Oct 19 Convoy Update Convoy departed on the 27th October 2019. You will find all daily updates here: Final update and Reflections:- Having sorted out a starter motor problem, two snapped door cables, and a leaking roof, in Romania, for a fraction of what it would have cost back in the UK, the rest of the journey home was pretty uneventful, and gave time for reflections…. This convoy was challenging on many levels; Taking four trucks, 17 volunteers and the much needed aid to three of the Islands rather than our previous trips to only two Islands, with the logistics planning of leaving the right aid, in the locations where it was needed the most, in the very tight schedule that we had because of ferry timings, all caused complications and stresses. But we successfully achieved all our objectives, and we know from the recipient volunteer groups and the refugees just how much they needed what we took and how timely it was. But none of our challenges were important! They were NOTHING compared to what every refugee has to face. “If you’re a refugee in Greece, and in fact probably anywhere, you had better be resilient and strong, and endlessly patient, resourceful, street wise and utterly desensitised to deprivation, bad weather, disgusting sanitation and hardship, because that’s what you will need to survive” On every Greek Island along the Turkish coast, refugees continue to risk everything, and put their faith in dangerous rubber rafts to get there from Turkey. The capacity of every Island refugee camp is massively exceeded, many times over, so thousands of mothers with babies, toddlers and youngsters have to sleep rough under home made plastic shelters, or in donated ‘weekend’ tents under UNHHCR sheeting. There must be a thousand miles of UNHCR sheeting! Refugees adapt. They have no choice! It has become the norm to ‘find’ wooden pallets to make a base upon which each refugee family or group can place their new temporary long term homes, their family and every treasured possession that they have managed to retain. Groups of adults and their children somehow squeeze into the smallest of spaces, and then laugh when one falls or slides out during the night because they have had to build them on the slopes of the mountain foothills. Precariously engineered structures of stones and rubble, upon which are balanced a corner or a side of a pallet, with string or wire if ropes are not available then tie each structure to tree roots or branches that grow all around them in the Olive Groves that are now their ‘gardens’. Oh that they were gardens though in any sense of the word! Rocks and stones give relief to the earth and mud that the earth will turn into when it rains, and slopes with footholds have already been turned into mud slides and bone-breakers since we got back to the UK. Young children love running up and down and climbing the slopes, because these are their playgrounds and their school, having never known anything else, but I could feel the despair of the older man and his wife who couldn’t climb the next step up onto a rock without my help, so that they and their son could reach their tented sanctuary for an hour or so before going to queue again for food, usually for several hours. Every one of us had similar experiences of resilience, and despair! Food that is provided is at best of poor quality, and horror stories of maggots and food with mould are commonplace. Sanitation in the camps is so inadequate and unsavoury, that it requires no further description. Portaloo toilets are never good at the best of times – these are the worst, and quite literally thousands of human being have to share not even hundreds of Portaloos! Portable toilets that had been provided by Omar, the amazing ex-refugee who established ‘Refugee4Refugees’ suddenly had to be removed by him, or the Mayor of Samos (who I met for only minutes) was going to have them removed and destroyed. There was no obvious reason other than spitefulness! My encounter with the Mayor was with Omar, when Omar stopped his car to quickly talk to him. The conversation was frosty, and when I introduced myself, the Mayor, who I had never met told me “I don’t like you, or your government, because they refuse to accept any refugees, and force us to have them here”. (The warmth of his welcome took me by surprise, but I had to agree with him that I didn’t agree with our Politicians, or any of them across Europe for that matter!). The last of our team to arrive home was Brian, who returned to Ireland on Monday 18th November. By then, Bev & I had just finished clearing out Robin Hood and already loaded at least a dozen boxes of bags of new aid deliveries and blankets for the next trip…..when that will be, we’re not sure just yet, but the ‘imperative’ to do it all again, gets ever greater, so PLEASE keep ALL your support coming, and especially financially, as the help is ‘life-critical’. Charles Storer MBE Co-Founder and Head of Operations 12th November 2019 - Day 17 - Just a brief update. The flyers are now back home! The convoy was sat in a long queue to enter Romania... They managed to get across yesterday but then due to a couple of truck issues had to stop again for repairs to two of the trucks. The upshot, is that now they are still in Romania, albeit on the Romania/Hungary border and at the time of writting (6pm UK time) they probably have another few hours wait until they get across. In the meantime, some reading material in the form of the weekly report we get from UNHCR. Its a 1-pager so easy to read but the worrying trend continues, with the numbers for this weeks some 293% higher than the same time last year. Also a major concern is that 30% of the people arriving are children under the age of 12. Weekly_Snapshot_LESVOS_20191103.pdf 10th November 2019 - Day 15 Our convoy volunteers would like to share with everyone just how awful it is, trying one's best to survive in a European refugee camp. This is just a snapshot on one day of the overspill area around Vathi camp on the island of Samos. Is this really the best that our group of nations can provide, the result of an abhorrent and immoral E.U./Turkey deal whereby the Greek government is obliged to keep all arriving refugees on the Islands, unless they are in the categories of ‘vulnerable’! No-one should be forced to live like this, but especially not children. "Vathi camp is a mass of tents, tarps and plastic sheeting stretching along dusty roads and rising high through a craggy, rocky hillside- and that’s just the outskirts of the actual camp. We walked to the edge of the official camp this morning, surrounded by a huge metal fence topped with barbed wire; the gates were closed! Just outside men & women scrubbed clothes wringing out the water which drizzled into the dirt. Clothes hang along makeshift lines & smaller pop-up tents are strewn precariously on the rocky edge. There are people everywhere, happy to talk and tell us where they come from: Afghanistan, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Syria, Gambia, Somali, Yemen etc etc. One lad showed us his eye, damaged & scarred- stabbed in Ghana. It seemed like everyone smiled, hello, shook hands, repeated, “it is big problem”, toilets were mentioned many times as until recently there weren’t any on that part of the slope- there are now 10.... for hundreds of people. Young men speaking 2-3 languages, building intricate patchworks of rocks to keep their pallets off the floor, with tents then balanced on top- one we were shown was home to 5 men: a three man tent! Children everywhere.... tiny things, laughing, skipping & clinging onto us as we walked- god knows how they remain so spirited- what resilience! Dust, litter and endless plastic bottles are strewn everywhere, while some people have tried so hard to keep their ‘tent frontage’ clean & clear, the dust is everywhere... and it was sunny yesterday & today, god knows what will happen in the rain. This morning the smell of sewage wafted up- for hundreds there are no toilet facilities, one man was hacking into the hillside collecting the sandy soil in an old tin to cover his ablutions later- this is 2019, in Europe! It’s noisy but we found it good-natured, a group of Ghanaian men look out for each other; women sat in pairs in tent openings smiling at us, holding babies and saying hello. It is a mass of plastic, a mass of humanity desperately trying to make the best of things: we saw one medicine san frontier guy today & were told yesterday there is one medic ( for thousands of people) one young lad is in pain from haemorrhoids (this morning we bought him 2 tubes of cream & had to find him & his pink tent) his uncle climbed up to us say thank you- humbling! One lad said his back was hurting, another had split his knee playing football- thankfully seen to by the medic etc... How they keep themselves so clean I’ll never know... one lad mimed scrubbing to display how his white t shirt is gleaming. A barbers has popped up & yesterday we were invited in (a makeshift plastic covered ‘tent’) while a guy had his hair cut.The ingenuity & resilience of people is incredible: the place is shocking but the people smile - astonishing!"' In a few days there will be rain and then, before too long, winter will descend bringing wind, lots more rain, dropping temperatures and possibly even snow. One dreads to think how this mass of humanity will survive. 8th November 2019 - Day 13 - This morning was spent primarily helping Refugees 4 Refugees move aid from one warehouse to another with our trucks in order get all their aid under cover before the weather worsens. We also took the remaining food to the amazing Project Armonia who have numerous initiatives to improve the conditions for the refugees including a quiet place for women, a kindergarten and a computer room. They prepare over 500 meals a day for refugees. The H&AD volunteers then went to visit the camp that is home for around 6000 refugees. The number is increasing by around 250 people per week. The conditions are absolutely dreadful with most people having no electricity or running water. Many were very unhappy about the conditions that they have to endure. The trucks left Samos at midnught bound for Athens and rendezvousing with the big rig for the long haul back to the UK. The flyers will begin gradually returning to the UK from tomorrow. It has been another very successful convoy with all objectives met. This was a strong team who worked hard throughout. We are very very lucky to have so many dedicated and talented volunteers. 7th November 2019 - Day 12 - Convoy has arrived in Samos It is the first Hope and Aid Direct aid drop in Samos. Unfortunately this goes to show that things are not getting any better despite the years of effort by so many people. Its going to be a quick stop in Samos, so much need but unfortunately so little time. Unloading of blankets and 97 x 8 person bell tents (from wework) into Refugee 4 Refugees warehouse, Samos, for immediate distribution to the refugees. The team are we are currently having trouble getting return ferry tickets for the trucks .... Chas (with Omar from Refugee 4 Refugees) and Toula are working on it. Kabir and Hesh arrived today from Muntada Aid and are with us. Welcome to you both! 6th November 2019 - Day 11 - Chios... The convoy have arrived on the island of Chios. Only 1 day on Chios so a full on day for the team. There were distributions to the Vial camp and to Toula at CERST. The pile of aid for Vial camp, which now accommodates 6,000 refugees (camp capacity 1,500) delivered by Whickers World yesterday included: 100 knitted blankets, 1,500 sleeping mats and 86 tents .... Our thanks go out once again to Muntada Aid who have contributed funds towards our costs for this October/November trip, that have enabled us to provide even stronger support for the refugees stuck in asylum limbo on the Greek Islands. 5th November 2019 - Day 10 - Today has been split between a distribution to Health Point in the Moria Camp and The Lava Project. Today we delivered two dentist's chairs into Moria camp. Chas very skillfully reversed Robin Hood into the camp up a narrow path while the rest of us manned the corners of the truck to keep the crowds of adults and children away from the trucks. Hundreds of people, it felt like, were milling about and had come to see what we were doing. After some manoeuvring of a pallet trolley and some man handling, we delivered the chairs to an organisation called Health Point. A young Saudi dentist there is treating people out of a small container. He was extremely grateful for our efforts. Until now he has only had small fixed couches to work with. No photography is allowed inside the camp so unfortunately I am unable to post any images of this valiant effort, however here are a couple of pictures from 'The Olive Grove' To The Lava Project, there was a delivery of the Hope & Aid washer & dryer, which happened bang in the middle of a power cut where the warehouse door wouldn’t rise to its full height. The Lava Project is a Public Hygiene and Medical Support laundry facility for Moria refugee camp on Lesvos. More details on the Lava Project can be found here: The Lava Project Then off to the next stop.... Ferry to Chios. 4th November 2019 - Day 9 - Today has been unloading trucks in Attica and reloading for drops tomorrow. ‘Whickers World’ with Graham, Anna, Carole and Lance took a full trick of aid to ‘Team Humanity’, whose motto is "Keeping Hope Alive", both simply outstanding and dedicated NGOs who work day and night to help refugees who arrive soaking wet and freezing cold by flimsy dinghies, or need some respite from the living hell that is Moria. Do check these NGOs out via these links. https://www.attikahumansupport.org/ https://teamhumanity.eu/ Chas, Mandy, Bridie, Den and Steve went on a recce to Moira for a drop tomorrow. The camp was hugely busy and the Olive Grove overspill area has expanded hugely over the last few months. The families looked to be well established in their tent based ‘homes’ and preparing for the winter months ahead. Tents are being placed on pallets and covered with tarpaulins. There appeared to be many more young children within both the camp and the Olive Grove than were living there previously. Tomorrow night our trucks and volunteers board the ferry for Chios which will receive 25% and then on to Samos for the final 25%. 3rd November 2019 - Day 8 - Well at last the team are all together And ready to start the unloading in Lesvos. A few pictures of the sponsored pallets before they are unloaded and distributed. Huge thank you to those of you that sponsered a pallet. 2nd Novermber 2019 - Day 7 - A day off for the drivers, today was all about the flyers. And the trucks are all parked up ready to go onto the ferry. With flyers now at the hotel And the trucks boarding 1st Novermber 2019 - Day 6 - The team crossed into Greece @13.30 today. Next stop Kavala! We will be visting Chios on this trip and we have just had these words through from Toula sho we work with there. June: People 275Landings 10 July:People 642Landing 23 August:People 663Landings 20 September:People 1337Landings 43 October: People 1815Landings 56. These are the numbers of people arrived since June to the shores of Chios .Current situation in the island: More then 6000 people .After this dangerous trip they will end up to a tent (some days not even in a tent), in the Vial camp. How can I explain with words the situation, i am loosing my mind thinking what these people will pass after a few days when the cold will start.They already complaining that they freezing the nights.How many people need to die by cold in the camps all over Greece? All the wait is in this country who suffers from crisis.How many thousands children need to suffer so this will change?But unfortunately is getting worse,nothing changed since I started volunteering.4 years ......we are in the same point.And before and now ..Volunteers from all over the world coming to help all these people that displaced from their countries.Everyone is asking who is responsible for this situation.The people that leading , take decisions to start wars, or destroy economical the countries are responsible. THEY ARE. They creating refugees or immigrants and after they don’t want them. Stop the wars, that's the solution.I am stupid ..they will never stop, money and power is more important..I am in the field of this crisis from October 2015 non stop. I have witnessed situations that I will never be able to say all in public. This emergency team Chios Eastern Shore Response Team - CESRT that I created together with other experience volunteers from all over the world make a difference,Not big but it makes a difference ...So many Organisations and individuals are next to me and sending aid from all over the world..I have been in hundreds of landings and the pain I witnessed cannot mentioned in words.I have been in all the camps of Chios and saw situations that marked me for life.Every time i see a child in landing i am thinking that my son could be in their place. Is not difficult...Everything can happen for us too. Who knows when we will be in their position. Nothing is granted. Nothing. In a tent..freezing, without even the basics..😩😩😩 How parent’s can explain to their children why this is happening.Then the children stop smiling and they are silent.. loosing their childhood..loosing their hope ..Two days ago I went in the port of Chios after a landing and the children I saw they made me cry and exploded infrond of them and infrond of Our volunteers and authorities.Is the first time that I couldn’t hold my self infrond others.I should be strong but is difficult.I cannot stop thinking these children.I know very well where they stay 🥺🥺🥺.. Since then i was trying to write something but was impossible. I am angry, upset, how long this will continue.I have coordinated hundreds different situations the last 4 years...some of them i will never mention in public..to coordinate my self from my feelings is the most difficult ..to keep my emotions away and be professional is difficult. I lost my faith many times but not my hope. I have been attacked many times from locals but always Iam praying for them never to be in the same position like these people in Vial. Never to be in the position to throw their children in a tent..And as everything collapses around us ..these smiles of the children after giving them aid and soft toys in a landing will always giving me the strength to continue, even if my tears will run like a river and even if i will fell down hundreds of times. I will stand up for them. 31st October 2019 - Day 5 - So the team skirted to the South of Transylvania on Halloween..... At first glance it would appear on Bev was affected by such things... Other than that the only real scary thing was the queue to get out of Romania and into Bulgaria. Lots of crosses and skull and cross bones as we drive through Romania ... haven’t seen these anywhere else other than here. Apparently it’s references the hill where Jesus was crucified (‘ Golgotha’ place of the skull ....) interesting fact of the day from Robin Hood ! Overnight stop just over the border with Greece almost in sight!!! 30th October 2019 - Day 4 - A blanket of grey lies above us as the rain sweeps across the plain ... but talk of rats and birds of prey, keeps this band of truckers sane 🥴 ... good, steady progress being made 👍 They walk the fields of Europe... like ghosts that no one sees.Their voices fall on deaf ears and the World ignores their pleas.But we say 'do more' to the governments, politicians and institutions alike... We’ll march across Europe to fight the Refugee fight, we’ll gather our volunteer army, we’ll fundraise and donate, we’ll go in search of those in need and take heed of their plight. We’ll muster every ounce of strength and share our love around 💗Save a life ... sponsor a pallet!! 😉 So as the rain slowed things down, a breakfast stop was in order, in the rain of course... A day of traffic queues .... this is the queue to the Romanian border .... trucks as far as the eye can see in both directions and this is all within the EU! The highlight of my day definitely has been sausages! But they crossed the border eventually... This is the location @1500 GMT After a 4mile approx queue to get into Romania we made our way to Timisoara to Anna . A fantastic lady running her own charity working with refugees and IDPs in Syria and beyond whose helped us before. She made us sooo welcome and we had the best meal yet ! Then headed off down the road to a truck stop for the night and a beer before heading off to bed ....in the rain ...... 29th October 2019 - Day 3 - A good night's sleep was had by all, as good as a night in a truck can be that is! Up, showered and on the road! Well kinda... we’re crawling along at the moment ... 🙄 So slow in fact they may as well stop for brunch! After what appears to be a slow start to the day good progress was made. Overnight stop was past Vienna, just on the Austrian side of the Hungarian border. 28th October 2019 - Day 2 - First stop of the day was to drive to the other side of Cologne to pick up 24,000 pairs of underwear from Hamburger Hilfskonvoi (they drove 7 hours to meet us on route) although as we hadn’t done enough shuffling between trucks before we left.... we decided to do some more today!!! We needed to load 6 pallets onto the big rig and off load the dentist chairs into Robin Hood. The team is now parked up for the night NE of Nuremburg. 27th October 2019 - Day 1 - Den, Graham (radio /truck name Whickers World), Maria, Tony (radio / truck - Frantic), Charles and Bev (radio/ truck : Robin Hood) Left ingatestone, Essex at 8am , met Ian from Maidstone Radios to have a radio fitted into Whickers World and travelled onwards towards Dover, meeting up with Brian and James (big rig) just past Ashford and rolled onto the 15:40 ferry. Had our fill in the Truckers Lounge and drove onto Wetteren services arriving bing at 8:30pm (just north of Brussels) .... where they have depressingly updated the truck parking area so that it’s all enclosed , like a cage, for security reasons .... although left a walkway through !! but charged 14:50 euros per truck for the night ! (Cheap I guess compared to Ashford Services who charge £31.50 a night !!! ). Had a quick drink together before heading out to the trucks for the first night in the back of the lorries on top of the aid. 27th October 2019 - And so it begins.... The convoy is off.... This convoy, in partnership with Muntada Aid is now on it's way to Greece, where weather and ferry schedules permitting will be distibuting aid to Lesvos, Chios and Samos. The 8 drivers are driving 4 trucks full of aid to those very much in need and with more refugees arriving daily this I am sure will not be the last visit we need to make to these shores. They are off the ferry in Calais and heading for thier first overnight stop.