Handing out baby milk and bottles

Handing out baby milk and bottles

Since Joanna left, we decided that will I concentrate on distributing baby milk and bottles to the mothers at Idomeni. Your donations came in from the last post, and we managed to buy and distribute milk to a lot of mothers.

Distributing anything takes a lot of time on the camp. Luckily I have a lot of help from refugees, who are trying to help out the best they can. My work would be impossible without them.

I spent the first morning after Joanna left distributing baby milk out of the van together with Lighthouse Relief. Then we went back to the Eko camp that is by the petrol station, where around 1500 people are camping. This time we went from one tent to another rather than handing the milk out of van, as many of the women are trying to keep warm and stay out of the rain. Two refugees, Hassan & Abdi, helped us with translating to get the milk to the most needy.

The van was quickly surrounded with people with urgent requests. Mostly people asked us for food as they are all visibly very hungry. It’s so hard to see. They quickly understood that we only had baby milk, thanks to our translator volunteers. Even if we speak the same language its impossible to have time to communicate with everyone while we try to hand the milk we have. We are trying our best, but its never enough- but thanks to the 20,000 SEK alone that came in after Joanna’s last post we have been able to supply a lot of mothers with much needed baby milk and bottles. I can promise you, every penny you sent is making a big difference to these babies.

Being here is taking it’s toll. I woke up in the early hours crying, something that has only happened once before in my life. It literally shook me out of my sleep. The situation here is overwhelming and I miss my son terribly. I decided to get up straight away and write him a letter. Mixed with the anxiety of being here, and seeing people suffering, was gratitude that he isn’t one of the children here. Gratitude that he is safe in his bed at home.

Jonny

Annonser

Idomeni, help for one family

Idomeni, help for one family

This story began last Sunday in Idomeni, on the camp by the Greek border to Macedonia, where an Estimated 15-16 thousand refugees have Gathered together, waiting and hoping That the border be opened again.

The camp is hell. We should not dress it up as anything else. Jonny and I had been in this camp for a couple of days, standing by our van and handing out diapers, baby milk and soap to mothers with small children. We became friends with one of the refugees who Helped us interpreter from Arabic to English. Mohammad Abdi Saleh is a Syrian Kurd. Later on, Muhammad confided in me that his wife Nalin, in the ninth month of pregnancy, was very weak and hungry. When we finished handing out everything we had, Jonny and I drove Mohammed to the nearest village where we bought some food for his wife and their three daughters, Hewler, Helin and Ruken.

Later the same day, I flew back home to Stockholm, leaving Jonny to finish the week at the camp. It felt like a terrible betrayal to have to leave Mohammad and Nalin in the mud and cold. It looked like she would be forced to give birth to their baby in this misery. Many of us have seen the picture of that tiny newborn baby in the camp, being washed in a dirty puddle. I was terrified that this would happen to Mohammed and Nalin’s new baby.

12805972_10153739100667771_3538671798238874112_nThe spot where the family were at Idomeni, before They left. It’s hard to describe how inhumane the conditions are.

The next day, back in Sweden, I got a message from a desperate Mohammad telling me That Nalin had started bleeding That morning. He was terrified – what could he do? He did not know where to turn. I contacted a doctor at Lighthouse Relief who was at Idomeni. He went to see Nalin, and do what he could under the circumstances, with limited resources. Luckily, the bleeding stopped and the baby is fine.

Jonny and I felt that we could not leave them in the camp. Jonny spoke with Maria, the Greek owner of the hotel where we had rented rooms. Maria is a fantastic person, and her hotel has become a meeting point for volunteers and NGO workers. In turn, Maria and her friend Antonia helped to find a flat for the family. The Vaggeli family had a small flat with two rooms, kitchen and bathroom in the village close to the camp. They offered very generously to let the Abdi family stay there free of charge. Jonny, Maria, Antonia, Lisa, Mel & Dirk cleaned and furnished the empty flat with beds, chairs, table and a sofa. They drove the little family there late on Monday evening.

When Mohammad Understood That They would be able to stay there he broke down. He and Jonny hugged each other, And they bothering cried for a long time in each other’s arms, releasing so much pent up anxiety and stress. When you have nothing, no shelter, no belongings, a roof is everything.

Antonia has let the family use the room clean free, so that Nalin can give birth in peace and take care of their three young daughters. Nalin will give birth as early as next week. We managed to find a midwife who promise to be available for Nalin, so hopefully everything will go smoothly When It’s Time.

Mohammad and his wife Nalin and Their daughters Hewler, Helin and Ruken are Kurdish Syrians from the village of Hasaka in northern Syria. They have been on the run non-stop for two months. They solar Their house for very little money, to be able to flee. Our paths crossed in Idomeni. Mohammad just wrote a message to me and said that he feels reborn, That he experienced goodness which he did not believe existed. He said he will never forget this in his whole life.

Antonia has been so kind to let them use the room for free, for the foreseeable future, but the family still need financial assistance. They have spent Their cargo penny taking the boat from Turkey. They were forced to leave their suitcases and belongings on the shore, When they’ve got one that boat. They really have nothing left. Because they do not live in the refugee camp, Mohammad can not queue for food, and has to buy the family’s food from the local stores. We have pledged to provide them with money to buy food in the village.

If you also want to help out the Abdi family while Nalin has the baby, please swish me (if you are in Sweden) to 073-680 04 44 and mark your donation ‘To the Abdi family.’

No AMOUNT is too small. Every Penny goes into the full to the family.

Please share this post.

Joanna

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Life before the crisis: The three girls at home in Syria. 

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Life before the crisis: The three girls at home in Syria. 

You can follow Jonny on Instagram @ jonnybradford74

 

 

Two brothers making a difference

Two brothers making a difference

There are so many indie volunteers who are making such a difference here. I would like to give a big shoutout to all of them and everyone I have met. I hope to tell you more stories later.

One coincidence is that I ran into Jonas Machuletz in Idomeni, who I had met on the ferry from Brindisi to Patras, when I shared a cabin with him and his brother Jan.Jonan and Jan had driven down from Germany with a Mercedes Sprinter loaded with supplies, especially baby and children’s clothes.

Jonas had come to the Park Hotel, a kind of informal meeting point for aid workers, because he had found a passport, documents & laptop into the mud at the Idomeni camp. He had managed to trace the owner through Facebook & was meeting them to return the goods. I was very surprised to see him.

Jonas told me That he and Jan were distributing women’s and children’s clothes at Idomeni, so we gave him loads of boxes and bags of clothes from the Lighthouse Relief warehouse to distribute. Later on I saw the brothers hard at work at Idomeni distributing our clothes, which was fantastic to see.

Bravo Jan and Jonas!

Do not forget Idomeni

Last Thursday we arrived in Idomeni, the final destination of our journey together and the place where we distributed the rest of the supplies we filled the van with, thanks to everyones generous donations.

Absolutely nothing could have prepared us for the infernal chaos that is unfolding day by day. It feels like we’ve been slowly stepping down step by step on a scale of human misery as we have followed the tracks of the refugees – from landing with rubber dinghies on the beach at Lesbos, to the registration camp at Moria, on the ferry to the port near Athens on the mainland, and now to the border of Macedonia.

The situation in this makeshift camp is almost indescribable. Around 16,000 people are huddled up in a small area next to the border crossing- that is now closed. Every day more people pour in, despite the fact that everyone knows that the border is shut. Most people I have spoken with, however, still hope that the border will eventually be opened again, and they want to be ready and waiting for any opportunity to get through.

Everyone is ankle-deep in mud. Small tents have been put up on just about every conceivable surface. Fires are burning here and there, burning anything that is available, including garbage, and plastic which is creating a lot of toxic fumes. Children are running around everywhere. There is a huge lack of tents, blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes, sanitary goods – yes basically everything. So many people are sleeping directly on the bare land in the mud and dirt. The UNHCR (United Nations Refugee agency) have set up some toilets, but there simply arent enough of them by any stretch of the imagination.

The queues to the toilets are very very long, and most people have to find some other alternative which is especially difficult for women- and a huge health threat to everyone. There is nowhere to take a shower and many people have not been able to change to clean clothes or have a wash in weeks. It is simply inhumane.

There are a few larger aid organisations on the spot, but those who are there have not been able to cover the need to so many people. Everyone has been taken by surprise at the closing of the border which has created a massive build up of people. The photos speak for themselves. I feel like I just don’t have words to describe the enormous humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Idomeni as a direct result of the closing of borders has created.

The biggest problem is that there isn’t enough food. All the food that is distributed in the camp has come from independent volunteers. Jonny and I were deeply moved by the huge commitment of volunteers to help the refugees.

In September when the refugees first began pouring into Idomeni, around 1000 – 2000 people per day were arriving. Some people from a village nearby organised themselves into a volunteers group, and called themselves “Color, Open Kitchen.” The food was donated from other villagers, local restaurants and bakeries and other local businesses.

Every day these amazing people cooked around 1000 meals in their own kitchen. More locals and volunteers joined in, and by November they had collected enough money to buy equipment and set up a mobile restaurant kitchen, which they set up in a dumpster in the site. Since November this volunteer organisation has served around 3 000 meals of hot food a day. Last week, they topped the record with 8000 Servings. Not a single dollar has come from the state. Right now, it still all comes from private donations.

Some of the people from the camp are also involved in helping out in the kitchens. Many hours before the food is distributed, thousands of people start to queue patiently. It was completely overwhelming to see all these people stand there in order to be able to feed themselves and their children.

There are also other voluntary organisations in the camp, that are struggling to do the same thing, but there is still not enough food to feed all of those who are there. Many people leave the queue hungry.

It is completely insane. Where are the large aid organisations? Why is there not a single penny from the EU to support this? Where is the EU in all this? The colours in the EU flag feel as dirty and muddy as the camp.

During the night I meet a wonderful volunteer, a mathematics professor called Tsiakalos from Thessaloniki University. According to his own calculations, private individuals and volunteer organisations across the whole of Greece (from the Islanders, to Athens and other places in the country where the refugees have been) have fixed around 37 Million meals for the refugees, since the beginning of September 2015 to the end of February 2016. Not one single penny of this has been State funds of any country. Absolutely all of it has come from private donations.

The Greeks themselves have enormous economic problems, they have an unemployment rate of 25 % and many of them need support from voluntary organisations in order to cope with everyday life. Despite this, we have witnessed with our own eyes and heard many stories of the absolutely fantastic and concerning support for the refugees among the Greek people.

My trip in Greece has now come to the end. Yesterday I was able to pull out my European passport get on a comfortable plane back home to Sweden again. I am dazed with new, sad insights. To think that life is such a lottery ticket.

Jonny will stay in Idomeni a couple of weeks longer before he drives back to the UK via the Balkan Route up through Europe. He’ll be working together with Lighthouse Relief and Colour, Open Kitchen, so please continue to follow his experiences on this blog.

I would like to conclude by thanking you all for your amazing support both in words to us, and money for supplies. Thanks all of you, we raised 85,000 SEK. Thank you for your wonderful commitment. Thanks to you, we have to be able to support Lighthouse Relief with tools to build new camp. And among the very, very many other supplies we bought, we were able to supply refugees with 250 sleeping bags, 60 tents, 80 pair of shoes, sleeping mats, diapers, baby milk, backpacks, footballs, and a whole lot more.

In the upcoming days we will show you exactly what we bought. The need is so enormous, so please continue to support us while Jonny is there. The money will go directly to helping the refugees, with baby milk, diapers and baby food, that there is glaring lack of in the camp.

Together we can make a difference.
We all have proven this and this is something we can be proud of.

Joanna

If in Sweden, please Swish: 0736-800444.

 

 

Letter from Idomeni

Letter from Idomeni

We arrived from Athens to the utter chaos of the main camp at Idomeni, on the Macedonian border. I am in shock. There are anything between 15 to 20 thousand people here, depending on who you speak to. We have handed out food and sanitary supplies such as soap, toothpaste, nappies, baby wipes and so on to about a thousand people this morning.

FullSizeRenderPeople queue up to get supplies for the van. We just can’t help everyone.

When we arrived we ran into Ai Wei Wei and his team. We went straight to work, helping out at an amazing kitchen collaboration project that is feeding proper hot meals to about 8,000 people a day. The whole kitchen outfit is run with independent volunteers and donations, run by a lovely Greek man called Thanasis – amazing work. It’s called ‘Colors, Open Kitchen,’ and it’s run 100 per cent on independent donations from local people, local small shops and businesses.

GREEK MAN KITCHEN
Thanasis, cooking for up to 8000 people at day with his team of independent volunteers.

We met up with others from Lighthouse Relief who have been distributing goods to about 2000 people at an Eco petrol station camp. It was a highly charged atmosphere as everyone is so desperately in need of help. The queues are long and the goods run out, meaning many people queue for hours for nothing.

We had help from a refugee with translations, and had a bit of time to help him buy some food from a supermarket. His wife is 9 months pregnant. They have sleeping in a tent with 5 other families, around 35 people using one tent to sleep in shifts- and they are lucky to have access to some form of shelter as there are many people here who do not.

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It hasn’t stopped raining this afternoon. It’s hard to see so many people stuck out in the rain and mud. I just can’t describe the conditions. Joanna is flying back to Stockholm soon with Gunnar, the founder of Lighthouse Relief, so you will hear more from them. I am at a loss for words.

Jonny

1.familyThe man and his wife who helped us translate

FullSizeRender-4At the kitchen

FullSizeRender-5The kids always put on a brave face

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KIDS

If you are in Sweden and would like to make a donation, please Swish Joanna on: 0736-800 444. All the money goes to supplies — No donation is too small.

If you are outside Sweden and would like to donate, here are our UK Halifax bank account details:

Name:             Jonathan Bradford
Sort Code:      11-18-11
Account No:  00767590
IBAN:              GB13HLFX11181100767590
BIC:                  HLFXGB21L68
SWIFT:            Loydgb2L
Address:         Halifax, P.O Box: 548, Leeds LS1 1WU, U.K.

Every penny counts

We cannot describe how acute the situation is, and how even the smallest donation makes a huge difference to someone braving the elements outside. Every penny we collect goes on supplies. We cannot stress enough that even the smallest donation makes a difference to someone. Much of the support is coming from independent volunteers.

If you want to translate your donation to something specific, here is a list:
Blanket = 100 SEK (c. 10 euro)
Tent = 500 SEK (c. 50 euro)
Football = 50 SEK (c. 5 euro)
A pair of shoes = 250 SEK (c. 25 euro)
Camping gear = 300 SEK (c. 30 euro)

If you are in Sweden and would like to make a donation, please Swish Joanna on: 0736-800 444. All the money goes to supplies — No donation is too small.

If you are outside Sweden and would like to donate, here are our UK Halifax bank account details:

Name:             Jonathan Bradford
Sort Code:      11-18-11
Account No:  00767590
IBAN:              GB13HLFX11181100767590
BIC:                  HLFXGB21L68
SWIFT:            Loydgb2L
Address:         Halifax, P.O Box: 548, Leeds LS1 1WU, U.K.