2016 has been a year of very mixed feelings.

I feel distressed about the direction our immediate environment seems to have taken. But it was also the year when I experienced the willingness of so many around me to want to do something good for others.

Because of the support of friends in our network we have reached out to those in need both near and far– several hundred miles away.

At the beginning of the year I started collecting donations in Sweden under the name ”Together we make a difference” to help people on the run in Greece. By the end of the year, I can tell you my dear friends so generously donated an incredible quarter of a million Swedish Crowns (242, 000 SEK) !!

”Together we make the difference” sounds like a cliché – but I think it’s fantastic, because we have really proved it to be true!

We have helped people in the Greek island of Lesbos, where soaked, terrified and traumatised fellow human beings set foot in Europe for the first time.

We have helped out in the port of Athens where so many desperate people were stuck when Europe’s borders were closed. We have helped in the large refugee camp of Idomeni that was formed at the border with Macedonia, where around 18,000 people gathered.

We have helped build a couple of new camps around Greece, two of 40 camps built to be more suitable to house people for a very long time to come, until the EU countries have agreed on what to do with each other.

We have also helped people arriving here in Sweden with support, accommodation and things, trying to welcome our newly arrived citizens, and guide them through the required process in an increasingly guarded Sweden.

Your fantastically generous financial support has included helping to supply basic warmth and dry clothes to newcomers. We have been able to buy shoes, sleeping bags, tents, cooking utensils, baby milk and diapers.

We have supported the purchase of educational materials for kids classes in the makeshift camps and schools and started an art project in one of the camps.

We have been able to allow residents of the six vulnerable families that we have hosted in apartments in the Greek village Goumenissa. I can tell you now that the UNHCR has taken over the financial responsibility for all our families, which is so gratifying.

We have shown all these people that there are many of us who do not want to see them as a number, but as individuals, like ourselves. And above all, we have all shown that we can make a difference!

Just as I believe that what is happening and continues to happen in the world (on many levels) will bring great suffering for a very long time, I also know that what we have done together has positively impacted many individuals’ lives for the better.

I really wish you all could take part of the gratitude and joy that I have been shown by the people whose lives we have affected together. That in itself has given me the energy to continue in the hurricane.

With this, I want to thank all of you, dear friends, for your fine, generous and warm support.

It is you who have made all this possible – and it is something to be proud of. I wish you all a happy and joyful 2017 and a hope for a better year for all of our fellow human beings on the run. Unfortunately, the situation for refugees in Greece is in no way over, and it still requires major relief operations. I do not myself right now how my involvement will look like next year. I’ll get back to you when I know more, and in any case, I will write about how it’s been for the Abdi family with their little baby Joanna, as so many of you have helped support this family and followed their progress during the year.

Joanna

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