Zen Peacemaker Jan Lecklikner has been working with Chios Eastern Shore Response Team (CESRT) to provide on-the-scene assistance to refugees coming into Greece. Below, find Jan’s reflections and pictures of her volunteer work. (Content originally appeared on Jan’s Facebook page. It has been reposted with permission.)
CHIOS, GREECE. I am staying in the southeast of Chios. It is only 4 1/2 miles from Cesme, Turkey where I used to go to the beach when I lived in Izmir as a teenager. If you are a tourist or a local, you can hop across the sea to spend the day in Izmir or Cesme. Not so if you are a refugee. First you flee war and/or extreme life threatening poverty, then you journey great distances overcoming unfathomable obstacles. In the end, you risk your life and the lives of your children to travel those 4.5 miles. If you are caught before the halfway invisible boundary, you and your family go to jail in Turkey. If you succeed, you go to a remote camp without running water or even the basic necessities– for years, because the borders have been closed.
Vial is the only camp now. It is a closed camp meaning NGOs are not free to operate there to provide services. It is remote, up in the hills, far away from the main town.
I spend a lot of time working in the warehouse sorting through donated clothes. There are designated bins for boat landings, clothing that is immediately very warm and dry. Vial is beginning to open to receive shoes and clothes from the warehouse to distribute among the refugees.
If you have ever thought about volunteering in Greece for the refugee crisis, this organization (CESRT) on the island of Chios is a great way to get involved. There is lots to do and easy to plug in immediately. The other volunteers are from all over, all ages and backgrounds. The work matters and is incredibly rewarding. It is a great combination of hard work, walks on the beach and taverna celebrating. Minimum stay is two weeks, pay your own way with a range of available accommodations (5-20 Euros a night). Volunteers are especially needed now in the winter months. Message me if you have any questions.