DAY AFTER DAY, around 600 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq, among others, arrive on the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, and Kos, after taking the exhausting boat journey from Turkey.
After walking 65km for registration [in the case of Lesvos], refugees persevere in run-down hotels or - mostly - out in the open, waiting to be carried to the mainland, in order to make their way north by foot. On their journey towards Western Europe, between 30 to 100 refugees stay in the park at Aristotelous Square in the center of Thessaloniki every day. Young men, families with toddlers, pregnant women, and unaccompanied minors defy temperatures of +30°C most of the days, rain on some other days, lack of basic sanitation, food insecurity, homelessness, the humiliating looks of passerbys, and the risk of being robbed.
From the beginning of June on, private persons started showing solidarity with the refugees by providing water, fruit, bread and toys for the kids. Within two weeks, the volunteers joined forces with the aim of providing the refugees with one hot meal a day and basic supplies.
Through this individual committment and finally, the coordination of efforts, first successes showed off after only some days: the volunteers managed to provide home cooked food on a daily basis, acquired food donations, found a kitchen, got support by the social center Steki Metanaston Thessalonikis, triggered some media coverage, got the municipality to provide mobile toilets, and provided advice and warnings about the journey to the refugees!
Up to now, the majority of the costs have been beared by the volunteers, their families and friends. On a small scale, we - the volunteers in Thessaloniki - have received support from my partner´s crowdsourcing for refugees arriving on Lesvos, which you can find here http://www.youcaring.com/refugee-families-arriving-wet-by-boat-with-no-possessions-362958.
However, needs increased both in Lesvos and in Thessaloniki. With the solidarity movement in Thessaloniki growing and becoming more organized day by day, we need our own funding and its distribution according to local needs.
With governmental action towards refugees in Thessaloniki almost completely lacking, we appreciate every donation, being it 5€ or 50€, supporting us in the provision of food and basic supplies such as water and sanitary products. All money raised is directly used for the good of the refugees.
You can track our efforts by following @spanakopitaki, @teacherdude and @shebagrey, as well as #refugees_skg and #refugeesGr on Twitter. I am happy to respond to any inquiry via betterplace.org or Twitter (@spanakopitaki). If you happen to be in the region, let me know - we and the refugees are happy for your sympathies and every helping hand!
Thanks to @shebagrey for letting me use your photos!