Today, 22-06-2016, Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America, came to our home town of Ballina, Co, Mayo. Ireland… We happened to be home ….
Not to be outdone, We flew the flag. :)… PALESTINE!
Today, 22-06-2016, Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States of America, came to our home town of Ballina, Co, Mayo. Ireland… We happened to be home ….
Not to be outdone, We flew the flag. :)… PALESTINE!
A beautiful soul whom Derek and I have the absolute honour of saying we knew and greatly admired. The world is certainly a better place for having known and hopefully learned from the pure heart and fighting spirit of Hedy Epstein.
“Hedy often shared her philosophy of service with these words: “If we don’t try to make a difference, if we don’t speak up, if we don’t try to right the wrong that we see, we become complicit. I don’t want to be guilty of not trying my best to make a difference.”
Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 91, died at her home in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, on May 26, 2016. An internationally renowned, respected and admired advocate for human and civil rights, Hedy was encircled by friends who lovingly cared for her at home.
Born August 15, 1924, in the Bavarian region of Germany, her lifelong commitment to human rights was formed by the horrific experiences she and her family endured under the repressive Nazi regime.
Unable to secure travel documents for themselves, Hedy’s parents, Hugo and Ella (Eichel) Wachenheimer, arranged for 14-year-old Hedy to leave Germany on a Kindertransport. Hedy credited her parents with giving her life a second time when they sent her to England to live with kind-hearted strangers. Hedy’s parents, grandparents, and most of her aunts, uncles and cousins did not survive the Holocaust. Hedy remained in England until 1945 when she returned to Germany to work for the United States Civil Service. She joined the Nuremberg Doctors Trial prosecution in 1946 as a research analyst.
Hedy immigrated to the United States in 1948. She and her husband moved to St. Louis in the early 1960s, and shortly thereafter Hedy began working as a volunteer with the Freedom of Residence, Greater St. Louis Committee, a nonprofit organization dedicated to housing integration and advocacy for fair housing laws. Hedy worked for many years as a volunteer and board member, and ultimately served as the organization’s executive director during the mid-1970s.
During the 1980s, Hedy worked as a paralegal for Chackes and Hoare, a law firm that represented individuals in employment discrimination cases. As an advocate for equality and human rights, Hedy spoke out against the war in Vietnam, the bombing of Cambodia, and overly restrictive U.S. immigration policies. She spoke and acted in support of the Haitian boat people and women’s reproductive rights, and, following the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila, Hedy began her courageous and visionary work
for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.
During her later years, Hedy continued to advocate for a more peaceful world, and in 2002 was a founding member of the St. Louis Instead of War Coalition. Much of her later activism centered on efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She founded the St. Louis chapter of Women in Black and co-founded the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee and the St. Louis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. She traveled to the West Bank several times, first as a volunteer with the nonviolent International Solidarity Movement and repeatedly as a witness to advocate for Palestinian human
rights. She attempted several times to go to Gaza as a passenger with the Freedom Flotilla, including as a passenger on the Audacity of Hope, and once with the Gaza Freedom March. Hedy addressed numerous groups and organizations throughout Europe and returned to Germany and her native village of Kippenheim many times.
Three days after her 90th birthday, Hedy was arrested for “failure to disperse.” She was attempting to enter Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s St. Louis office to ask for de-escalation of police and National Guard tactics which had turned violent in response to protests following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Hedy was a member of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center’s speakers’ bureau and gave countless talks at schools and community events. She shared her Holocaust experiences with thousands of Missouri youth as a featured speaker at the Missouri Scholars Academy for more than twenty years. She ended every talk with three requests: remember the past, don’t hate, and don’t be a bystander.
Through the years, Hedy received numerous awards and honors for her compassionate service and relentless pursuit of justice.
Hedy is survived by son Howard (Terry) Epstein, and granddaughters Courtney and Kelly. She was beloved and will be truly missed by countless friends in St. Louis and around the world.
Hedy often shared her philosophy of service with these words: “If we don’t try to make a difference, if we don’t speak up, if we don’t try to right the wrong that we see, we become complicit. I don’t want to be guilty of not trying my best to make a difference.”
Hedy always did her best, and the difference she made is evident in the commitment and passion of those called to continue her work. Her friends and admirers honor and salute her deep and lifelong dedication to tikkun olam, the just re-ordering of the world and promise to remember, to stay human, and to never be bystanders.
A memorial service will be held in Forest Park at a date and time to be determined. Donations in Hedy’s name may be made to Forest Park Forever to establish a permanent tribute, 5595 Grand Drive in Forest Park, St. Louis, MO 63112; American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, PA 19102; American Civil Liberties Union, 125 Broad St. 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004; and/or American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, 454 Whittier St., St. Louis, MO 63108.
It was not groundbreaking, it did not remove the fences or cut down the barbed wires. The same problems will still be there tomorrow but for two hours tonight the mental barriers erected by circumstance ( and politics and war) were demolished.Those here in samos seeking refuge from horrors beyond most of our imaginations, got the chance to sit and be “normal” Last night we opened a free cafe in the camp…
We were not volunteers and refugees, we were not them and us . We were humans of all walks of life, all nationalities, cultures, languages…but a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee
let me explain. We bought chairs, laid out blankets, provided tables and poured coffee and tea. We bought playing cards, draughts, dominoes. We did not ask for a queue to be formed nor a ticket to be stamped. There was no checking of numbers or ID. We offered a coffee, a conversation, a chance to relax and a chance to feel human.
I hope you can appreciate the importance of this, of regaining your name for a moment, of regaining your dignity, of not having to ask for every little thing. The importance of dignity in a situation where perhaps that is all you have left…your name and your dignity, both of which you may feel are slowly being stripped away. Perhaps to sit and talk, to sit and listen to peoples dreams and nightmares, to peoples reasons for fleeing, their hopes of a future, their desires to return , their loss, their beliefs of a future again for their children is a small step in breaching this racist xenophobic imaginary line that divides so many..or perhaps its even more simple, for a few hours it may well just be a coffee, a game of dominoes and a shared respect .
Whatever these evenings may become will no doubt become more apparent if we are able to continue. and we do hope to continue..
As previously explained, photographs are forbidden from being taken inside the camp.
Can you help us to share a coffee ? our paypal address is email@example.com ( irish in gaza account).
History will write of a time, our time, when shamefully those seeking refuge from a world at war, were dealt with behind barbed wire and steel gates. Families fleeing torture, persecution and violence dealt with through a dehumanizing bureaucracy of losing their names to be given a number, losing their identity to be given an A4 sheet of paper and losing their freedom because a “deal” was struck that forgot that as we speak of “refugees ” or “migrants” we are speaking of men, women and children and what they are fleeing ( and why)
Late evening in Samos, we receive a phone call regarding a Young Syrian family needing assistance.We find a man, his pregnant wife and 3 young children sitting at the port in a small cafe, where the owners have given them some food and drinks. They were released earlier this evening from the “Camp” with their papers, for the ferry that will leave in the early hours of tomorrow morning.Released without thought or assistance from the very many large NGO’s, well funded NGOs who are no longer taking any responsibility for anyone inside or outside the camp , sent to the port without food, help or even information. This young family did not even know where the ferry would go to tonight, whether Kavala or Athens. It is thanks to the generosity and help of several volunteers , working together, that we are actually able to purchase tickets for this family.
We have read many opinions this week from people opposed to anyone working inside a closed camp.We have read many posts on those applauding the NGOs on their stance to refuse to work inside the camps … What we have not read is your solution to continue to help those inside the camps without going “inside the camps”!!
My conscience is very clear when I can sit with a family inside, relieve a few of their fears, give them as much up to date information as I may have, help feed and clothe their children, direct them to a doctor, give their children treatment for head lice, make sure a woman has a packet of sanitary towels for herself or a nappy for her child! Help them find the help they need!
We can also go to those lost between the system as they leave the camp and still have no money to take the ferry or the ferry is not for another two days!. They need information on where they can pitch their tent, where they can find sim cards, find Western union in the hope they can get more money sent from family members back home to buy the tickets etc etc… We, the volunteers , are the ones who provide food each day, tents, sleeping bags, clothes, toiletries and even just a bit of humanity, a handshake, a hug , a conversation…
So, tell me, How do we do this without being in the same place as the refugees? I am not arrogant enough to assume that by my “not going inside” the agreement will be rescinded, the deportations will stop or the camp will open… These elements we, Derek and I, absolutely condemn, these elements we continue to fight against but not at the detriment and isolation of those being Punished for the crime of being a certain nationality, or fleeing a country , their country, being bombed and occupied by foreign ruthless invaders and warmongers of all sides. We have spent so many years volunteering and living inside the Gaza strip…the worlds largest open air prison, not because we want to live under siege, not because we do not hate the barricades of occupation but because that’s where the people we stand in solidarity with are, therefore that’s where we will be found…always! Empathy , Solidarity … they can be given regardless of the barbed wire!
It is now 3.00 a.m. We will go now to find the worried mama and papa, wake up three sleeping children and help carry them to a ferry from which 10 hours later they will depart and head to yet another camp with more uncertainty for their future. Thankfully, at least we know there will be more like-minded volunteers there waiting for them, volunteers living and working off donations and aid from good people around the world. Sadly tonight at the port and tomorrow in the next camp, it will be the volunteers, and mainly just the volunteers who will help this and many other families…
The political games will continue. The meetings will continue. But so too will the bombings and therefore the need for people to find security, a home, a haven , an empathic people instead of burecracy, frontiers, abuse, hatred and a sense that money and power, war games and political alignments mean more to this world that a shared sense of worth, a belief in equality or even a helping hand
Do we sit with our children, our grandchildren some day and admit we are the ones they read about, the ones who watched and allowed it to happen, or do we hurry them to turn the next page, the next paragraph in history where they read the world looked up and remembered our humanity..
It is only ever thanks to your solidarity with us and those we stand with, that we can continue. Your support , old friends and new, is always needed. Our funds diminish quickly but the need for help does not. Whatever you can give us to help, please be assured it is spent frugally and wisely… although admittedly sometimes on a small treat for the children or a coffee for a tired parent. Stocks must be constantly replenished and we are desperately in need, so please, if at all possible, donate via our paypal link, address is firstname.lastname@example.org ( Irish in Gaza account) or email above address for bank details.
You can follow us online at http://www.irishingaza.wordpress.com or on facebook : no more borders, no more tears and twitter @nomoreborders1
PS. We are prohibited from taking pictures in side the camp.
Derek and jenny
Updates on the arrivals to Agathonisi , Greek island, yesterday, Friday 18th March
The refugees that arrived in Agathonisi this morning, from Syria and Eritrea, arrived extremely wet and extremely distressed. Many have been badly beaten by the Turkish coast guard.
This is what happened last night, early hours of the morning. On arrival to Agathonisi, many had cuts and bruises. All were soaking wet and very distressed. All are sleeping now, fretful sleep over todays news and what lies ahead…We wait to see what tonight brings.
Although still wounded and fragile, the refugees in Agathonisi have now had two hot meals today and the children are happily drinking milk and munching on chocolate biscuits. All have blankets, dry socks and underwear, nappies wipes, water juice etc…and MSF are tending to all medical needs. We wait to find out when they will be transferred to Samos.
Saturday 19th March
We had breakfast in our apartment this morning with one of these families. The father of the young girl in the video ( sitting alone) wept openly as they recalled what happened and the distress etched on the face of his young daughter. These are parents trying to better a life for their young families, they are not pawns in some political game of chess and are certainly not ” for trade”.
Thank you to all who allow us to support them, and we ask for your support to continue.Our paypal link is still the irish in Gaza account, email email@example.com. Thank you so much, Derek and Jenny.
More refugees arrived here last night, thankfully all safe.
The “Hot spots” are not working…at least not for those they were intended to help. OK, I can only speak on Samos … but from reports from friends and colleagues , it is the same pretty much all over the 5 main Greek islands.!Yesterday in Samos there was heavy rain again. The port, which now has no large tent left and where no smaller tents are now permitted had an average of 300 people… wet people. All we could offer them was rain ponchos. Some people were being accomodated in the few cabins still remaining and some in the Ikea houses still there… And , The port is the “decent ” camp on the Island.
In , what is now being called the screening centre, but which the title “detention camp” springs more readily to mind, there are approximately 1000 people. I reiterate, as so many times before, It is only for the International volunteers, the Greek volunteers, the co-operation of these groups that this camp has any semblance of humanity . It is these people who feed both camps, on a voluntary basis, every morning and every evening, regardless of numbers, weather or negativity from larger organisations.Clothes are now being distributed in cars driven from the warehouse as the distribution cabin is no longer in situe in either camp. The screening centre is still a construction site, therefore , not able to adequately accommodate the numbers.Lines and lines of pop up tents are now huddled together in passageways between structures . The only area the food kitchens are permitted to set up is at the top of an incredible incline… almost impossible for healthy legs to reach never mind the elderly, the sick and the injured arriving from countries bombarded and being destroyed by war.
The registration takes place at the bottom of the incline and still manages to take hours and hours. While waiting for registration, you don’t leave the small concrete passage way surrounded by wire and fencing… and you don’t go for food…
The other problem is the hierarchy now running the camp. It seems, without a badge or a clipboard, the camp is not in need of us… except when they have no way to transport people back down to the port ( after bringing them up from the port hours earlier!!! )
Derek and I are human rights workers. We are volunteers and we rely heavily on the help and support of others. We have always been transparent and open about everything we do and how we do it. For this reason, we feel we should now move from Samos. We do not feel justified in staying here using your support and donations whilst not feeling we are doing enough to deserve your help. We know we can make better use of our time and your support elsewhere. Samos still needs help but much of the help on offer is for now being pushed out.
And so we move in a week or ten days.( update: we hope to leave tomorrow) The smugglers are not fooled into losing business by the NATO ships patrolling the seas or by the presence of NGO or Army controlled island camps. Many of the smuggling boats are now just abandoning the refugees on the smaller islands dotted around the Aegean. These islands have little more than a few hundred houses and residents who are now trying to cope and offer whatever they can without any help.This is where we can help, I hope.
A tiny island, Agathonisi is quiet and peaceful and is almost traffic free
The islanders live mainly off fishing and the estimated 800 tourists that visit the island every summer. The locals have often gone through hardships because of poverty and isolation, but they are warm and friendly and will try to make you feel at home as soon as you arrive. Agathonisi is the northernmost islet of the Dodecanese.. Agathonisi extends over approximately 14 square kilometres, has a coastline of 32 km and numbers less than 200 inhabitants mainly occupied with livestock and fishing, fish farming and tourism.
Last month, An outpost on the island located a boat carrying refugees and contacted the Coast Guard for assistance, as the boat had capsized and sunk.A rescue boat dispatched found 20 survivors and recovered the bodies of 3 children, two boys and one girl.The numbers arriving since have increased dramatically.
This morning, March 3rd 2016, MOAS Aegean crew just finished conducting the rescue of 63 refugees off the coast of Agathonisi. Post-rescue care was administered on board The Responder & all have been safely disembarked.( Pictures courtesy of MOAS)
We would like to be able to offer our help to both the residents of the island as well as to the refugees being abandoned by ruthless smugglers. We will literally be there as people come off the boats, hopefully safely but there, regardless of the situation. We hope to bring enough aid with us for basic help at least in the beginning.We dont know of any others on the island as yet but whatever the case when we arrive, we hope we are as prepared as possible to deal with it all.
As with when we moved to Gaza or first arrived on Samos , We need a large amount of help to do this. We , as always , will cover our own costs ( unless there is a wonderful donor out there who finally takes pity on us ?) but we do need money to cover aid. We will firstly bring the basics, rain covers, emergency blankets, first aid kits, blankets, underwear, socks, food, mother and baby kits. Once on the island we will work out what else is needed and continue from there.
So, once again , but quite urgently this time, we are making a call out for help. Please help us have enough to help those literally as they arrive on the coast, on the beaches , on the rocks or wherever they come in on the Island.. Help us offer a little bit of help, humanity, solidarity to both the residents doing this alone right now and to the refugees still fleeing war and conflict, still searching for safety for their families, still escaping the bombs and cruelty being inflicted and still about to face the tightening corridors , the higher fences , the sharper barbed wire of fortress Europe.
Whatever you can offer, any amount, will be deeply appreciated by both Derek and myself as well as by those who you help. We can buy a lot of ponchos for little money, we can buy more for more money! We have always relied on peoples solidarity to us, We have never taken it for granted and we hope to one day thank you all… but for now, We are still asking…
For paypal donations, please click Donate to refugee appeal ( please read our donate page tab ( on top of page) also for clarification purposes)
or for bank account details, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fundraising for long term help is always appreciated. Aid donations will no doubt be needed at a later stage.Group help, Individual help is essential and comes in many forms, Although financial donations are needed right now, the spreading of awareness, the truth of what is happening is vital. Please share widely this blog, these updates but also the updates from all the other volunteers in both the Greek Islands, Calais and Dunkirk camps and Idomeni on the Greek/Macedonian border
Derek and jenny
Facebook:No more borders, no more tears
Twitter: No more borders
( All post can be found on our facebook page , no more borders, no more tears… please like and share the updates)
If there is anyone out there with the means to support us in any small way, please get in touch, your donations and support is all we have…
Wednesday 17th February,
We returned to the graveyard here in Samos to visit and tidy up the grave of the 3 lost children whose funerals we attended a few months ago. Please read their story here , dont forget them and the many more that come after them… The beautiful children were 7 years old, 4 years old and 7 months … We never recovered the body of the 4th baby girl, 8 months old…
Friday 19th February.
And the games continue. In Europe the losers of the games are more and more the refugees themselves while the top dogs play hero for the media. On Samos island, Split between a not finished screening centre and a partially dismantled port ( that was running extremely well up to now) those seeking refuge are now passed , literally, between one place and another.
Without the volunteers, things would certainly be a lot worse. These same volunteers who every single night, drive their own cars, at their own expense to the camp to pick up refugees to transport to the port for accomodation. ( While the NGO funded buses remain idle) These same volunteers, Greek and International , who cook from their own kitchens, buy from their own pockets and serve in their free time, who beg for donations to provide clothes, shoes, etc and yet, these are the same volunteers not kept informed, not offered help and barely thanked…The Greek civil society, who have helped from the very beginning and continue to do so without fanfare or glory expected.
Yes, we chose to do this, we will continue to do it I,m sure…but if we , as “mere volunteers”can see its wrong, that the politics and game play is causing needles extra suffering for those asking help, why can the others not…or can they??
One point that should be mentioned is the superb support of Samaritans purse who have remained a presence at the port throughout all of this and offer immense help and respect to all the refugees.
And sadly, again it comes back to me asking you for help… in two ways. First, the mainstream media has dropped the story pretty much , the real story of refugees seeking solace, safety , security and escape from the bombs ….please don;t let the rest of us forget, share the posts, the truth…
and secondly, yes, we need financial help, your donations to continue. any amount is a worthwhile amount. Every cent is used exactly where it needs to be used and spent on those in need of your help. Our paypal account is email@example.com or pm me for other ways to donate… and thank you all.
The number of refugees arriving to Samos has risen quickly over the last few days. Most arrived wet and scared , including many children and babies. Co-operation on the port meant everyone was dealt with quickly in terms of dry clothes and shoes. They were all then transported to the screening centre for registration ( which is still too slow and chaotic and not very humane) and back down hours later to the port to sleep and eat…some improvements but a lot still needs improving.. donations, if you would like to support our ongoing efforts, can be made via paypal , paypal email address is firstname.lastname@example.org..
She arrived very wet and very hungry yesterday, along with her extremely exhausted young mamma. They are travelling alone . I hope the frontiers are open for them and they both have a chance to become what they surely could. Thanks to your support and donations, she left on a ferry today, warm, dry and fed… please continue to support via paypal link or pm for other ways to donate… its the least we should do..
What makes a parent risk their children’s lives on a smuggling boat, which has pretty much wiped out their money, made them ill, fearful and at times hated. They know the journey is far from over, they know the frontiers are closing to them, they know the chances of all the young, the babies , the elderly , the frail and the injured surviving the journey is a pretty low percentage… but what must they be fleeing for all of this to be the “safer option”.. What? Bombs… Our bombs, while we may not be the ones dropping them, our silence in allowing them to continue is complicit, our silence in watching the borders close, in not allowing safe passage, in listening to our politicians pathetic excuses as to why we cannot help is complicit… If this is our world, its time to take it back … for all our sakes!