June 22, 2016
The days are long and the summer heat is intensifying. There has been some speculation by the weather-man that it is supposed to cool down next week, but that was the report last week as well. At the hottest point of the day the temperature pushes well over 110 degrees making it unbearable for any activity to be done. This past winter I couldn’t completely grasp the reasoning behind all the shops being shut between 2 and 6 in the afternoon; now it makes complete sense. I pity those volunteers working in the camp, surrounded by cement and black top, and for those working in the distribution cabin. There is no air condition or fans, and the metal building absorbs the heat. 30 minutes in there and my clothes are permeated, I relish the moped ride back to my warehouse just for the breeze.
It is Ramadan for the majority of the refugees here, which means fasting all day. The majority of the refugees sleep to conserve energy as well as to find some solace from the heat. Simultaneously June 20th is World Refugee Day, so the entirety of the week has been World Refugee Day. While it is great to have activities to occupy everyone in the detention camp, the brunt of the logistics and planning falls on the Samos Volunteers. For that reason, I have neglected updates, which by far is no excuse. My father taught me several useful skills as a child that have become quite useful here. Every day I am asked to build something, fix something, plumbing, etc. Incorporate those skills with the ingenuity taught by the military makes me a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.
The majority of my days keep me at the warehouse, which appeases me as an introvert. An hour working in the camp mentally drains me more than a whole day in the warehouse. But as more volunteers call upon me for random tasks, and more meetings seem to spring up I find myself using several of my hours running around town. I am using my friend’s moped while he is on holiday in Turkey. I had intended on walking everywhere to reduce my carbon-footprint, but walking everywhere consumes too much time as well as the heat dehydrating me and leaving me light-headed. When Ian returns in a few days I will have to somehow squeeze a rental into my budget.
The Turkey-EU deal has burdened the volunteers heavily. The big NGO’s like UNHCR, Samaritans Purse, Praksis, and Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders have massively stepped back in their roles in the camps. My group, Samos Volunteers, are left with the brunt of the work: warehouse, distribution to new arrivals, distribution to those who have been here for weeks or months, hygiene, helping with teaching classes, distributing dry-food, kid’s activities, even now helping to place new arrivals in cabins and tents. Most of these tasks were relegated by those before mentioned big NGO’s with us handling the new-arrivals, now our group of 10-15 are spread thin between the 1300+ in the camp and the 300+ outside of the camp.
Almost every day we have seen new arrivals. This morning there were 70+ new refugees. Though the numbers are not as staggering as this time last year, the deal has only slowed down the flow. Last year the big spike of refugees did not begin until July of last year, and we are continuing to see the spike at a smaller scale. This is another reason why the big NGO’s are no longer playing vital roles, because for some time there were no new arrivals, and human resources cut back on their aid-workers on the island. I don’t believe that they have a contingency plan for this, nor have considered that the flow of refugees is increasing. We are in a bad way in the next month or two as to new volunteers, and could use as much help as possible.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}

The last week I was in Samos this past winter we had begun collaborating with Medecines Sans Frontiers. It was a relief to see that the relationship has only strengthened in my absence. While they are not in the camp due to certain reasons I am not totally educated on. they support us. In the near future there may be more support from them which would be a huge aid logistically and economically. While the UNHCR tries to butt in and control situation without taking into account the smaller players, Medecines Sans Frontiers implements and integrates the already existing structures.

While I am begging for volunteers I want to offer you the experience that will alter your life forever, in a good way. I am on a Greek island, who’s tourism thrives on those coming to see the beautiful landscape and beautiful beaches. The food is incredible and there is so much history and culture to experience. I work with the nicest people you will ever meet who are from all over, who put their careers and education on hold, and sacrificed their time and money to help others. The displaced people we are allowed to be part of their lives are just like you and I. Great way to have travel, culture, food, and best of all, great people all bundled in one incredible “vacation package.”
I have been complimented on my never ceasing smile here or told that I must be a nice person since I smile so much. Just last night Dr. Sandeep Ray landed on Chios, Greece to volunteer with ‘A Drop in the Ocean.’ I met him at UW Oshkosh where he was teaching in the Radio, TV, and Film Department. He will be moving on to Brown University this fall. Molly Fried of Oshkosh, Wisconsin will also be returning this winter; she had previously volunteered this past February with ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ as well, with me in Kos, Greece. It’s an intense feeling to know that we as individuals can inspire others by telling our story.
If anyone is interested in helping us either in donations or volunteering, please check our Facebook page ‘Samos Volunteers.’ There will be both a link for volunteers, the groups GoFundMe and PayPal, and a well as a link for a list of our need. I also have a GoFundMe link here as well and can use PayPal or Western Union. I thank you all for taking your time to follow me as well as both your support financially as well as being there for me. Because of you, I am blessed to be a have a life-changing experience and could not do it without you.


June 16, 2016
It has been a busy few days, even with the EU-Turkey deal, we still have refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece. Since I have arrived we have received new arrivals everyday other than on Sunday. The numbers in the camp continue to rise, with little to no persons being allowed to leave the island. Whilst the flow of asylum seekers has been slowed, it has not halted those who search for hope. Today, yet another 56 souls climbed onto the shores of Samos, Greece. Today, another 56 humans were clothed, fed, and cared for.
Tensions here in Greece are rising. Due to the refugee crisis, the islands are down 60% in tourism, which is the majority of the island(s) annual income. I had the honor to work with many volunteers in Lesvos this past winter on the Hope Center. Sadly, it will never be open or used. The local municipality there is and will do all in its power to prevent the refugees from ever using it. Many of the Greeks believe they are being punished for their humanity and allowing the refugees to come. I have talked with several Greek friends who work and reside here in Samos. There is no easy answer anymore; the islands are spiraling into an economic depression, on top of the national Greek economic crisis. My dear friend Manolis will probably be laid off this winter, and there are no jobs here. Our only hope is to integrated the local community into the volunteer world, incorporating them into the larger NGO’s that have the funds to pay a salary. Even so, this will not dramatically help the situation here. As we push further and further into the summer, the attitudes toward the refugees and volunteers will sour as well.
One change that has occurred is the “Samos Volunteers” break away from the municipality. While understandably the local government must look after their own people, we could not align ourselves to them anymore. This being said, we lost our free accommodation. This drastically affects the volunteers; many who would stay for months are now regulated to weeks or less. Consistency is vital, limiting the amount of time one can volunteer means that someone new must be trained on a constant cycle. This also means that we have lost numbers in volunteers, leaving those who can be here with more work and responsibilities. This July and August we will be spread thin. We need more volunteers. We do not ask for any special skills or qualifications, just people willing to make a change. Anyone who has the skills and patience to work with children, teach, distribute, sort, and of course smile will be appreciated and utilized. We need more people to stand-up and say “Here am I, send me.” We need those vessels willing to be filled and used beyond even their own expectations. This is not everyone’s calling, nor do we expect everyone to help. Every individual who volunteers is a drop in the ocean, no matter who they are, they are needed and important.

Though the majority of my responsibilities keep me contained to the warehouse, I still am able to squeeze some time in to help out at the camp. Last night the refugee children and the local Greek children put up an art display on the waterfront across from the city square. My days of construction came in handy and we were able to build some displays for the art to be hung on. Many of the volunteers spent the afternoon setting up the displays and preparing the event. It was amazing to see all the volunteers, locals, and refugees all together. There was art/drawings to look at, a video of a presentation in the camp was played, some songs were sung, we even had a young-refugee child beat-box. This public display for the local Greeks hopefully will help them understand what we are doing, as well as to the humanity of the refugees.

Samos Art Fair {AndrewFrania.com}
After the show a few of us went up to the camp. It is currently Ramadan, those who are followers of Islam fast all day and sleep to conserve energy. At night they break their fast, so we went to create activities as well as help some of the other organizations. Two friends I had volunteered with last time I was here, Pru and Saleh, help the organization, Friendly Humans of Samos, with an evening café.
Samos Art Fair {AndrewFrania.com}
Saleh and I spent some time with some refugees constructing benches out of pallets and scraps to provide some comfort inside of the camp. Shortly after we set up a small tent and borrowed a projector from the UNHCR. We set up a cinema right outside the café and played “Mr. Bean” until the Euro2016 match between France and Romania. I would estimate 80 people were congregated together, unified by the universal sport of football.
Samos Art Fair {AndrewFrania.com}
As warehouse manager there are some certain items that we are direly in need of: underwear, socks, shoes, school supplies, baby strollers/push-carts. There is a list on the “Samos Volunteers” Facebook page as to our needs as well. If you have the time, please take a look at the page. This shows our needs but it also shows you what we are doing here as well. While I can show you pictures of the warehouse, boxes, and volunteers sorting clothes, the behind the scene, the page sheds light onto what the volunteers here are doing in the camps, with the people.
I end this post with an excerpt from “Our Greatest Fear” by Marianne Williamson:
 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure… Your playing small does not serve the world… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.”
Shine On


June 13, 2016
              As I sit here writing this a storm is rolling in. Boats are coming into port and ensuring that their mooring lines are firmly fastened to the dock cleats. While it is just a passing squall, I hope that it is not an ominous forewarning of something else yet to come. Today marks my official first day of work on the “Samos Volunteer” work schedule. Of course, I was listed on the schedule with my nickname “Warehouse,” some things do not change. It has been an easy transition back to volunteering, many of the plans implemented in the warehouse have remained unchanged.
              Since I am a creature of habit, I was able to get my cardio in by walking to the warehouse. It’s roughly 1000 feet above the city of Vathi, Samos where I reside. This is a great way for me to practice reducing my carbon footprint as well, and it is only 60 minutes round trip. My walk there allows me to plan out what I need to be doing, and the walk back allows me to reflect and sort through my thoughts. Volunteering can be an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes news comes in that is not so positive, but then the next minute some great news will roll in. Those who work directly in the camps with distribution, teaching classes to the children, or other activities have a much higher rush of emotions. It is important to take care of one’s mind, body, and soul or else we may become overwhelmed.
              I have slightly more insight of the dynamics currently here on Samos. The “Samos Volunteers” are the only organization allowed into the camps to distribute clothing. We also teach in the camps, mostly to the children, but adults come and are more than welcome. Their ability to learn English or German will help them gain asylum when and if they are allowed to leave the detention camps. The classes also help keep the displaced persons occupied since most will be here 6 months. We still work very closely with all the other NGO’s (Non-Government Organizations) like Medecines Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), Praksis, Samaritans Purse, Calais Action, and several more. All work well in accordance with each other; there has been some acute public-relations work that has been accomplished here.
              Due to the Turkey-EU sanctions the border was closed in March for displaced people to cross and seek asylum. Here, as well as the other islands and the mainland, the refugees are confined to detention camps for an unknown period of time. I cannot confirm yet as to the length, but I have heard as long as 6 months. The refugees are allowed to pass freely in-and-out of the guarded camp, but are regulated to staying on the island. At least our fears of them not being allowed to leave the camp never came to fruition. There have been a few riots in the camp, but we had predicted that already in February. We had warned the Greek military and authorities that if they combine multi-nationalities in a camp that is not big enough, as well as heat, that there would be issues. They of course had to comply with the Greek government, as well as to the sanctions by the EU, but many complications could have been prevented or alleviated.
              While the flow of asylum-seekers into Greece has been slowed by the EU, it has not stopped it. Since I have arrived, approximately 110 have come to the shores of Samos. We continued as we always have, keeping a continuous presence, lest we leave and abandon those who need us most. We cannot fail our primary obligation to our fellow-human. If we as volunteers, defect from our post at this most vital hour, then who else will be there to answer the pleas for humanity? We have been summoned to answer a need, and we will not abandon our mission until we are needed no more.


June 12, 2016
              After several flights, hostels, a ferry, and 60 hours, I finally arrived at Samos, Greece. This was the first time that jet-lag really affected me. I arrived on Saturday the 11th at 0400 hours, and slept through until late morning. Last night I was not able to sleep until 4 am and did not rise until 1100 hours. I am hoping that by tonight my body-clock has adjusted to proper circadian rhythm.
              Saturday I met up with the majority of the Samos volunteers at the warehouse. A few were familiar faces: Bogden, Saleh, Pru, and Jack. There are another 9-10 volunteers here that I had not worked with before, but we all easily meshed. The warehouse itself looks amazing in retrospect to the mountain of boxes I had encountered there this past January. We spent the afternoon sorting through boxes and constructing furniture for the camp out of old pallets.
              Outside of emergency’s, the volunteers do not work exceedingly late here. Some has to do with restrictions by the local authorities as to our presence in the camps. One of the volunteers was celebrating his birthday yesterday so we went to the beach for an hour or two after we finished at the warehouse. The water was cool and clear.  There was no sand on the beach, mostly rocks and pebbles worn smooth and flat by time. It was so pristine. I had looked forward to returning to the islands in the summer since I had only witnessed them in the middle of Greek-winter. This was also a great time for me/us to get to know each other and strengthen group camaraderie. By the time we all sat down for supper, some 6 or so hours after meeting everyone, the only thought that came to my head was that this was so right. The three months at home I could not find that feeling of belonging or feeling like I was in the right place. Day 1, surrounded with volunteers of relative like-mindness, on an island in the Aegean Sea, inspired with the purpose to help others and make changes, I could never ask for a better environment to immerse oneself in.
              For supper we all ate at Pizza di Piazzi. Last time I was on Samos I spent every night there with the owner, and my favorite Greek, Manolis. He has a son who will be a year this August, his room is decorated with Disney and football jerseys (European football/soccer). I brought one of my Green Bay Packer Jerseys for him, my good-luck Jordy Nelson jersey from Super Bowl 45. He was so happy to both see me and for the jersey. I had missed his son’s, Antonio, baptism by just a few days, so we made plans to meet up at his house and watch the video. I always enjoy the time I can squeeze in to visit with his family, as well as an authentic home-cooked Greek meal from his wife Yoda.
              There are some definite changes here since the beginning of January. I do not want to mis-inform as to everything here. The dynamics of different organizations, the detention camps, even the larger international picture is all different. Hopefully Monday I will be able to get a firm grasp as to the current situation on Samos so that I can inform you properly.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}


It’s been 3 months since I left Greece and the refugee crisis. If there had been an easier and faster way to return I would have taken it without a moment’s hesitation. Rather, I spent the entirety of my time state-side working and saving money to pay for my bills back home in the states and to pay bills in Greece. While I would rather be volunteering in the field, it was somewhat refreshing to catch my breath, rekindle old friendships or forge new ones, network, and explain/tell the refugee crisis to those who knew little to nothing.
I will be staying in Greece until the end of August. My most current plans are to volunteer in Samos, Greece as the warehouse manager. Due to the Greek, EU, and Turkey sanctions our ability to volunteer may be/will be severely hampered in comparison to the beginning of the year. I’ll be spending tonight in Athens, Greece and will meet up with several volunteers I had worked with from the NGO “A Drop in the Ocean” from Norway. They are focused more in Athens and Idomeni where the bulk of the refugees in Greece are currently detained at. Depending on their needs I may find myself back on mainland Greece.
While I still have yet to reach my final destination I am relatively un-stressed in comparison to my first time out here volunteering. Flight changes and layovers have never been a problem with me. Last time I landed in Athens it was a shot in the dark as to where I was staying, how I was going to get there, where the ferry is, or who to even connect with once I made it to the islands. This time it is the complete opposite. I may even have someone to pick me up from the port when the ferry arrives in Samos.
I have no idea what the next few months may have in hold for me. Last time I learned a lot about myself and my relation to everyone else in the world, strengthened family and friend ties, met some great refugees and volunteers, and found myself immersed in the most electrifying atmosphere of humans helping humans. All I know is that I have never felt so right about myself until I began this chapter of my life, so I will continue and look forward to what life has to show me.


              It’s 8 am in the morning and on a flight back to the US. I do not even know how to sum up the past few days. I felt so depressed and scared about going home. Had I not booked my return-flight in December for today I would still be on the Greek islands…
              It was five days ago that I returned to Lesvos. There were several people coming back for a few days, and several of us were to meet up to plan the next mission. Initially we were to all go to Lebanon the first week of March and stay there until August, so we really needed to figure out logistics. I was really looking forward to seeing them all: Kristina, Mari, Todar…
              We only spent two days together as they immediately planned on flying to Lebanon three days ago. I really did not spend much time with them since they were busy planning on their trip. Most of them were going for a few days, others were staying there for several weeks/months. Those going for a few days are capable of raising large amounts of money that can be used to help the refugees there as well as support the refugees. It was just a stressful two days, I feel I should have stayed on Kos rather than come back to see them. 
              What I can take away from my third trip back to Lesvos and my experience on the other islands is that things have changed. Back in December and earlier, volunteers were needed to fill the voids and to do the job that the large, international NGO’s were failing to do. Kos and Samos are completely run by UNHCR, WAHA, MercyCorps, Medecines Sans Frontiers, and Samaritans Purse. Each of those islands only have one grass-roots NGO. On this final return to Lesvos I was able to look at it from an outsiders view. I was less emotionally attached to Lesvos than those that were still there. Things had been put in place, structure and order had come to Lesvos.
I feel that the only reason the large NGO’s are not fully functioning on Lesvos is because the grass-root NGO’s are to emotionally attached and will not let them. Per example, the first day back on Lesvos, No Borders Kitchen was told to pack up. Instead they made a post asking for volunteers from around the island and the other NGO’s to stand in solidarity with them. It’s no longer time for the unpaid volunteers to be here cooking food, let the paid workers of Mercy Corps, MSF, or Samaritans Purse feed them. It’s their job, that’s what they are paid for. Of course Lesvos is much larger and receives more refugees, but 3000 refugees can easily be handled by the UNHCR and the other international NGO’s.
Todar and I had a conversation, halfway online, halfway with each other. Volunteering is becoming a thing or trend to do on one’s holiday. Partially because people want to do something bigger than themselves. Partially because they want the attention, to play a hero. You could tell that it was Norway’s mid-winter break this week. A Drop in the Ocean at Lesvos went from 5 volunteers up to over 20 in one week. Todar and I had talked about the “holiday volunteers” and how they will fill the gaps if we move on to the next mission. It brought up another subject. Money of course, or rather the waste of funding on holiday volunteers. Over the New Years holiday season, at any point in those 4 weeks there were 2000 volunteers on the island. Assumedly 3-4000 volunteers during the holiday season were on Lesvos. If each had raised $3000 to cover flights, accommodations, food, etc. relatively $10 million was raised for all the volunteers to do the same job at the same time.
The dilemma is all the media, volunteers, and funding is directed to Lebanon, but then, without them awareness could not be met. On the islands we have begun to see clothing donations slowing down, funding slowing down. Donors are getting weary, bored off Lesvos and the continuous messages for aid. When the next natural or man-made disaster help, aid is going to switch to there. We must begin to look at more sustainable means of helping the refugees on the Greek islands.
This brings me to the point of Lebanon. This is the next mission, I hope within three-four weeks I will be there for 2 months minimal up to the end of August. One in three people living in Lebanon are refugees. 10% of the  refugees there are Palestinian, they are on the third generation of refugees living in the camps there. 20% of the refugees in Lebanon are from Syria. These are the ones that could not come to Lesvos, they could not make the migration into Europe. According to the UNHCR there are just under 1.2 million refugees in Lebanon.
I’m hoping to figure out my funding and book a flight back out within the week. The farther I fly away from Greece and the refugees the more I feel hopeless and without a drive in life. Three weeks, that is all I will allot myself at home.


              It has been a slow past few days since my last entry. The weather has been extremely windy making the waves are 3-5 feet high, making it too dangerous for the refugees to attempt their crossing from Turkey. Nonetheless every night we sojourn on, even for that small chance that there may be refugees willing to risk crossing because of the cheaper fares. We must stay our posts, for no one else will be there for the refugees if they do cross. I get no joy in boats crossing, for the refugees are searching for asylum and a better option in life. Yet, for my team of volunteers from A Drop in the Ocean, they need the experience and the inspiration.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              Today is the last day that both Humans to Humans and many from Team Sweden will be patrolling the shores with us. It has been an honor volunteering and coordinating the night shifts with them. The 21st of February will be the last day that Team Sweden will be operating in Kos, and on the 22nd of February the last of the volunteers from Drop will be returning home. Until more volunteers are able to come, I may be patrolling the shores alone. There are possibly two volunteers coming from Norway with Drop the first week of March, but one week alone may be daunting if working in solitude. Sometime around the 10-12th of March the long-term coordinator will be here to relieve me, my Schengen visa will expire somewhere around the 20th of March. I just hope that they bring more volunteers, it is warming up, and the refugees will be coming in larger numbers this year. January 2015, 1600 refugees crossed to the islands. January 2016, over 60,000 refugees have crossed. Right now 54% of the refugees received on the Greek islands are women and children. Volunteers are still needed, please consider this as an option.
              I have a lot on my plate to consider for the next month. I could go to Lebanon where much work is needed, more than the islands. I have an option to either go with the independent volunteers who I have worked with and am meeting in Lesvos in the next few days, or I could go as a Drop representative and work for/with the established NGO’s under their umbrella of coordination and logistics. Another option that I have is to work at an orphanage in Turkey which is of high importance to me as well. One more option is to apply to work/volunteer for Medecines Sans Frontiers on the logistic side. They would fund me as well as giving me a slight living wage, but I also lose my freedom and ability to have an option as to what I can do to help. The last option that I have is to return home mid-March for a month. The reasoning to return home is to raise funds and awareness, but I am not too keen on the prospect of that. There is way too much work that needs to be done here, and not enough volunteers to do it. I have to figure out a way for myself and the other long-term volunteers to continue their work.
              While it has been a different experience living at the Hotel Oscar, we chose to move to the Hotel Catherine which is just down the block. I enjoyed the solidarity of sharing the same accommodation with the refugees, but on the long-term it would not work. Due to lack of cleanliness, no room service, and no hot-water this started to lower the morale of the volunteers, which could leave some walking away from their volunteering experience on Kos with a sour taste in their mouth. Part of the job of the volunteers is also taking care/helping themselves. If they do not feel good about themselves (lack of feeling clean) they will not be at 100% to take care of others. Hotel Catherine is newly renovated and each room is daily cleaned. When I checked the hotel I immediately turned on the shower to ensure that there was hot water. The rates per volunteer are also 9 euro/$10 cheaper than at the Hotel Oscar which also helps volunteers with their funding. All in all, I am extremely pleased with the hotel switch, and look forward to the first hot-shower in 10 days, and clean sheets and towels.
              Tonight will possibly be a busy night. This morning the sea was calm, almost flat. The other islands had received refugees already during the day, so we are preparing for a busy night. We have information from two different sources that they have friends or relatives crossing to Kos. I must get some sleep, I haven’t slept since yesterday. I had shift on the beach yesterday night/morning and after dropping off some volunteers to the airport I immediately had a 6-hour meeting with the UNHCR and International Medical Corps. We always serve supper to the refugees at the Boomerang Steak House, so I am running a little ragged. I should probably end this now while I have a couple hours to rest before another night on the shores.


              The sun is rising in the east over Turkey, the church bells are ringing in the background, it is the morning of St. Valentine’s Day here in Kos, Greece. Unlike most other Valentine’s Days in my past, I am not sitting at a bar thinking about who I could or should be with, or spending luxurious amounts on a girl to prove to her that I am still worthy of keeping. This Valentine’s Day I am just about to fall asleep after driving up and down the wind-swept beaches of Kos, patrolling for boats and refugees who have come ashore. Today as I am about to go to bed, I spent my Valentine’s morning searching for humans who are trying to find people and nations to accept them and love them. I could ask for no better way than to have spent my morning.
              The Turkish Coast Guard and Greek Coast Guard have had a heavier presence on the Aegean Sea as of late. One cannot go half an hour without seeing one close by, with another coast guard boat in the distant horizon. I have yet to see one of the NATO warships yet here at Kos, but volunteers I have worked with on Samos have already seen them in the straits between Samos and Turkey. Turkey has received their 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion dollars) for slowing down/stopping the flow of refugees into Greece. Ever rising pressure from the EU on Greece, the finalization of the military hot-spots, and the added presence of NATO has almost stopped the flow of refugees into Greece. Yet we, the volunteers, are still manning our posts, ever vigilant, looking for humans that need help, until the day that we are no longer allowed to continue here in Greece.
              We have received no boats on Kos since I have begun patrolling the shores other than Osama’s family. Most of the other islands are under the same predicament. Volunteers are beginning to become a little anxious and antsy. It’s interesting and sad to see some of those who have come just to only be part of the beach rescue. These are the ones that we see online asking if any other islands are receiving boats, because theirs is not, and they want some “action.” While there is so much work to be done on Lesvos, like taking care of the camp, cleaning the island, and helping with the infrastructure, it is easy to see the ones that are here to build their own ego. They are the ones who want to have pictures of themselves with a baby, so that they can show their friends and the world on social-media how much of a hero that they are.
              I have been talking with some friends who have volunteered with me in Lesvos about future plans when and if we are no longer allowed to work here on the islands. We know it is not a matter of if, but rather it is a matter of when. The shores, especially at Lesvos, no longer need volunteers searching for boats and receiving refugees. The flow has almost stopped. While there are roughly 2000 volunteers on Lesvos, of which 1500 are vying to do the same task of beach patrols, only 20-40 are needed on the 30 km stretch of beach. The majority of these volunteers are holiday volunteers/short-term volunteers who have come for what they thought was a need or to depict themselves as heroes. Several hundred NGO’s have appeared and left after a short stay of a few weeks. Instead of coordinating and pooling resources they all simultaneously do the same task, wasting both volunteer time and funding.
              A small group of friends and associates are looking eastward as the international talks continue. Since we are no longer needed and will probably not be allowed to continue on the islands, we have turned our attention toward Turkey and Lebanon. Since many EU nations have doubled back on the Dublin Agreement, which means that they can deport refugees back to the country of registration, Greece, Greece could look at several hundred thousands of refugees inside of its borders. Greece has also decided that Turkey is a “safe third country” which means that Greece can deport refugees who made transit back to Turkey, not registration, but walked through Turkey. NATO has now deployed warships into the Aegean to turn back refugee boats to Turkey so that the flow of immigrants into the EU can be stopped. Summed up, there are 5+ million refugees that are already stuck in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. That is the reality of the refugee crisis, not Lesvos, not Kos, not Samos, not Leros, or Chios.  
              Myself and fellow group of volunteers are intending on heading to Lebanon. Some are going to head there at the end of the month, others will go there mid-March. I will be going there hopefully around the 10-15th of March. That allows me about 5-10 days left on my Schengen visa, enough time to make transit through Europe whenever I need to return back to the states. We are not sure how we will be able to be funded, some of the volunteers are selling their belongings, so that they no longer need to pay for an apartment. Most of us are going to try to end our responsibilities in our home nations so that we can save more money to continue our work rather than to uselessly pay bills for living and commodities that we no longer use. My one friend Todar, just returned to Lesvos today, and we talked via social-media for quite some time. If we cannot find the funding, we have tents and sleeping bags, and we are more than willing to live in holes in the ground if that is what it takes. I thought that I had been volunteering of faith for funding already, but that was not the reality. A large portion of my funding has stopped due to bureaucratic paperwork, and though crowd-funding is trickling in, what I have to work with financially is shrinking dramatically. But this is what we do, we never really know exactly how it is going to work, but people need us, and we will find a way.
We always do.


              It’s been a busy last few days. I have gotten soft working 9-5’s at Samos, the late night/early morning beach patrols have definitely wore me out. There are four other members from A Drop in the Ocean that have joined me down here. Therese, who is one of the directors for A Drop in the Ocean, also worked with me for a week in Samos is here. She brought her daughter and one other from Norway. There is one other American from my hometown of Oshkosh, Molly Freid. Before I had left I had told here about the refugee crisis and what I was intending on doing. She was taking a semester off of school because she was not sure what she was going for, nor wanted to spend the money for school for no reason.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              She had intended on traveling and finding herself, so I approached her with the opportunity. Really happy to see another American make their way over, for she can help raise awareness, plus the eye-opening experience it will give her.
              My first few days have been meetings trying to establish Drop here on Kos. It was some work, nothing in comparison to the attempt on Samos. We had a 4 hour meeting on the codes of conduct with the UNHCR which was useful, but for many of us who had been sent from other NGO’s it was a bit redundant. The other meeting we had with the UNHCR was a meeting with all of the coordinators on the island. Almost all of the NGO’s we have worked with on Kos, Samos, Chios, and Lesvos. Those meetings for us, Therese and myself, were focused more on networking and finding out where we are needed the most. One thing that works against me is my appearance of young age. I’ve found that in every aspect of my life, but looking 20 years old works against my favor when I’m meeting with coordinator and director heads of different NGO’s. Youth to them looks like lack of experience, and I really have no interest in introducing myself with a long list of personal accomplishments.
              Mercy Corps has contracted out a local restaurant to feed the refugees, and the orphan boys from war-zones. Everyone is served at the Boomerang Steak House, a beautiful Greek restaurant. There the staff makes a meal of rice with a vegetable based soup/stew on top with fresh bread. The children are served macaroni with bread as well. Everyone gets to sit down at a table, and we come out of the kitchen with their meals on trays, serving them like we would have served anyone at this proper restaurant. Sometimes there is enough for the refugees to even have seconds.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              It’s an awesome experience to see the refugees given the dignity and respect that they deserve, instead of seeing queues of them standing, waiting for their styrophone cup of soup. At the end of each meal the refugees also take a cup of chai, and often sit out front relaxing for a few moments. This is where we can interact with the families and children the most. Many of our tables can sit 8-12, so we reserve those especially for the families.
              Once all of the refugees have eaten, all of the volunteers take supper as well. Often there are some families still there so we mix the time eating and interacting with them and the children. The volunteers that have been helping with the supper are from the NGO’s: A Drop in the Ocean- Norway, Humans to Humans- Sweden, Team Sweden, a few independent volunteers, and the staff of the Boomerang- Greece. It doesn’t take us to long to clean up, it’s more of a networking and bonding experience. Serving dinner is the beginning of our day for the volunteers.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              After dinner Drop, Humans to Humans, and Team Sweden all sit together and figure out the plan for beach patrols for the evening and early morning. It does not make sense for three different groups to work simultaneously on the same stretches of beaches. We coordinate who group will work what stretch of beach at what time, share phone numbers, and continue building rapport among the different groups and individual volunteers.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              Beach patrol here is much easier than at Lesvos. The beach road on one side of the island is flat and runs within 10 meters of the shore. The other side of the island we drive on a main road within 10 meters of the shore line as well. There are about three spots one each side of the island that we can stop and look for boats.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
               Until Drop sends more volunteers and equipment, we must wait more for boats to arrive on shore rather than looking for them. We have no night vision, or thermal scopes here yet, so most of the time we wait for a boat to arrive on the beach, or drive up and down, actively searching for refugees who are walking down the road looking for help. This gives the volunteers time to talk and get to know one another since we are in a car for 4-8 hours at a time in the pitch black.
              This gets me to the success side of one of my missions here on Kos. A few weeks ago a family that had crossed to Lesvos and made it to Germany made contact with volunteers that had worked with them. They used WhatsApp and Facebook to find and contact the volunteers. These volunteers then got in contact with A Drop in the Ocean, and told them this story. Their relatives had been attempting to make the cross from Turkey into Greece. Most boats are loaded with the children first in the center, and then the adults. Right after the children were loaded onto the boat, the Turkish police showed up. They began arresting the smugglers and refugees on the shores, so the boat, partially filled, immediately took off and landed on Kos. There were two children on board, ages 4 and 7. They watched as the Turkish police showed up, as their family was being arrested, as the shores of Turkey where their family was at shrank as their boat moved toward Greece.
              We were able to find the girls. We were relieved to find out that their uncle, Mustafa, was with them as well. He was deeply concerned and we were able to contact the girl’s father via WhatsApp and allow them to speak. The uncle had lost his passport and his money since it was with the rest of the family in Turkey. He seemed somewhat relieved to know that we were there to help, and that we would not leave until the family was re-united. Two nights ago as I was on beach patrol, we came across a group of 13-14 refugees who had just come ashore under cover of night. They were immediately ushered onto the UNHCR bus to be taken for registration and then rooms at the Hotel Oscar. The next morning, I woke up to Therese telling me that in the group of refugees that had come in, it was the two little girl’s family.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              We were able to see the re-united family last night at the Boomerang Steak House. It was all smiles there. The uncle, Mustafa, looked so relieved and happy to have the burden of responsibility lifted. The girl’s dad, Osama, who spoke English very well, was all smiles as was the rest of his family. He could not thank us enough, even though there was no reason for a thank you. Instead of feeling like we should receive gratitude, we want to give more, knowing what each one of them has been through. It has been a huge honor to have been part of this process. Though we have only had a few boats come in since I have arrived to Kos, seeing a family re-united is the sweetest part of this entire chapter of Kos.


Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              I’m sitting on a ferry from Samos to Kos. Since I have nothing but time I might as well as catch up on entering the refugee crisis. I thought that there was a direct flight from Samos to Kos but there was not, and the only ferry leaving was today. I had about three hours to pack up, do a quick run-down of my responsibilities, purchase tickets, and gain a semblance of a game-plan for the next day. I really have no idea what is going to happen on Kos, the Swedish volunteers who gave me a lift to the port had just come from Kos and told me that the police, municipality, and people were hostile toward the refugee crisis. I still do not have a hotel or car lined up, for that matter I will be the first of my NGO to arrive on this island.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
             I have to take this ferry to a different island, Patmos, and have a “lay-over” for about 12 hours. The next ferry does not leave until 0330 so I am unsure if I should rent a hotel or just sleep at the port. If there is a building I will be fine with that, but if there is not I do not know if I want to chance the 30-40 degree temperature or spend money just to stay warm. First world problems.
Greece Refugee Crisis {AndrewFrania.com}
              The ferry I am on is roughly 50 feet long. I’ve worked on boats back in Oshkosh the same size, so I am not to enthralled about riding this puddle-jumper across the Aegean Sea. I suppose if the propleller plane I took from Athens made it that I might as well keep on riding my luck. I am pretty sure my friend Mari would not have even stepped onto this ferry, the ferry to Athens was half the size of a cruise ship and she was hesitant. The good thing is that since Greece has 10,000+ islands I can vaguely see land the majority of the time, just in case…
              Current conditions for the migration have changed, are changing, and the changes are not for the best. Two days ago, Greece decided that Turkey was a safe third country. This means that the refugees can be deported back to Turkey. This does not mean the refugees who have registered in Turkey, but all refugees who have made transit through Turkey. If this passes, we are looking at 1-1.5 million refugees that could be deported back to Turkey at a minimal. Turkey already hosts 2.2 million refugees, and those are the registered ones. There are possibly 3+ million refugees in Turkey.
              Germany has begun to reverse their admittance of refugees. For the past several months they have been the number one destination for the majority of refugees. This is due to Germany’s economy and their youth leaving for better jobs. There has been a void of youth and able-bodied employable people. Now that Germany has gotten what they want, they want to seal off their borders.
              The past week there has been massive airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria. Turkey has closed off their borders with Syria. Two days ago there were over 35,000 Syrians fleeing the rubbles of what was once Aleppo. They are now congregated at the border with no chance to enter Turkey and with nothing left to call home. The coalition, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Cuba, the entirety of the world has destroyed Turkey and left nothing. I remember driving through Fallujah, Iraq and thinking “oh snap, what have we done?’ Fallujah from OIF, Dresden and London from WWII, and even the no-man’s land from WWI look like peaceful paradises in comparison to the wake of death and destruction in Syria.
              I had been intending to head to Turkey to scout where volunteers are needed, but I have friends already on the ground. This works out since my current mission is to help establish my NGO (A Drop in the Ocean) on the island of Kos. Many volunteers and groups from the islands believe that Kos will become the new refugee hot-spot. Do not mix this with the government hot-spots. The Greek and Turkish Naval and Coast Guard blockades have deterred the smugglers and refugees, but when one route closes another one opens. It looks like I will be here for a week+ to help, before returning to Lesvos to plan the next month or two with my friends.
              We are relatively sure that the volunteers will no longer be allowed to work in Greece, more especially the islands, within the next couple of months. As I have said before, all eyes are looking east. Even in Turkey we are unsure what we will be allowed to do, some volunteers have been arrested last week in Idomini. My friends are making a loop through Turkey, Lebanon, and possibly Jordan to see where and if we will be able to volunteer there. The issue that did come up with their travels so far was figuring out what zone they were in. Just like the military, there are safe-zones in Lebanon. They tier as such: Green, Yellow, and Red. Red is the most dangerous, Green is the most safe. My friends had booked their hotels in the red-zone which is Hezbollah country.
divider blk
Somewhere out there a voice cries in the darkness.
We can never bring them home or give them their homes back.
We can be the light in the darkness to guide the way.
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              I forsee us either working in Turkey or Jordan. Turkey may soon play host to 3-5 million refugees and will need coordination and volunteers at a massive level. What we have done in Lesvos, Athens, Calais Jungle, Dunkirk, Idomini, and Samos are mere child-play in comparison. Jordan needs massive help as well. The camps there were established in 1947 for the Palestinian refugees. The refugees are now on their 4th and 5th generations of living in the camps. The refugees there know only the camps, as did their parents, and their parents-parents. Footage of the camps show structures and tents for as far as the eye can see. There is no end or beginning.
              There is no way that any of the refugees can return home, for there is nothing left. Everything has been destroyed by air-strikes and drone attacks. What was home will never be home, for some, they have no idea what home actually is.

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