December 16, 2015 Wander-lust

Interview » My best friend went to Lesbos, Greece. This is her story.

We’ve all seen the images, the news reports and heard the stories about the Syrian refugees. The boats, the fear and the thousands of people coming to Europe seeking a future.
The world woke up when a little boys body lays face down on a beach in Turkey. This is when social media started talking. We finally felt their heartbreak.
People wanted to do something. I wanted to do something.
But taking that step and actually doing something…that’s another thing. One of my best friends did.
We went out for a drink and she told me she wanted to visit Lesbos . Not for a holiday, but to volunteer and help.
What a brave decision I thought. She was going to do something beautiful but at the same time she was also going to see a lot of hurt and despair.
But she went. 2 long weeks. I asked her some questions;

Why did you decide to go to Lesbos?
A Facebook post appeared in my timeline of Merel Graeve, a volunteer at Lesbos, Greece. Here story was so sincere, urgent and desperate a feeling of responsibility grabbed me and wasn’t letting go.

Shortly after that a friend of mine posted on Facebook he was planning a trip to Lesbos. I instantly knew I was going to join him, and I did.

merelgraeve
The Facebook post that made Dagmare go to Lesvos

What was your first impression when you arrived?
I thought what a lovely, beautiful Greek island! Where are the refugees? Where is the emergency? Where is the online world of disaster, despair and emergency?

The people I did see where volunteers in team-shirts and yellow emergency vests.
Quiet, calm and peaceful. Soon after that I knew exactly where to search for images of sorrow, hope and fear..

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A young child in one of the tents

We are much greater, much more powerful and more capable then we think.

Was it worse than you expected?
Yes and no. The yes part is the truth of this matter is worse then you expect. It crueler, tougher and more inhumane then you can think of.

The no part is, we are all human. And the best part with humans is, there is a strength in all of us, that arises when we are in danger. It comes from a place inside of you, you never knew you had inside. That’s stunning and mind-blowing to witness. I saw this with everybody on the island. 
From people arriving by boat, fleeing their war-torn countries, with people helping those people on shore and I started feeling it myself.
We are much greater, much more powerful and more capable then we think.

Dagmare in Lesbos
Dagmare in Lesvos, Greece

Can you describe a typical day in Lesbos?
Smugglers send boats 24/7 so people arrive 24/7. 

The island of Lesbos has 199 miles (320 km) of coastline, so that’s quiet a distance to search for boats.
Most of the boats arrive in the north or near the harbor, that makes it easier to oversee.
All camps need helping hands to help provide food, give out clothes and blankets or collect garbage.
It’s a non-stop need. You have to take care of yourself and eat, sleep and rest at moments that fit you well.

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What do you think the government needs to do to solve this problem?
Start welcoming human beings with dignity, respect and humbleness. 

They have been through things I hope I am never going to experience in a million years.
Start covering the news in a sincere, truthful self-interest kinda way. 

Did this experience change you or your perspective?
Yes. It showed me that the way I’m brought up in a Western country, feeling safe etc. was normal to me. Puts it all into perspective.

Seeing the easiness of how you can contribute to a greater cause without asking permission, needing a diploma or get a job interview.

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People are camping anywhere where they can find a spot
Tell me a little bit about the website you developed. Needs-Now.
We developed an in-your-face-real-time portal where you see whats Needed Now in several places op Europe.

We gain access to big stocks of supplies for cost price which we then display online.
If you want to donate your money, you spend it efficiently on needed goods. You can buy ponchos, tents, food, fire wood etc.
And we make sure it get’s there. (so you won’t receive a package of fire wood at your front door! haha) You can spent 5 euro’s or 10.000.
We spend every donation on the chosen goods. Its transparent, open and accessible for people with big and smaller purses.


Dagmare’s website Needs Now is getting a lot of positive attention

Needs Now Results:
Within 1 week – Professional food truck including all kitchen supplies
Within 1 week – 9 pallets of clothing, 1000 fleece blankets.
Within 2 weeks – 2000 breakfast meals & 1000 diner meals
Within 4 days – 1250 halogen lamps
Within 2 days – three large army tents
Within 1 week – generator
Within 4 days – One day of fire wood
Within 4 weeks – 5.000 poncho’s
Within 3 weeks – 2 x 10ft containers


And finally, what can we do?

Many things!
1. Visit needs-now.org to see where the Need is Now and spend a few euro’s. :-)
2. Sort your (still wearable!) warm clothes and bring it to asylum centers.
3. If your thinking of volunteering start here: http://www.bit.ly/lesvolunteer
4. Add sense to the national debates. Take time to read stories, look at portraits and see films that shows different sides of this humane crisis. UNHCR shares numbers, facts and Kurtzgesagt and the Gapminder Foundation has basic explanations. Start sharing them!
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If you want to donate or support/sponsor Dagmare and her team so that she can continue to help in Greece, visit Needs Now.
All photo’s are shot by the amazing Florance Schreinemachers who also came on this trip with Dagmare.

Love,

Elke

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