For the last 5 years I’ve been part of a collective group of individuals, small NGO’s and grassroots charity groups supporting refugees. Yesterday we packed off the very last box of aid we’ve collected from our house.
It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing today that we are going to be taking a break. Over 5 years we’ve raised over £20k and filled almost 100 banana boxes for refugees.
Some of you won’t know our story, and for others you won’t believe it has been 5 years, it has gone so fast. I wanted to write this so I could look back and remember how much a few very determined people were able to achieve. And I hope it will act as inspiration for others.
2015 The Year That Changed Me
On the 2nd September 2015 my life changed forever. I saw the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi across my social media and news feeds. I was moved. I couldn’t get the image of him in his red t-shirt on the beach from my mind.
I had been watching with interest the ever changing situation with the refugees crossing from Turkey to Greece and then onwards to Germany through various routes.
I’d watched the news reports and seen the pictures of exhausted families carrying their entire life in a few bags. I saw the images of the makeshift rest stops on the sides of train tracks. I kept thinking it is warm now but what will happen when the weather takes a turn. How are the children in their shorts and t-shirts going to manage as Europe plunges into winter.
I made phone call after phone call to various charities. I told them I was resourceful, I had a network I believed I could mobilise to help. They just wanted my money. I was incredibly frustrated.
My sadness turned to anger and I shared my views at work with a colleague. She felt the same and we agreed together there must be something we could do.
And so it began two driven women, with very understanding partners decided to embark on a project, to do something – anything!
It was an unusual project because we had no plan, in fact we couldn’t plan. The situation was changing in Europe too fast. Armed with a GoFundMe account, a page on Facebook and a lot of energy, we got to work.
We found someone to donate us a transit van for a few days, we found a driver, we raised thousands of pounds and we filled the transit van with as much aid as we could squeeze in.
56 Hours and 2000 Miles
We set off from my house early one Sunday morning: 56 hours and 2000 miles Kim’s account of the Words and Warmth Relief Run.
What we learned through this trip was the power of technology. I wrote about how grassroots volunteers and NGOs were making use of social media to plug the gaps in humanitarian aid and support. Using Technology to Make a Difference . It was truly something what people were doing across the route on the ground and virtually.
When we returned to the UK we caught our breath and planned what next…we’d read about Lesvos, it had fast become the epicentre for people arriving from Turkey. We’d also seen some of the horrific scenes on the island where there were just too many people for the system to cope. We turned our attention to planning a trip there.
As our departure day drew closer I became more nervous. We had read some horrible stories from volunteers sharing how refugees were having to wait for days in lines. The weather had not been kind, cold weather and lots and lots of rain. Boats were regularly getting into trouble as they reached Lesvos.
I had also just found out I was pregnant.
I took the decision to still go. But as a group we made a collective decision to not be heroes. We didn’t need to be in the thick of dragging people out of the sea. We agreed to play to our strengths, we are resourceful we were full of energy, we could lift spirits and be an extra pair of hands wherever they were needed.
As it turned out Moria was a good place for us. Over the week we were there we did everything. We litter picked, we helped organise lines, we sorted and distributed clothes, we listened to stories over Chai.
After Lesvos, I took a little breather to have a baby…
Then in 2018 I decided to make another trip to Greece. This time my partner in crime was Lucy a fellow mum who had also been to the Greek islands in 2015. Together we raised cash and organised taking over some aid. At was at this point we virtually met Amber from Donate4Refugees and Sue from Together 100
Sadly 2 years later, the situation in Greece hadn’t improved. In fact it had got worse. Refugees were no longer passing through they were being held on the Islands, the camps had become the sudo prisons. No way forward and no way back.
Again grassroot charities and individuals were making a difference.
I blogged about our experience:
- #Love4Lesvos: Together we will make a difference
- Kim Returns to Lesvos
- Kim Returns to Lesvos – Life at Moria
- Kim Returns to Lesvos – Refugee Journey to Lesvos
- We All Love A Shower – The Dignity Pack Project
After Lesvos we joined up with a wonderful group of volunteers, charities and NGO’s. I set up MiltonKeynes4Refugees and we began collecting aid and storing it in our garage and house. We have collected items for dignity packs, clothes, coats, shoes and tents. The support has been phenomenal.
Partnering with Donate4Refugees and Choose Love we’ve supported national campaigns with your help.
And to we’ve gone full cycle:
5 years of filling up the hall way with boxes, donations and hygiene items.
5 years of choosing love.
5 years of building friendships that will last a lifetime.
5 years of choosing to believe in humanity and not everything that is wrong with the world.
None of it would have been possible with out the donations, the support and the collaboration. To everyone who has helped THANK YOU.
This isn’t the end…it is just time to take a break.