage and decency. “Thank you for existing,” as my friend Omar would say. This was one of the best and most memorable months of my life.

Proceeds from A Month with Starfish

For the first few months, I donated the net proceeds from A Month from Starfish to Starfish. Since 1 June, however, this has no longer made sense. Refugees have no longer been arriving on the north coast of Lesvos for some time now, and the Starfish volunteer network has largely been disbanded. The remaining core group at Starfish now works mostly on projects involving clothes distribution: not just to refugees but also to local families in financial distress.

I had to find a new cause to which to donate the net proceeds from my book. Wanting to preserve a certain continuity, I looked in particular at projects run by people I knew personally, people with whom I had worked in Starfish. At present I am donating the money to the project SolidariTEA, which is run by my good friend Lucas Burghardt (the Lucas who appears in A Month with Starfish). Lucas spent months working tirelessly at Idomeni, providing the refugees stuck there with tea and good cheer. Since that camp was evacuated by the authorities, he and his team have moved their operations to the camps that have been created around mainland Greece. Read about Lucas and his work at http://www.solidaritea.eu/.

For people wanting to donate to groups that are actively helping to improve the lives of refugees, here are a few recommendations:

http://www.PayPal.me/SolidariTea

http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/  #aslam

http://www.justcycling.ch/

http://edlumino.org