Kim Returns to Lesvos – Tell Me More About Humans4Humanity
Today I will share more about how Humans4Humanity Lesvos works and my experience volunteering there.
After a great first day, today I really started to understand what Humans4Humanity is all about. The space is filled with love and kindness and it creates an energy that is calm and a million miles away from the real life the refugees are living in Moria. Every day the volunteers are able to spread that love and kindness…today was a good day.
First thing in the morning we went on the hunt for a fridge and freezer – why?
Let me give you a bit of background:
The Humans4Humanity space is an old sports centre. So the space is vast and even includes a 5 a side football pitch. Much work has been done by so many charities, volunteers under Neda and Rafat’s leadership. But there is much more that can/needs to be done.
Humans4Humanity is able to continue through 5 types of support.
Nothing can happen without funding, the things that need to be paid every month are as follows:
- Van Rental – 1100 Euros a month
- Food for the shop – I spent 1800 but this doesn’t go very far, maybe one or two days if it is busy
- Gas for the Van – without fuel the van can’t pick people up
To give you a sense of why these things are so important rent is a no brainer but the other things are also just as important. Humans4Humanity is about 5km from Moria. This is important because it is as far away from the hell that is Moria from the moment people arrive they feel that. But they need to be transported and the minibus van and gas costs money. Without this no one gets to visit H4H. I personally raised £3k and spent every penny helping the team at Humans4Humanity. I would love to continue to support them with your help. You can still donate – every single penny counts!
The food bill allows the team at H4H to top people’s food supply up on the visit they make. Every single family is allocated an amount based on family size and age. These points can then be traded in the shop for the items the family need/want. Sometimes this means choosing between oil and shampoo. But there are some items that are free for example baby milk and nappies.
This was one of the areas I really struggled with, knowing what the food in camp can be like making choices about how you spend your money and in this case your points is a stressful and difficult choice for anyone to make week in week out.
I’ve deliberately separated the volunteers between those who come to H4H to help from all over the world. The reason for this is they are often here for a set period of time. Some come for a long time 3 months plus. Others like me pop in for a week and everything in between. Life for volunteers is as hard or as easy as you want. There are so many jobs that need doing and there is something from everyone. You can run the registration desk, you can sort clothes, you can assist with finding items for the visitors (with help from the translators) you clean, cook, run workshops, create art projects for the children, you can hold babies whilst mothers shop, you can play games or draw with children whilst they wait for the bus. The possibilities are endless and whilst I was there we tried our hand at almost everything…I did draw the line at football. The number of football related injuries put me right off – LOL.
The refugee volunteers come from Moria, they are refugees like the customers they serve. And they are the heartbeat of what makes H4H work. They bridge the gap with language translations, they are the brawn lifting and carrying the boxes of donations. They’re the smiling face when people arrive. The women manage and run the women’s section of the clothing shop. They run the shop and help people work out what they can get with their points. They are not paid. And often being at H4H means they miss out on meals in Moria. The refugee volunteers are offered a meal whilst they’re at H4H. This is where the fridge and freezer comes back in. Providing proper food is a challenge and with no refrigeration it is near impossible to make that meal something that is nutritious and filling.
Regular containers come through Care UK Charity. One arrived 3 days after we left. This is a life line to keep the free clothing shop open. The donations that arrive are what keeps kids warm in the winter, a new baby clothed, a growing teenager with a new set of clothes. Funding and donations have also been coming in through Donate4Refugees and the #love4lesvos campaign. Some things to consider when making donations:
- Would you wear it? Would you put your kids in it? If it is past a wearable condition please don’t donate it. It is just a waste of resource and won’t last someone who’s only able to change or wash clothes sparingly very long. Be decent and send good quality clean items.
- Think about your recipients. Whilst our daughters might wear bring pink shorts and vest tops, Muslim girls in a vulnerable situation like a refugeee camp are going to dress more modestly. Long tops, leggings, scarves, pashminas are welcome. And similarly for women it is helpful to send modest clothing.
- There was an abundance of baby clothes (and rightly so they need it and a mummy of a baby is likely to take bundles of clothing) but kids age 4+ seemed to be in short supply.
- Mens clothing s/m and shoes 7-10.
- If in doubt check with your local collection what the needs list looks like this will often have the most important gaps.
- If you’re sending kids clothes do everyone a favour and sort it well. Either bag it girls age 5 tops, or kids age 3-10 winter jumpers. This makes life so much easier at H4H when you’re often short of time and you’re looking for that bag of gold.
Getting back to that fridge and freezer. Our host Bethany a long term volunteer at H4H had explained that the kitchen needed some TLC. With no where to keep food fresh in the heat and with the critters. (Greece is well known for its array of critters) the kitchen was only able to serve relatively simple short term food options. Our hosts had made a delicious salad on our first day with rice, but the yogurt wouldn’t keep. On Day 2 our friends from Palestine also volunteering on Lesvos treated everyone to Greek Gyro’s (chicken and chips in a naan with tomato salad – don’t knock it till you’ve tried it)
We happily ordered the fridge and freezer with a cheeky discount and a free same day delivery.
The clean up operation for the kitchen started in anticipation for the new arrival. And we set to work sorting clothing.
We tried to make some progress with the mountains of baby clothes. You will never win against a mountain of baby clothes – ask any parent!! But ten times worse when there are boxes and bags of the stuff. I’m glad we had a good sort out before we opened because we were able to separate out some teeny tiny baby clothes for a newborn. We were also able to identify some of the really good stuff (age 4+ shorts and t-shirts for boys)
The first families began to arrive…
We helped a first time mother and father with their 10 day old baby. They were so proud and we were able to provide them with a brand new carry cot filled with the newborn clothes we’d found earlier. We were able to provide them with some essential items and I snuck in lots of fresh fruit for the mum who was breastfeeding.
As they were leaving the mother spotted one of the teddy bears Bilbo had donated. She asked if she could take one, I was so happy to let her take one with her for her beautiful newborn baby.
We found dresses and a “cool” outfit for a 10 yrs old girl when we thought we’d disappoint. We rummaged through bags, and boxes to see if we could find something for her. You never want to be in a situation where people leave H4H with empty hands or without what they need, another reason why the donations of aid is so so important.
Time seems to run away with you and after handing out bananas to everyone as they left. We were able to reflect on the day. It was full of smiles, cuddles, laughing and dancing.
I am now writing this post after returning but I do hope that the stories i’m telling might make you consider donating to my new campaign. The money will all go to Humans4Humanity to keep those running costs paid for. As of 1st May H4H have received £3001 in total. Future donations will be documented on my GoFundMe page.