When we first went to Lesvos in October of 2015, we witnessed a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of people arriving every day. We found our normal lives interrupted. We felt compelled to volunteer to help save lives. With no religious, political, or ethnic affiliation, we felt the need to help those coming off the boats hungry, cold, and frightened. The crisis motivated us to organize where governments and NGOs are not present before thousands more die.
As the situation changes, Sea of Solidarity is adapting our response. We can react much faster than large NGOs like the UN's UNHCR or the Red Cross. We work with them when they are present, but when they aren't we do what we can to fill the gaps.
The borders of Europe have closed and over fifty thousand people, more than half of them women and children, are trapped in Greece. With the latest agreement signed between the EU and Turkey, Greece is now sending refugees back to Turkey. Dozens of camps have been set up across Greece. Conditions at both official and unofficial camps are horrific. Some have no running water, electricity, or toilets. Everything from baby bottles, underwear, socks, and food are in short supply. While the Greek government is running these camps, they are ill prepared to take care of vast numbers of people, especially given their own economic issues. Again, we find that help is coming from the small grass roots organizations and volunteers.