It’s a girl!

It’s a girl!

Happy news!

On Monday the 28th the Abdi family welcomed a new, beautiful little girl into the world. Nalin had planned to give birth at home, but she got such sharp pain that she was rushed to hospital by kind volunteers and the wonderful Maria who drove her there. Everything went well and two hours later the little girl was born.

It feels great to see how so many volunteers have been involved in ensuring that the family has a safe home and did not have to give birth to their daughter in the camp at Idomeni.

Now they can take care of each other in peace and quiet. Mohammed and Nalin send their gratitude to all of you.

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The news that I feel extremely honoured about – the little girl’s name is Joanna. I can’t describe how touched I was when Mohammed told me that. I now hope and pray that little Joanna will have as many opportunities in life as I have had! 🙂

 

 

Annonser

One family’s journey from Syria

Mohammed Abdi and his family wanted to share their story with you and thank everyone who has so kindly helped them. These are his words.

Good morning!

I am writing this from the apartment that lovely Maria and Antonia found for us. It belongs to the Vaggeli family, who have so generously let us stay here free of charge, in a village near Idomeni.

I cannot express the relief I feel that my wife, Nalin, can give birth here and not in the camp at Idomeni; the relief that my daughters are now safe, away from bombs, away from dangerous people and away from the camp. We both want to express our deepest gratitude to everyone who has helped us. You are so many!

This is our story about our flight from our village in Syria; the Kurdish village of Hasaka. It was a beautiful place before the war. I had a good job as a satellite technician, and I could provide for my family.

We left Syria because it was becoming more and more dangerous day by day to stay there. The bombing was happening daily when we left, the infrastructure has broken down, there is no work, no future, and you do not know who is your friend and who is your enemy.

My brother-in-law, Azer, was a mini-bus driver and a very lovely and kind man. Daesh (Isis) made a road stop and said they wanted to check his bus. Instead they put a bomb inside so that he would drive back to our village. The next day strangers came to our house. They had so kindly gathered up all the small pieces of his body in a bag to return to us. I am sorry to describe this. I just want everyone to understand the situation in Syria.

It was a difficult decision to start on this journey, because my wife, Nalin, is sick and pregnant. The doctor in Syria said she is at risk of developing cancer. At the end of the day, we just had no choice. My wife and I were also scared for my daughters’ safety and future. My daughters, Hewler, Helin and Ruken are 11, 9, and 7 years old.

For all these reasons we sold our house for less than half of what I paid for it, and we left Syria just in time. Every one wants to leave Syria but all the borders are closed now. Many are stuck there. It’s so dangerous there it is hard to describe. Between Syria and Iraq the border is also closed now. Between Syria & Turkey the border is closed too now. Syria now like a big prison for everyone there, believe me. There is no future. My sister’s daughter made it with us to Turkey. She is still stuck there. We are worried about her.

We packed our bags and drove by car to the Iraqi town of Erbil where we met with smugglers. We drove for about one and half hours with them to a village on the border of Iraq and Turkey.

From here we drove about four or more hours to a river. We had to change jeeps 4 times because the smugglers were very scared about being caught. They said their work is very dangerous and there is a lot of security check points around the border.

The last jeep we were in broke down three times in a difficult area in the mountains. They fixed it temporarily so we could continue, but the car was not safe on the road, which was muddy and snowy and very slippery. So we begged them to stop the jeep and not continue as it was getting dangerous, but they refused. We all cried, I swear even I did. I felt so frustrated and angry. My family’s safety was at risk. I said to Nalin that I wanted to punch them, but she wisely told me to stay calm as they would probably just kill us all if I caused any problems. She said to me: ”Look Mohammed, they are three men with rifles and you are just one!” It was horrible. Thank god we finally reached the river.

airbox sketch
Sketch of crossing the river in an ‘Airbox’

We waited to cross the river with other people the smugglers were helping. There was a rope across the river in a large ”air”box that could hold one person at a time. It’s a sort of closed box that you climb in and then a lid is secured on top. So you are stuck in the box. If it falls into the water you are stuck inside. The river was not wide but the current was very strong. A young boy drew the box to the other side. The whole set up was very, very dangerous. We were all extremely scared.

IMG_7684At night the mountains are not safe.

When we got across the river we start walking up a mountain. It was very cold. It was snowing. My girls were incredibly tired. Nalin, my wife, is pregnant. So many times she said to me: “Please, please Mohammad I am very tired, I have to stop.” But I answered that she must not stop because there are very bad people and wolves in these mountains. It was terrible walking in the darkness after the sun set. It made me cry in my heart to see my wife and daughters so tired. But we couldn’t stop, we had to stay as a group, and pass the mountain. We just could not stop. I will never forget that moment. We walked for 15 hours without stopping, carrying a few belongings with us.

At last we arrived at a bridge where there were Turkish police. They took us all into a big room where they wrote down our names. There were about 75 Syrian people. We were allowed to sleep there the night. We were all very exhausted.

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Basket ball stadium in Shemdinli, Turkey.

The next day we were taken to a basketball stadium in another city, Shemdinli. There were about 400-500 people there. We stayed here for 7 days. Finally, after waiting for 7 days, not knowing how long we would be there, the police brought papers and called our names one by one, and let us go.

We went to Izmir by bus. The bus from Shemdinli to Izmir takes 23 hours (46 hours return), and we took the bus every time we tried to get on a boat in Izmir, to go to Greece. We had to go forth and back three times, it was only the third time we got on the boat. The first time the police caught us but let us go the following day. The second time we went to Izmir, the smuggler did not answer the telephone when we arrived, as promised. The third time we finally got across the sea to Samos, in Greece.

I can’t describe what it was like in the boat. We know that so many people have drowned, but we were really lucky to make it to Greece. The smugglers crammed 109 people in to a wooden boat that was probably made for just half as many passengers. They said that we were only 75 (which even that was too many) as they did not count babies and children up to 11  years old. Can you believe it, the young children don’t count! They only charge half price for them as well.

Until today we have been travelling for two months since we left our village, on foot, by car, in busses and jeeps- and on that small boat. My girls have been very brave. It has not been easy. We arrived on the shores of Greece so exhausted but just glad to be alive and had made it that far. We had to leave our belongings in Izmir when we got on the boat, so we had nothing left with us. In Greece, we went to Idomeni, which is next to the Macedonian border, with the hope of continuing our journey to the EU to apply for asylum somewhere.

idomeniSome of the tents in the camp at Idomeni

The Idomeni camp is very difficult. My wife was nine months pregnant when we arrived at Idomeni. We were very scared that she would have to give birth there, with no shelter, and no help.

We had run out of money to move elsewhere.

The smugglers took 850 US dollars to get us from Iraq to Turkey. From Turkey to Greece it cost us 7 600 US dollars. It cost loads more for other transport. I got some money from selling our house. Only 5 600 US dollars, a fraction of what it was worth before the war, and less than half of what I paid for it. Now we have no money left at all. No house. No country. No family. And nowhere to go. We don’t know when this tragic story will stop and when EU will find a solution for us. We are not tourists, not terrorists, just refugees who were forced to leave our country. We are just people like everyone else.

This is the story of our journey from Syria to Greece. I hope that everyone will know that the people who have fled Syria are normal citizens.

We are so happy that you have helped us. You are a group of angels – all of you. Because of you all we now feel like human beings again. You have made this possible for us. We don’t need much. Just to feel human is important.

Mohammed

coiple day of leaving
This photo was taken in Syria

IMG_7689The whole family – out of the camp at Idomeni and safe in the new apartment! 

Together we really are making a difference!

Together we really are making a difference!

It feels great to get to write this post with such joy and pride.

Through your words of support, that gave us so much strength, and through your generous donations, we have been able to help a lot more people. It is all of you who have made this possible, and I wish I could thank each and every one of you personally. I want you to know that your help is immensely appreciated in every possible way.

So far, over 250 of you have together donated 132,600 SEK, all of which has gone to help the refugees in Lesbos and in Idomeni in full. A thousand thanks to you all!

This week we have also gathered a further 11,750 SEK specifically for the Abdi family who will soon give birth to their fourth child. They can’t believe how much goodness exists and are quite overwhelmed with your generosity. I will write more about them once the baby is born so that you can continue to follow their story. (See the post below.) I just want to say, that they cannot thank you enough for helping them in this way. It’s an indescribable joy and relief that you have given them. Now, they will be able to stay in the apartment for the foreseeable future, until we hear more about the EU’s political decisions, and know what they can do next.

From hereon I want to try and sum up the most important and greatest efforts we have done with the money that you have sent:-

– We have donated tools to the volunteer organisation Lighthouse Relief, enabling them to set up a special Lighthouse relief camp in the official refugee ‘hotspot’ camp at Moria, Lesbos, run by the Greek military. This has made a more humane place for some of the refugees there. Now Lighthouse Relief are doing the same thing in Idomeni. The tools are a very important part of being able to set up a camp. It feels very good to have been part of enabling this.

– Among other things, we have been able to distribute 250 sleeping bags, 60 tents, 8+ pairs of shoes, 250 sleeping mats, 50 backpacks, 20 camping stoves, footballs, toys and a lot more. Lighthouse Relief are helping to distribute all this at Idomeni this week.

– Yesterday Jonny, together with the Lighthouse Relief, Lisa, Mel and a bunch of Greek volunteers, shared out 2000 family packs to families with small children in the camp in Idomeni. 1000 of these packs were paid for with your donations. That is huge. Each bag contains two packages of baby powder, a baby bottle, fruit, baby food, soap, diapers and baby wipes. The voluntary organisation ‘Color, open kitchen’ will help to supply clean. distilled water for the bottles. I think you can see in the pictures how joyful it was to be able to distribute all of this.

– In addition to these family packs, Jonny and I were also able to purchase an additional 1000 packs of ready made baby milk and equal many packages of diapers. With the help of a few refugees from the camp these were distributed out at the beginning of the week directly to families in the tents, so that they wouldn’t have to stand in line, and this was very much appreciated.

– We have helped the Abdi family find shelter so they do not have to give birth in Idomeni. Maria and Antonia found it for us. It belongs to the Vaggeli family, who is so generously letting the family stay there free of charge. Many other volunteers have been involved in the process, such as Mel and Lisa. The family is expecting the baby any day now, and have proper shelter and food for the foreseeable future. It’s only one family out of many, but for them this has been life-changing. If you would like to contribute towards buying food for this family, please label your Swish donation ‘Abdi family’. They cannot get food donations from the camp anymore, as we have moved them to a safe apartment.

We have been able to achieve all this and more, thanks to you! Once again we’ve shown how strong we can be together. It is something we should all be very, very proud of.

It feels great to be able to help a few people out of all of these tens of thousands of vulnerable people. At the same time we must remind ourselves that the situation is now worse than it has been in the last three or four years. The need for help is still enormous.

We have therefore decided to continue to concentrate on the distribution of baby milk, diapers and baby food, as there is a blatant lack of this in the camp. If you want to continue to donate money for just this, we will see to it that in the full amount goes to supplies for the families in the camp. Lighthouse Relief will help us with this.

Please ask around as even the smallest donations can buy a lot of milk.
No amount is too small!
Please swish me on 0736-800 444

Thank you again from me, Jonny, the Abdi family, and all the others who have asked us to convey their thanks for your help. We haven’t been able to name them all, but there are many of them…

Joanna

75567_10153744830992771_8927463335476011810_nJonny handing out packages

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My last days volunteering in Idomeni

My last days volunteering in Idomeni

Soon I will be leaving to drive the van back to the UK, and hopefully help some people along the way by handing out food. There are so many things I would like to write about now. It seems that in the next week or so the refugees here will be encouraged to move to one of the official ‘hotspot’ camps run by the military, that are not so close to the border. The fear of getting stuck in one of these camps is tangible. The famine here is tangible. The conditions here are dreadful, but people are free to come and go.

As everyone knows, the Governments of the European Union countries have decided that there are too many refugees trying to get into Europe, and they have told the neighbouring countries not to accept any refugees without a valid EU show. So the border is closed to stop the refugees from traveling through Macedonia and then onto Serbia, Hungary and into Western Europe. So what will happen? Why would sending people back to Turkey Help the issue? It is simply a huge operation to move people. People here are not well, they are cold, tired, hungry and many need medical attention. At the same time so much money is being spent on erecting fences at borders. I have not seen any state money at all spent on helping these people. Not one penny on food, water, supplies, facilities, or medicine. The larger NGOs cannot mobilise quick enough. Much of the little help there is is coming from small organisations and independent volunteers. The EU plans do not seem to be addressing the issue at all. Regardless of politics, there seems to be no modern ‘problem-solving’ methods being put into place.

In addition, until very recently it was commonly accepted as a basic human right to apply for asylum as a refugee. That every case should be judged on an individual basis, not by your nationality. This right has been taken away by the EU from the non-Syrian and Iraqi nationals who have been demoted to ‘migrant’ status. These blanket decisions are on the edge of international law. What is the difference between a migrant and a refugee? A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. A migrant, apparently, has a choice .

The majority of the refugees here at Idomeni are from Syria. Those from Afghanistan or Iraq have little hope of entering the EU now They have been demoted in status by the EU, even though many of these people are overpriced fleeing persecution. Many of these people have left in the hope of finding better conditions at other camps- since there is no end in sight. The Syrians, however, want to stay at Idomeni in case they get a chance to go over the border and continue their journey, eventually being able to apply for asylum status somewhere. Many have decided to jump to get into Macedonia even though they know they will be refused entry. Hungry and without shelter, they feel they have nothing to lose. It really is a kind of hell to be stuck in limbo. There are even refugees on hunger strike in Calais.

What I wanted to say, though, is that I have learned so much from the people here and you at home who have given donations. It has been an absolute privilege to prove that a few people together can make a difference. Altogether we have had donations from about 200 people.

The refugees here, they queue for hours and even if they do not get much- or sometimes get nothing at all after waiting for hours – they are so gracious and grateful. Despite the awful weather, and their ongoing hunger, they find a way to show a smile, to keep their spirits up and play with the kids. Despite the devastating news that the borders being closed, and no help coming, and no end in sight, they try their best to share the supplies that we bring, and make sure the the most needy get the supplies first. And despite it feeling sometimes that there are more TV news crews and police than aid workers, that the world has turned its back on them, despite their unimaginable situation at home, their deep personal losses and traumatic journey here, all these people have shown nothing but kindness to us and each other.

Jonny

If you are in Sweden you can still Swish Some Money to Joanna that will be used for milk and baby bottles, for now and the drive back through Serbia. Swish 073-680 04 44 and mark your donation ‘Baby Milk.’

If you are outside Sweden and would like to donate, here is my UK Halifax Bank Account details. Every penny will go to supplies. Please mark your donation HELP_REFUGEES.

Name: Jonathan Bradford
Sort Code: 11-18-11
Account No:   00767590
IBAN: GB13HLFX11181100767590
BIC HLFXGB21L68
SWIFT Loydgb2L
Address: Halifax,  PO Box: 548, LS1 1WU, UK

 

 

Trying to help a mother and child

Trying to help a mother and child

It’s impossible to communicate the inhumane conditions at this camp. There are so many people that need attention urgently. While I was at the Eko camp I met a young Syrian couple with a 6-month-old baby. The mother and baby needed medical help. They couldn’t speak English but a young Arabic-speaking Palestinian girl, Shirim, helped me translate. She has been volunteering here for a month and will stay for another 3 months.

There are so many like her that are getting weaker by the day. They asked me if it would be possible to move to another camp, in the hope that they could away from the infernal cold mud and continuous rain of the Eko camp. These official military run camps are called ‘Hotspots’, and are rumoured to have better conditions. Drew, a volunteer from Lighthouse Relief, had earlier met with a UNHCR representative & had explained the situation on behalf of the mother and child. We were told there was a space for the family at the Kavala Hotspot, and so we decided to take the family there.

The rumours that the government camps have much better facilities, is not entirely true- from my experience. The large tents you see on TV are so few and far between. From what I have seen with my own eyes, the official military ‘Hot spot’ camps are either overflowing or still being built, and not much better in terms of conditions or supplies. Not everyone has access to shelter, as it appears to be on television. In addition, the refugees are fenced in and policed by the military. The atmosphere is bleak. Although the military offers security for the refugees, it is also very intimidating, and depressing. A lot of people  fear that one day the government not let them leave the camps. The fear is tangible and people simply do not trust the authorities.

We took the family to the van to drive to get them to the new camp, Kavala. Shirim, the mother & baby sat in the front cabin with me, while the father sat on his tent & bags in the back. After 5 minutes on the road we heard a small bang and the rear passenger tire exploded. We managed to pull the van into a small side road. It was a Greek holiday, everything was closed and we had no tools on board for changing the tire. I was trying to call some other volunteers I know when an old Greek man leaned out the window of his house and gestured that he would come down. He was a mechanic! His two sons also came out to help us, one on crutches from a football injury. Within 20 minutes we were back on the road. They refused to take any payment for the job.

This is just one small example of how amazing the local Greek people have been. Even though they are going through incredibly hard times themselves, and have so little to spare, they give whatever they can. There are local people helping out and volunteering all the time: they are collecting food and clothes to give to the refugees. They open their homes to let people shower, or warm up. So many of the Greek people are incredibly willing to help the refugees in every possible way they can. It’s very moving to see.

Finally, we arrived at the Kavala military-run camp. We stopped at the entrance, but our family were not allowed in. No room at the camp, they said.I talked to the same UNHCR representative again. The next camp that had space was 20km away – but we were told that there were very few facilities & no medical help whatsoever, something this family desperately needed. There was no choice but to drive the family back to Eko camp, where we had come from.

It was absolutely heart-breaking to see the couple trudge back through the mud with the small baby, back to the spot where they had come from. It was so very upsetting. I tried to do something but couldn’t help them. It is so very upsetting seeing people stuck here day in and day out, in these hideous conditions.

Jonny