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A dark day for volunteers in Samos island, Greece. This is why we are here. These are the reasons we ask for your help. We spoke of this tragedy in our previous post.click on link below for video.  Please continue to donate via paypal, continue to share our posts for awareness. Thank you .

http://news.sky.com/video/1585396/dark-day-for-samos-volunteers

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Exceptionally hard week in Samos island. On Tuesday morning the souls of the three young children from one of the sunken boats were finally laid to rest. Although honoured to be asked to attend, the despair and grief as the little bodies were laid respectfully in a shared grave in a corner of the cemetary should remind us all of the human side of a crisis so often portrayed as just a news story focused on statistics and political games. The families, still suffering,  must now leave behind the graves of their children and continue on for the sake of their surviving children … a journey forced upon them by war!

I was asked to go to the port police station also since our last post to deal with families from a second boat tragedy. 11 people lost heir lives only 25 metres off the shore. All women and children. One man spoke of how he was fleeing war in Syria with his family, only for tragedy to follow. That morning he had a wife, 2 daughters and a son …. now he has to find a life for just him and his baby boy as his wife and two young daughters bodies were taken from the boat. I cradled a young girl until she finally fell into a fitful sleep. ” N” is eleven years old and was travelling with her mama, her brother and her sister … all except “N” perished on the boat. I stayed with her in the police station and later in the pediatric wing of the hospital until finally the next day we could reunite her with her father…. The bodies of her family were taken on the ship last night to Athens where they will be buried. Sadly these are just a small percentage of the lives being lost and destroyed .

We have also had to deal with various vulnerable cases this week. Cases needing help with counselling, families travelling with handicapped children, elderly parents, women travelling alone or with children and a lack of information before arriving in Greece.

All of this has been compounded this week by a ferry strike. The ferries stopped running on Monday and did not resume untill last night ( Friday). The smugglers did not stop which resulted in there being approximately 6000 on Samos port. We try our best, we all do , but we did not, do not  have the capability or materials to help these numbers. Because of this, many people suffered even more this week. We did not have enough blankets or shelter to go around. Hundreds were forced to sleep on the cold concrete of the quayside with perhaps only a jacket as cover. As I write we still do not have enough blankets for tonight and we are about to run out of nappies for the children.

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Unsurprisingly, this has all resulted in tension on the port….but thankfully we all still manage to cooperate and try to do our best… NGO, volunteers , civil society and refugee… we all take up a broom or a pair of rubber gloves at the end of a day  ( usually well after midnight) and do our best to clean the port… we get offered so much help as volunteer translators from many people arriving here … Arabic,Afghani, Pakistani or Iranian… all wanting to help.

So, as I said , no week is easy but this one was harder than ever. Tiredness, sometimes a total sense of despair and a huge sense of loss … and then a young girl, in the midst of grief hugs you, kisses you and hands you a small gift of a beautiful pendant that I will keep forever and it is a stark reminder to appreciate what we have, remember how blessed we are and continue to fight for justice, for a more equal society and a chance for children, mama’s, papa’s to never have to flee war, bury their families because of War…a chance to just live.

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Last night we said goodbye to some of these families.. we exchange whatsapp contacts and wait and pray in the hope that someday they will contact us to say they are safe, happy and finally living….

And now, yet again, I make no apologies in asking for help. We desperately, desperately need funding for more blankets, tents, nappies and baby milk as well as so much more. Any amount, every amount will and does help . So many of you have helped already, so many people have at least been warm and dry in Samos because of you. Thank you.

You can donate via PayPal or contact us for more information on how to help or for bank details for transfer. Jennygraham7@gmail.com

As always, please share to reach as many as possible, we appreciate any and all support,

Derek and Jenny.

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She is eight months old and her little body is lost at sea. On Wednesday  evening we received news to head to the port authority with blankets, mats, food and water. On arrival shocking scenes of grief, despair and desperation awaited us as the port police and doctors tried, with as much respect as possible and as diligently as possible, to match up family members. Ten boats, again not fit for purpose, had crashed into rocks on the opposite side of Samos island. Despite the bravery of some on board, one young man and 3 children were washed overboard and lost their lives. One young girl is still recovering in hospital after being revived on shore and one angel was not found.

The parents had to identify their children from photographs taken at the hospital. Offering as much help and comfort as we could, anger again begins to build. We hold the Turkish Government totally responsible for the death of these young people…It is absolutely impossible for an operation of this size to continue on Turkish shores without their knowledge….This is no longer just a political game but an insane game of roulette with people’s lives. There were two thousand people at Samos port again last night needing help while waiting to continue their journey. Samos is now second only to Lesbos in terms of the numbers arriving each day.

Yesterday morning we joined the bereaved family members at the hospital to help with funeral arrangements and offer support and solidarity. The bodies will be buried here in Samos before the families continue their journey …. Where they find the strength… I can’t imagine. The funerals will take place on Monday. We have spent time with the families, seen their loss , spoke of the children and young man, seen their pictures, know their names … but the families, although partly the responsibility of all of us, are still grieving and deserve some privacy and dignity so we are not publishing any names.

As for the port… some updates Members of IOCC ….. joined us late last week and are already in the process of plumbing up new toilets and showers. One of the coordinators from the UN now join Derek and I on the port at night after the ships leave and distribute some blankets to those still sleeping on the quayside… all massive improvements to basic needs. I can not speak for other islands but here on Samos, life would be even harder for those arriving if not for the brilliant solidarity and humanity of local civil society and small local groups.  Groups such as “The friendly humans” who distribute breakfast every morning, then cook hot meals for a few hundred every evening, The “Archipelagos” marine Institute” that allow their store to be used for aid donations, both local and international and allow some volunteers to stay in their premises and all the local groups here, groups in general who offer all kinds  of help.

The weather is very changeable… though the nights continue to get colder. Large storms late last week meant less boats arrived so we managed to clean out all the cabins, washed out and ready for the hundreds that arrived as soon as the storms subsided.

Please remember the  bodies waiting to be buried, the young mans life cut short, the tiny body of eight month old child still missing at sea, the pain and anguish of their families. Sadly there will be more . There are still thousands beginning a journey through Europe’s harsh winter and closed frontiers.

For 25 euro we can provide a pop up tent to at least keep a family dry on the port. 10 euro will buy a lot of rain poncho’s that keep clothes and bags dry both here and on the journey ahead. Share our posts. We need as much help as possible. You can donate via PayPal or email us for bank details or suggestions on best to help.’We had problems with internet this week but we are back on line now.

As always, your support and solidarity is appreciated and deeply needed.

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More souls lost ….

We don’t see much mainstream media,mostly due to lack of hours in the day so I may be contradicting them  here ( not something I am apologising for) but let me tell you from the front line … the numbers arriving have neither stopped or reduced, in fact just the opposite!

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This week alone we have had thousands on Samos Port. The numbers on the small iinflatable dinghy’s are increasing and the recklessness and abandonment with which the smugglers dice with peoples lives show no signs of humanity. The children arriving on the boats now wear blow up life jackets, the ones our children wear under supervision in a paddling pool . Their lives will not be saved by them! 4 young souls (children)drowned at Sea on Tuesday. 2 young expectant women miscarried their babies not long after reaching Samos. Derek takes people to the hospital several times each night as the red cross work “office hours only” 8 – 4 …..

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Due to the large numbers arriving, the situation on the port is becoming a serious cause for concern. The toilets, one for men and one for women are in a substandard state and are now also a health risk. We have mentioned this on a daily basis to the UN but still nothing has changed. The large numbers also mean we do not have nearly enough blankets or mats for those sleeping outside and the nights are cold now.We bring whatever we can each night …. We stay each night until the early hours..

There is no way of knowing when the next emergency arises. Saturday night, just after midnight, the 3 volunteers that were still on the port, Derek, Mette and myself were getting ready to leave. We were taking the last few blankets around the camp to cover whoever we could when the coast guard arrived. It quickly became apparent that the 49 on board were in a bad  way. They had been in the sea for twelve hours  and hypothermia was a major concern.The faces of the coast gaurd and port police were ashen as they handed over a two month old baby, wet soiled and shaking.After wrapping as many as we could in tin foil emergency blankets and the rest in towels etc, We got the babies dry , changed , dressed and fed…. next the women dried and changed and finally the men. Emergency world food programme biscuits and bottles of water handed to everyone and finally by 2.30 everybody was at least safe for now…although we had only blankets left for the babies and children so a long cold night still waited many.

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We will continue here for as long as we can. Please continue to support us in whatever way you can while politicians continue to play a game of chess with peoples lives. All donations go directly to helping those in need …blankets, baby milk socks , underwear whatever we can. You can donate via our PayPal page or email us for bank details. jennygraham7@gmail.com

We, as always, need and appreciate your help.

Derek and Jenny …. please share to reach as many as possible.

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The boats continue to arrive on Samos island. After paying 1200 dollars per person in Turkey the refugees are pilled,  between 30 and 45 in a small rubber dinghy and pointed in the direction of Greece with no GPS and no captain and despite the large amount of money, they regularly do not have enough fuel for the journey.. Some but not all make it and are rescued by the Greek coastal patrol, some veer off course and hit rocks and some capsize. For those that do make it, they arrive wet, scared, hungry, burned from the sun and totally dehydrated, many have lost everything and whatever they manage to hold on to is usually soaking wet.

Once they arrive on the port, they are divided into two groups, Syrian and non Syrian. We have worryingly, still not been given permission to visit the camp holding those not arriving g from Syria. For the Syrians, once registered they are free to leave the port while waiting for the next ferry to Athens, which now departs every 2 days with thousands on board. The vast majority remain in the port for various reasons, some just can’t afford even the cheaper of hotels but most are too scared to leave.

Derek and I stay on the port for between 10 and 12 hours a day along with a small number of others volunteers. There is a Greek doctor, Manos, here, one of the most humanitarian and decent people I have had the pleasure to work alongside. His support to the refugees, his demeanour and his friendship means he is asked to go above and behind his remit , and he does so seven days a week.

Our priority when the boats arrive is to get those in need of medical help to Dr. Manos or the red cross field tent. Many children are severely dehydrated so sips of water, milk or vitamin drinks are distributed. Many kids have also not made it to a toilet on time so we get them dry and changed. Men, women and children are all wet and we provide what ever dry clothes we can, trying to at least make sure everyone has dry socks and underwear, a blanket or a mat , some water , some energy biscuits from the UN or some bread donated. Derek then gets as many of the families, elderly and children in to the empty cabins ( see last post).

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By now the port police and any NGO’s have left for the day so the volunteers and Manos remain behind. We continue to give out whatever we have been donated, perhaps buy more food and water if possible. Because of a desperate lack of funds, we are constantly rationing whatever we have or worse, we can not give someone the most basic of help … I cried the day I could not even provide sanitary pads to a young woman .

We stay well in to the night trying to make sure everyone is safe, those having to sleep outside at least have a jacket or blanket a mat …something…anything… Sometimes We just sit and talk, many people just want to know what happens next, or they want someone to listen. The children, resilient as ever, have now found the toys we keep for them and are doing what kids do best… just living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow….they leave that to mama and papa.

As the sun goes down, we sit cross legged together listening to their reason for leaving, their hopes for a future in Europe, their dreams of returning home their enormous gratitude for those of you who have helped and continue to support and total despair of being in this situation at all.

Tomorrow we start again. Our day usually starts the same. We drive from our small rented room to the port and pick up as many of the hundreds we pass on the road as possible. We desperately, desperately need help, we need funds to continue. Can you donate? Can you fundraise? Can you at least share our updates in the hope that someone can offer us some help? We are all a part of this ….

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We have arrived in the Greek islands to scenes of chaos, hardship, desperation but also of immense solidarity, friendship and humanity, especially grassroot solidarity from locals and visitors to the islands alike. We are now permanently based in Samos island after spending time in Kos and taking the time to check out the smaller islands . The smaller islands such as Symi showed signs of having hosted refugees previously but there were none there when we visited…. maybe they moved on from there willingly though the amount of patrol boats, not all of which we’re Greek, was a worrying aspect….So, as I said we are now based for the next few weeks in the larger island of Samos.

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Here the refugees arrive every day, usually early hours of the morning from Turkey. They arrive on on all parts of the coast depending on which way their small rubber boat are carried and then usually have to walk kilometres to reach the port where they are processed. To be fair, here the registration and processing is done quickly and with some solidarity from the port police, but the vast numbers and strong sun still make it chaotic and distressing. Volunteer groups work alongside small numbers of NGO’s such as MSF and the red cross. Many locals wander to the port each day with food, clothes water ….but its never enough. Those arriving g from Syria are go through registration here but anyone arriving from other countries, Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds are bused away to a camp in the mountains that we have not been given permission to visit yet….but we continue to ask for. The registration takes one to two days here and they are permitted to purchase tickets for the evening ferry to Athens.

Meanwhile, there are a small number of shelters, previously used for victims of the earthquake in Greece a few years ago, but the numbers of needy far outweigh the numbers of cabins. Our policy, which Derek insists on implementing, is to get as many families with young children, elderly and injured into the cabins while we provide sleeping bags’ blankets and sometimes all we have is opened cardboard boxes to provide some relief and a chance to sleep to the others.

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Everyone has a story, from the mothers travelling alone with young children, to the elderly ,broken hearted from having to flee in fear from their homes in their later years, the fathers determined to provide a better life , a chance of life, for his family, to the young couples scared of starting a life together in a war zone….nobody leaves easily and nobody makes this journey as the easy option…. We will share some these stories over the next few weeks…

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They must travel light so they arrive with a small bag of essentials and the clothes they are wearing. Many belongings get lost at sea…. wallets, phone even passports…. but the loss of life at sea is the hardest to hear and bear. On arrival and once registered we provide water, blankets, we direct the injured to the volunteer doctors or the red cross. We get the babies and young children into dry clothes and nappies and find out who else needs what …. clothes, towels, food, toiletries, shoes, socks whatever…. We met a group of volunteers from Sweden in Kos, On Facebook they are ” Nobody can do everything but everyone can do something” We took a huge amount of their aid with us also to Samos.  … They continue to assist in Kos… Massive thanks and admiration goes out to them.

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But we need some help to continue …. we ask for donations, no matter how small, from groups, organisations or individuals, money to provide food ( bananas, apples, bread, baby formula etc), a little will go a long way….The European Union cut funding for refugees to Greece in June , so now all help is provided by volunteer groups and organisations such as ourselves, and only with your support…

Please use the PayPal link provided or contact us for bank details.  Jennygraham7@gmail.com

As ever, we deeply need and appreciate your support….

Derek and Jenny.

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Picture: Tina Palivo.

Firstly a quick update on our return to Gaza. While the state of emergency remains in place in Sinai, ( extended until October), the dept. Foreign affairs in Ireland have informed us they can not assist us with the application for clearance from Cairo. We continue to apply and hope to return to Gaza as soon as possible.

For now though, Derek and I have decided to head to the Greek islands to offer whatever solidarity and assistance we can to  refugees arriving on the islands of Kos/Lesbos/Chios and Symi.Although so much more is needed, grassroots solidarity will at least offer a little hope, dignity … sometimes a greeting in your native language, a shared tea or water, a few minutes rest and someone to walk the next part of the journey with….both literally and otherwise…sometimes its all we can offer while demanding borders come down and the reasons people are fleeing their homes and countries is dealt with.

“NOBODY PUTS THEIR CHILDREN ON A BOAT …UNLESS THE WATER IS SAFER THAN THE LAND”

We once again need your help. We plan to be on the coast, the port, the pier …. where ever we feel we can offer the most, offer some respite for a few minutes before they continue on a long journey, assistance, solidarity, a helping hand but also some basics…. bread, water, a blanket….

To help provide water etc, please use our PayPal link or click ..Donate .

We plan to stay in Greece for as long as possible, weeks or months ….We will update via this blog as well as our Irish in Gaza Facebook page

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