August 18, 2016
As usual, I have been extremely busy since my last update. More volunteers who were here for the duration of the summer have left, leaving vacancies that are oft hard to fill. We make do with some of the short-term volunteers, but the consistency factor is sorely lacking. Within a week roughly 66-75% of the current volunteers that we have will return back to their home countries. On the other hand, within the next few weeks we will start to receive the volunteers that will be here for one-month or more. Right now it is a crazy transitional period, especially with several of the coordinators finally terminating their volunteering stay.
The weather is starting to change; the north winds have returned with a cool breeze which is extremely refreshing after this long-hot summer. We all know that these north winds bring winter as well, and within a month-and-a-half, the weather will turn for the worse. Winter is not like the bitter cold of Wisconsin, with snow and ice, and air temperatures that hurt the skin. Rather it is a wet-cold, biting through every layer of clothing. When it rains here, it pours. I have begun to re-organize the warehouse to be better prepared in comparison to last winter. Some of the team has been helping me construct shelving on the outside addition, and others have begun to sort through our winter stock. Within a few weeks we will begin to distribute cold-gear on top of our regular hygiene and clothing distribution.
The north winds do not only bring rain and cooler temperatures. They also bring refugees in boats sailing south with the favor of the winds to their backs. Last year, October was the busiest month, and this past week we have begun to see the rise in numbers of displaced-people crossing from Turkey. This morning we had 13 new arrivals, two mornings ago 31. The past two weeks we have seen more refugees come to Samos, Greece than we have all summer. We stand prepared, and I am ever so thankful for the preparations that we have been working on rather than falling into a complacent state of mind.
October is the end of tourist season for both Greece and Turkey. Tourism is a huge part of both country’s economies so the refugee-crisis plays a huge part. President of Erdogan of Turkey has threatened/blackmailed the EU that if they do not give Turkish citizens visa rights that EU citizens have, he will release the refugees in Turkey into Europe. The EU refuses to allow Turkey to join the union because of their massive human-rights violations, especially since the coup this past July. If the EU does not comply, Erdogan will allow the 2.7 million Syrian refugees to cross into Europe. According to some statistics, there are 4-6 million refugees in Turkey that are Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, Pakisani, and many more countries. For the aid-workers and volunteers, we forsee a crisis bigger than last winters crisis.
Since purchasing a round trip costs $700, and the one-way $550-600 I had booked my flight home for August 24, which is 6 days from today. Due to the need of both long-term volunteers and because three of the five coordinators will no longer be with us, I decided to stay. I could not on good conscience leave the responsibilities of five solely on one person. As the news and rumors continue, I am not sure that we will have enough volunteers here, least-wise those who are already connected with the Greek-community, human-rights organization community, and the refugee community we help/work with daily.
While I will continue to keep my GoFund me account active, I would prefer to use it for needs of the refugees. Donations via this account have slowed down, and now that I am staying here for several more months I am stepping out on faith. I have categorized my monthly bills here, and believe it is possible to find donors to pledge monthly to cover my bills here. I have talked with several people (volunteers, Greeks, friends and family) who wonder how I have continued volunteering. To everyone I tell them “faith.” Faith that there are good people out there who see what we are doing, and who also want to help. Faith that those who want to help, but cannot due to raising a family, spouse, work, education, etc. find that they can help by enabling those who can physically help. I am going out on a limb here, but these past 8 months I have seen humanity at its greatest. By faith I have made it thus far, and by faith I shall continue on.
Here is a list of my monthly expenses:
Rent for Studio and Electricity: $225 / €200
Food and Basics of Life: $270 / €24
Cell Phone Data: $45 / €40
Petrol/Gas: $35 / €30
Total: $575 / €515
I have talked with one of my best-friends who lives here, Manolis, and he will let me use his moped for free while I am here. If there is a surplus at the end of the month, I will apply it toward my unpurchased flight ticket, or make purchases for refugee needs. If interested in supporting me monthly, please personal message me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also be reached on Facebook as ‘Andrew Ainarf’ via Facebook chat where we can coordinate either by messages or verbal talk.
My deepest gratitude for all my donors and those that follow me. While I miss home dearly and would love to see many of you, I believe that I must continue on. It is very difficult to take pictures this time. For those that volunteer and work in the camp it is illegal for us to take pictures, and even outside of the camp it is difficult because of protection laws and prevention of exploitation. I would encourage all of you to like and to check out our Facebook page: Samos Volunteers. There you can see what projects we are working on, as well as view some pictures that have been approved to give you better insight. Since my work keeps me more in the warehouse, logistics, administration, and meetings, this will provide a clear picture of what my group Samos Volunteers does to impact the lives of others.