Just before Christmas it is a good time to look back on the past calendar year. And if we look back in this way, what a lot has happened and what a lot has been achieved in 2020. During my visit to Lesbos a year ago, more than 20,000 refugees were still packed in camp Moria. Fortunately, those numbers have dropped drastically, but at the time of writing, there are still more than 9,200 refugees on Lesvos alone. And unfortunately still under very dire circumstances.
After the old camp Moria was burned to ashes, the refugees are now housed in a new camp near Kara Tepe, on a former shooting range. Not the best surface to house these people there, given the lead contamination in the ground there and the projectiles that regularly surface. The UNHCR tents are placed by the sea and are therefore extremely susceptible to wind and rain showers coming from the sea. The camp is located in a low area which means that when it rains it becomes a gigantic mud pool in no time because the water from the mountains also flows towards the sea. The consequences are easy to guess: the (much too thin) tarpaulins blow up and when it rains the tents are in the water, so everything is wet. Then get your stuff dry ….
With the help of NGOs and residents of the camp, pallet floors have been placed in the tents to be able to camp a little dry in your tent. But with the heavy rainfall of the past 2 weeks, that is unfortunately not enough. Unfortunately, the sanitation is also drama. Far too few toilets (many dirty Dixi’s) for too many people, no showers (that’s what the sea is for …), no medical facilities and education whatsoever. Greece is also currently in a lockdown because the corona virus has also struck there.
The situation is therefore still degrading and Europe invariably looks the other way. The so-called pushbacks are also taking place more and more. Even refugees who have already arrived on the island are “dumped” in the middle of the sea in rafts with the help of the coast guard and sometimes drift around there for days until the Turkish coast guard takes them back on board and takes them back to Turkey. These pushbacks have already claimed the necessary deaths. This really goes against all international treaties and rules! Too absurd for words! It’s inhumane what happened on the other islands as well. Many people are aware of the problems that exist on Lesvos because it is often reported in the media. But the drama is also complete, if not greater, on Samos and Chios, among others.
Fortunately, as a foundation we have been able to do a lot and we have not exactly been idle. But without your help we are nowhere ….. It is you who provide us with the means to provide assistance to these people. Take the collected clothing and hygiene items alone. Gigantic! How much has come in! And here we also think of the collection addresses that functioned as a collection point for us and also applied the first sorting. Thank you very much for that!
And … apologies if you only had half a living room at your disposal for a few weeks because the other half was full of relief supplies …. 🙂 We have noticed that there are still many people who are happy sit in the right place and take the task to help your loved one in need literally. Others were in a more comfortable position because they had a large shed at their disposal. But really fantastic how you did it. We are very grateful to you for that! Also the special promotions that people held for diapers and / or other hygiene items. Great that you have done this and here too a huge yield.
Bicycle sponsor tour
It was very special when our friends from Hands & Feet approached us to spend the proceeds of the cycling sponsorship trip to the work and purpose of our foundation. This trip took place just after the great fire in camp Moria. The unimaginable amount was cycled together of € 60,537.00 !!! In consultation, we decided to spend all that money from one account on a responsible cause or goals. Responsible; because we want to be able to account for all our expenses to our supporters. Just donate money to a local NGO or something like that. we certainly do not. We buy relief supplies ourselves on the spot, or have them purchased by e.g. a local NGO; but we only reimburse after consultation of the invoice. We also want to see accountability in black and white when contributing to large-scale projects, so we must come up with a properly justified and substantiated plan. Our starting point is that every euro that is donated is actually spent on the target group. And know this: “labor of love scrap paper” is very rewarding work and we do not need to receive any financial compensation.
Several times we have been able to promote the Take Care Of Your Neighbor foundation and we have been able to provide information about our work to other foundations, associations, etc. It’s great that we got those opportunities!
We are also grateful for the cooperation with our storage point “Waalplein” in Zevenhuizen. So nice that we can use the large shed there to sort and store our stuff completely. We can use everything we need there, completely free of charge; from coffee machine to forklift truck, pallets we need, etc. etc. We are also very happy with that! Many thanks for that!
For sorting we could call on our regular volunteers. Unfortunately, we had to deal with the corona problems at the beginning of this year and there was also uncertainty. Understandably, there were volunteers who, for a variety of reasons, paused. Much of the sorting work etc. ended up in the family. Yet there were always volunteers who were willing and able to help us. New volunteers also register, which we are very happy with. Unfortunately I was also forced to ‘take a big step back’ due to physical complaints. Complaints that can play a significant role and that require us to consider how we can continue this work. The collection may be different because that actually breaks up the most. We will keep you informed about this because we are not quite sure yet.
In the past year, many private individuals, companies and churches have also provided us with much-needed financial resources. Thank you for that! May we also appeal to your generosity for the new year?
Make a difference
In summary, we can be very grateful for all the work that has been done in the past calendar year. We are happy that we could be a link in all the work that is aimed at a human existence for our target group. Together we really make a difference. I have said it before: the difference between no jacket and a warm winter jacket is very big; two diapers a week for your child or two a day really makes a difference. We have to conclude that without the help of all NGOs the need would be much greater. Europe is looking away, including the Dutch government, including the Christian parties. People do invoke ideas, but unfortunately no solutions are found. These refugees should have a decent life.
Recently I read the comment that as a “resident” in factory farming you are better off than as a resident of a refugee camp. Perhaps very crudely, but there is certainly some truth in it. It should not be necessary for these camp residents to live in this bizarre situation in Europe for so long (and hopelessly). Asylum procedures must be speeded up without losing sight of their quality. People who are not entitled to asylum should return to their country of origin and those who actually “deserve” asylum should be given a place in European society and the guidance needed to integrate. These are the rules of the international treaties to which we have all signed.
So let us continue to work to be a ray of light for the residents of the camps, allowing them to share in our abundance and make them feel our love for our neighbors in need.
After all, take care of your neighbor is not just a slogan but an assignment. (Matt 25:31 -46)
We wish you a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year in every way!
On behalf of the Take Care Of Your Neighbor team,