By Greece Relief Team (Originally in English)
In response to Master’s compassionate instructions to provide aid for the refugees, in March 2016, our Association members formed a relief team of four; two from Korea, one from the United Kingdom, and one from Australia/Greece. We traveled to Idomeni in northern Greece to assist refugees in need, and share Master’s love with the thousands of refugees stranded at the border. It is estimated that there are 12,000 people waiting at the border, and only a couple of hundred, sometimes less, can pass through the border per day.
Traveling to Idomeni, Greece – March 3, 2016
On March 3, 2016, traveling from Athens to Idomeni, we stopped by a service station near Makrychori, about 200 kilometers south of Thessaloniki, and came across two busloads of refugees who were waiting to be taken to the border. Fortunately, the local volunteers and the Greek Red Cross were providing them with warm clothing, blankets and food. We offered to contribute some fruit for distribution. The volunteers told us they had enough food and suggested that we keep them for those at Idomeni, once they learned that was our final destination. We sincerely hope and pray that the situation will soon be resolved.
Meeting Distribution Coordinators of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Polykastro, Greece – March 4, 2016
On March 4, our relief team met with the distribution coordinators of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) at their office in Polykastro, about 20 kilometers south of Idomeni. We were given an overview of the various camps in Idomeni that are housing about 12,000 refugees currently stranded at the border of Greece and Macedonia. It is estimated that the number of stranded people will reach as high as 30,000 by the end of March, if the border restriction continues.
We will meet again tomorrow with the MSF coordinators to discuss the possibility of setting up a kitchen at the camp, or sharing a kitchen with another organization to help provide nutritious, vegan meals for the refugees.
Serving Vegan Stew at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 5, 2016
On March 5, our relief team in Idomeni, Greece met with coordinators of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders), Nico and Mattheu, to learn how we could assist the refugees. They told us there was no more space to set up a kitchen at Idomeni camp, but that we could talk to other organizations. We also learned that the Greek army has been serving food to about 7,000 people staying in camps nearby in Cherso and Nea Kavala, and most of the refugees are from countries other than Syria and Iraq.
Next, we donated several boxes of oranges to a volunteer for distribution before heading to Idomeni camp. At the camp, we helped Aid Delivery Mission (ADM), a Netherlands-based group, serve nutritious, vegan stew containing couscous, chickpeas, vegetables and tomatoes for the refugees.
ADM’s members are all independent volunteers sharing the same house dedicated to feeding the people stranded at Idomeni. We were very impressed they were able to organize cooking for 8,000 people. Tomorrow, we plan to visit their cooking facilities. After the food was finished, ADM volunteers put on some music. People started dancing, and a happy atmosphere prevailed. Many media/television companies from different countries turned on their lights and cameras to do a live broadcast for the nine o’clock news from Idomeni camp.
Click to watch video: Idomeni Refugee Camp Near Macedonia
Click to watch video: Aid Delivery Mission’s Food Preparation Tent
Assisting Refugees at the Greece-Macedonia Border – March 6 to 8, 2016
The Balkan route, through which many refugees had been traveling to get to their final destinations, has now been closed to all people considered as illegal refugees. This came after the March 7 summit between the European Union and Turkey in Brussels, Belgium regarding the refugee crisis. As many as 14,000 refugees are stranded at the Greek-Macedonia border and will eventually be relocated to other camps in Greece.
In the meantime, from March 6 to 8, our relief team in Idomeni had been visiting the makeshift camp at the border of Greece and Macedonia, which houses the approximate 14,000 refugees stranded there. We helped SoupPort, a Swiss volunteer group who have been providing food for the refugees, unload their food left at Aid Delivery Mission.
We also met three young refugees from Syria who asked for assistance to be reunited with their family. They are three sisters; one is married with a four-month-old baby, and her husband is already in Germany. We informed them of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) – The UN Refugee Agency’s Integration (refugee rights) and Family Reunification program. It is running through the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) and can assist with reuniting families if a relative is already in a country of the European Union.
Accompanying Refugees to Learn About Family Reunification Programs, and Meeting Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 9 to 10, 2016
On March 9, our relief team in Idomeni found a suitable apartment for us to use as a base, so that more team members could join us. Due to the numerous amounts of volunteers and refugees renting accommodation near the area, it took us a few days to find it.
The next day, one of our Greek-speaking team members accompanied two Syrian refugees who were staying at the same hotel as us to the Greek Council for Refugees (GCR) in Thessaloniki. They went to find out more about the family reunification program and hopefully be reunited with their loved ones.
Our remaining team members spent time cleaning the new apartment and meditating. We then went to the Idomeni transit camp in the evening. For a few days in a row, it had been raining and the conditions at the camp were very muddy and many people had wet, muddy shoes. Despite such conditions, we found many refugees gathered around open fires making the most of the situation. Some were even singing and dancing around the fire. When we approached them to give them some vegan chocolates for comfort, they all shared their beautiful smiles and gratitude.
With the closure of the Greek-Macedonia border, a few busloads of refugees had already left the Idomeni transit camp on their way to different camps that have been formally set up by the Greek government to help house all the refugees in Greece. Some of the people we spoke with who were ready to board one of the buses said they were going back to Athens. We asked what they would do there and some said they would seek asylum in Greece, while one Iranian we spoke with said he would go back to Iran because there was no other choice. There are still thousands of people staying in Idomeni, still hopeful that the borders will re-open.
Visiting Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 11, 2016
On March 11, our team again visited the transit camp at Idomeni, where thousands of refugees were waiting to cross the border. We came across the main coordinator of Migration Aid, who one of our team members recognized from a previous encounter at the Szeged refugee transit point in Hungary. Migration Aid is a volunteer initiative based in Hungary. The coordinator let us know of a storage facility where we could access relief items for the refugees.
One of our team members went to play football with the children. Some of the children there remembered her from when they met her and played at Piraeus Port in Athens. They indicated with hand gestures and by blowing that they wanted balloons like she had given them in Athens. They laughed and played together again.
Our remaining team distributed vegan chocolates and small dried fruit and nut packs while walking among the sea of tents and speaking with families who are mainly from Iraq and Iran. We were happy to see the information sheet about the GCR family reunification program has been distributed to all the people in the camp. They were very thankful for the little gifts we shared with them.
The sweetest moment came on our way out of the camp. A group of children followed us simply wanting to play with us, and one of them offered us a cup of soup making it clear that it was for us to eat. It was 100% vegan, made by Aid Delivery Mission. We were very touched.
Distributing Vegan Snacks to Refugees in Idomeni, Greece – March 12, 2016
On the morning of March 12, our relief team in Idomeni packed small packages of nuts and raisins for refugees at a camp situated at a gas station along the highway heading towards the Macedonia border. A Syrian man helped us organize people in a couple of lines, making it easier for us to distribute from the van. There we met up with five more of our Association members who drove up from Athens to join us in the relief work: three Korean members, one from the United States and one from Mongolia. They immediately helped us. All recipients were very happy to receive the snacks. Many children queued up more than once so they could share additional snacks with their family members.
Later we went to Idomeni transit camp to share vegan chocolates with the refugee children. It was wet, muddy and cold, but many of them still managed to laugh and smile upon receiving the chocolates.
Assisting Refugees as Constant Rain Worsens Living Conditions at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 13, 2016
With continuous rain over the past few days, the Idomeni camp has turned into a field covered with pools of muddy water. On March 13, our team bought a large roll of nylon and cut it into sheets to give to refugees so they could cover their tents and help protect themselves from the rain. We also distributed more small packages of nuts and raisins.
There were many refugees with wet feet and soggy shoes, so we arranged to purchase 279 rain boots from a local store, and are looking to get more sent from the Elliniko warehouse where our Athens team has been helping out.
As the conditions at the camp have worsened due to the constant rain, and more rain expected for the rest of the week, refugees have been encouraged to leave Idomeni and go to a camp where the living conditions are better. However, no one had boarded the buses waiting to transport them at that time. Meanwhile, right at the border, a group of about 40 refugees held a peaceful protest with the message “Open the borders.”
Distributing Rain Boots at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 14, 2016
On March 14, around 2,000 refugees left Idomeni camp on foot, walking along the Greek/Macedonia border looking for a way to get across the border. It had been reported that around 700 people made the dangerous crossing to Macedonia via a river. It was dubbed the March of Hope. After crossing they were met by authorities and were returned to Greece. It is still unlikely that the borders will reopen. However, thousands remain at Idomeni camp hoping for that to happen.
The rain stopped today, but the conditions are still very muddy and wet. Our relief team went to Idomeni camp to distribute about 280 rain boots. We managed to give out approximately 100 in the morning and some later in the afternoon. However, the afternoon distribution proved to be rather difficult, even with an interpreter who tried organizing people in a line for us. It became incredibly chaotic and we had to leave and promised we would be back later. We spoke with some NGOs and from their experiences they recommended distributing boots and clothing at night when people are calmer and there are less people around. Therefore, we tried again around midnight and were able to distribute the rest of the rain boots.
Tonight, two of our team members returned from Athens with more rain boots that we will distribute tomorrow night.
Providing Shoes and More Boots at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 15, 2016
On the morning of March 15, our relief team in Idomeni sorted the hundreds of pairs of boots and shoes that were delivered to us by our team members after their six-hour drive from Athens. At Idomeni camp, we distributed boots and shoes to the women in the afternoon and to the children in the evening. However, it has become increasingly challenging to distribute items as the people are in a very desperate situation. We will keep trying to find a better way to distribute the relief items lovingly and safely. We noticed there are more refugees selling various products on the road, trying to make some money.
Today, we also welcomed four new team members from Korea. We went together to Idomeni camp and on the way we noticed a photojournalist carrying a dog who was shaking. We decided to take in the dog, as the photojournalist did not know where to find help. We brought her to our base, washed her, gave her some food, but she is still very weak and not able to walk. We will take her to the veterinarian.
Bringing More Supplies to Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 16, 2016
While some of our team was out performing various tasks and taking our newly found dog friend to the veterinarian, the rest of our team went to a 24-hour warehouse in Polykastro to pick up shoes and boots for the refugees. We took the supplies back to our base and sorted them into sizes ready for distribution.
Afterwards, our team traveled to Idomeni and distributed the boots and shoes, this time to men and children. Despite the help of some refugees interpreting and organizing people into a line, it again became chaotic because shoes are a much-needed item and people do not want to miss out.
We also bought socks, flashlights and medicine for the refugees. One of our team members who is a nurse will join forces with a refugee who is an experienced medical interpreter. They will be able to visit families in their tents and inquire if they need any medical assistance.
Attending to the Health Needs of Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 17, 2016
Today, we divided ourselves into three teams. One of our teams went to Thessaloniki airport to see off two team members flying to Athens, and to welcome one of our Association members arriving from Germany to join the relief team. Afterwards, our team went to a market and purchased 250 kilograms of peanuts and 150 kilograms of sultanas to be packed into smaller packages and distributed to the refugees.
Our second team went to Idomeni camp and distributed 2,000 pairs of socks and 350 flashlights to people, tent-by-tent.
The rest of our team members at Idomeni, one of whom is a nurse, formed a medical team. We gave assistance to the pregnant refugees and those living with a disability who could not access the tent of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) because of their condition or inability to queue for a long time. Mr. Kaniwar Ali, a young refugee and father from Syria who was an interpreter for MSF in Iraq, also joined our medical team.
Many of the refugees were being affected by sore throats, runny noses, flus, headaches and backaches because of the cold and wet weather conditions.
We met an eight-year-old girl living with epilepsy. Her condition was monitored and taken care of in Syria, but she could not see the therapist since she left. There was also a 20-year-old young man with Down’s syndrome who also had epilepsy. He lost his brother, but was taken care of by the kind neighbors next to his tent.
Many pregnant women expressed their worry about losing their babies because of the lack of access to proper medical check-ups and ultrasounds.
Moreover, we discovered that people with diabetes and high blood pressure were running out of medications. A number of them could only acquire medicine for three days, or just one single pill, at the campsite.
Many refugees were glad and very thankful for our assistance and for lending them a listening ear. They greeted us with smiles and expressed heartfelt gratitude. In total, we attended to about 25 people and will follow-up on their requests and needs.
Providing Humanitarian Aid for Refugees at Idomeni, Polykastro and Cherso – March 18, 2016
On the morning of March 18, we packed nuts and raisins into bags for distribution later in the day. We also bought over-the-counter medicine from the pharmacy to give to the people who were examined by our nursing team yesterday. We continued the medical check-ups.
Later, we drove to the small town of Polykastro approximately 25 kilometers (16 miles) from Idomeni, and distributed packs of nuts and raisins at the camp at the Eko gas station. One of our team members played with the children, blew up balloons for them and did face painting. The children thoroughly enjoyed it.
Arriving at Idomeni camp later in the evening, we saw many people protesting to reopen the border. We went tent to tent and distributed socks, as well as packs of nuts and raisins.
Afterwards, a few of us accompanied a church group from Thessaloniki called the First Apostolic Church to observe their processes for distributing clothing and shoes. We found out that they were planning to visit the camp at Cherso run by the military where approximately 3850 refugees stay. Usually, NGOs and volunteers are not allowed into the military-run camps, so we asked if we could accompany the church group to the camp since they have been there before. We followed them there in our van, though once we reached the camp the guard said we could not distribute relief items because it was late at night and too dark. However, we are able to go back there during the day to provide the relief items. We plan to do that another time.
Changing Situation for Refugees and Continued Relief Efforts in Idomeni, Greece – March 19 to 20, 2016
As of March 18, there were over 48,100 refugees stranded in Greece, according to Greek government sources.
The situation has changed yet again here in Greece. After the deal reached between the European Union and Turkey, Greece is now trying to implement the agreement. This means those who arrived in Greece before March 20 via the islands are in the process of being sent to the mainland and eventually will be placed in government-run camps. They will be given access to legal pathways to stay in Europe such as asylum, family reunification or relocation. However, this does not include adults considered not in need of international protection; they could be deported back to their countries. For people arriving to the islands after March 20, they will have the opportunity to seek asylum and will have the right to an appeal before any readmission back to Turkey.
It also means that many NGOs and volunteers will have less access to helping the refugees once they are in government-run camps.
For the time being, our team in northern Greece is still able to provide aid and loving care to the refugees stranded at the Idomeni camp, which is an unofficial camp and not managed by any authority.
Yesterday, we went to Idomeni camp and distributed packs of peanuts and raisins in the morning and in the afternoon we distributed baby shoes, some flashlights and toys.
Today, we again went to Idomeni camp and gave out some toys, books and dolls. In the afternoon we distributed women’s pajamas, jeans, t-shirts and shoes. Our team members also blew up balloons for the children, which they absolutely loved, and had plenty of fun with our team members.
Over the past four days, our medical team, along with our interpreter Mr. Kaniwar Ali and his friend Aido, we attended to more than 100 patients. Many people had dental problems, required eye infection medications, antibiotics for persistent fever, cough and flu, and also ear infection medicine. Some who sustained minor cuts required wound dressings as well.
We also followed up with the chronically ill patients who requested specific medications from previous consultations. Many refugees were relieved to have their medications refilled and showed deep appreciation towards us. One little boy offered his precious biscuits and potato chips to us upon receiving his medicine. Following our suggestion, a Syrian elder who was wheelchair bounded, was able to get some sun and fresh air with the help of his children to resolve persistent dizziness.
We also paired a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy with her neighbor who had midwifery experience to ensure safe delivery in times of emergency.
Heat packs were distributed to people with abdominal pain, body aches or hypothermia.
One very difficult case was a 45-year-old woman with kidney failure, who still managed to smile brightly at us despite having abdominal pain. She made it a point to walk in the sun each morning and prayed to God every moment. Her optimistic attitude touched us very much.
We felt incredibly saddened when we saw refugees with war-related health issues. One young man had only one functional eye because a weapon had injured the other eye. Another had a broken eardrum due to constant bombing episodes in his hometown, and required surgery. As such, we made notes of all the patients we have seen and were also looking into referring people to hospitals should they require complex treatment or medical procedures.
Distributing Necessities and Attending to Health Concerns of Refugees in Idomeni, Greece – March 21, 2016
On March 21, our distribution team went tent to tent at Idomeni camp to distribute needed items such as clothing, washing tubs and portable solar lights.
We also found suitable places for one of our relief team members to play the traditional Korean bamboo flute to help relieve the exhausted minds of the people. Many gathered to enjoy the captivating sounds of the flute. There was much applause at the end of the mini-concert.
We also distributed backpacks, balloons for the children and some flashlights. At the end of the day, two refugee boys helped us with turning our van around, which is a challenge on the busy, narrow street of Idomeni camp. It was such a pleasure to meet the young, warmhearted angels.
Our medical team visited another 50 patients today. As more people are moved into the bigger tents set up by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) Borders), there is a greater need for medicine, as cross infection and overcrowding issues may arise. We found two confirmed cases of head lice within one big tent which houses about 80 people. Personal hygiene needs are also a rising concern, as more people complained of toothaches and dental decay.
It was rewarding to hear from the mother of the 13-year-old Syrian girl that after our treatment, the girl was finally relieved of her digestive problem after suffering for eight days.
Special thanks to the kind pharmacists at the drug retail stores for patiently taking our long list of orders, giving us discounts and good advice, and opening their store during their closed hours just for us. Also, our sincere appreciation for our talented interpreter, Mr. Kaniwar Ali, and his friend Aido for assisting our team. Without them, it would be impossible to deliver timely medical care to those who are sick and in need. Our deep gratitude to Master for Her blessings and love, and our heartfelt thanks to all who help us in our efforts.
Continued Relief Efforts at Idomeni, Cherso and Polykastro, Greece – March 22, 2016
On March 22, our relief team went to Idomeni camp in the morning to distribute different types of bags, baby clothes, baby carriers, women’s innerwear and shoes. We placed the boxes of items in the field where refugee tents are sprawled, so that they could take what they needed. After that, we went to another area and one of our team members played the Korean traditional flute for the refugees. One boy invited us to his family’s tent to play there.
In the afternoon, we returned to the camp and brought special items requested by the refugees. Washtubs and flashlights were in high demand. Our team member again played the flute on the railroad, which is the center of Idomeni camp, and where many protests for the border to reopen have been occurring. The flute seemed to help relax the refugees. We could feel Master’s love spreading through the music.
Our medical team spent two hours in Idomeni camp, and served approximately 25 patients. Most of them had common problems like ear infection, the flu, cough and fever. We had one new case of head lice today. We gave the family some prevention tips and taught them how to use the medication.
A few of our team members went to the camp in Cherso, which is approximately a 30-minute drive east from Idomeni, to see if we could be given access to distribute items to the refugees staying there. The military personnel were very courteous, and assisted us in finding the people we needed to speak with. We will look into the options recommended by Stefanos, the head coordinator of the local volunteers, to gain entry into the camp. After that, we traveled to the camp in Polykastro near the Eko gas station and distributed packs of peanuts and raisins as well as some vegan chocolates for the children.
May Heaven’s blessings and grace be with all refugees, and may more help be sent their way. We pray for a better future for them with bountiful necessities, excellent health and everlasting happiness.
Helping Our Friends in Need at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 23, 2016
On the morning of March 23, we found another way to get to Idomeni camp since there was a protest held by refugees wanting the borders reopened. Again, we went tent by tent to distribute clothes, shoes, flashlights, hijabs (scarves), balloons, vegan chocolates etc. Our team member played the Korean traditional flute in one of the larger tents. One man sang an Arabic song for us and we were very touched.
Afterwards, a man approached us and took us to see his ill relative in a nearby tent. We showed her Master’s picture. She started to cry and kissed the picture. We urgently called our team member who is a nurse, while trying to keep her warm. After our nurse assessed her, we immediately called for an ambulance to take her to the hospital. We pray that she will recover soon. Later, we also visited a family with six children, and promised we would bring some items they requested the next day.
Our medical team had a total of 52 patients. Due to the wet weather in the morning, Aido, who had been working with our medical team alongside our interpreter, had kindly let us to use his tent as a consultation room for patients. Common ailments of the patients aged four months and older included flu, fever, cough, diarrhea and vomiting. Older patients had heart disease, high cholesterol, heartburn symptoms, high blood pressure and diabetes. Despite the dire circumstances the refugees were in, they were incredibly generous and giving. They invited us again and again to join them for their simple, home-cooked meals after their consultation. Their kindness, sincerity and warmth touched us very much. We hope the situation will soon change for the better for all refugees.
With over 13,000 refugees in Idomeni, it is difficult to make contact with each and every person, but we do our best to find the people most in need. We also try to share Master’s love and blessings with all.
In addition to taking care of the refugees, we also tried to care for animals in need. Yesterday, one of our team members noticed a stray dog with a severe-looking skin condition in the village where we were staying. We took the dog, a mother of two puppies, to the kind veterinarian who had previously helped us with another dog we rescued at Idomeni camp. He immediately cleaned up her infected wound, gave her an injection and gave us free medication to give to her. He even said the consultation was free, but we insisted on paying him for his professional services. Mama dog is now resting comfortably with her two puppies in our work area downstairs where our other rescued dog, Elpída (meaning ‘hope’) sleeps, until we find her and her puppies a permanent home.
Bringing Aid for Refugees During the Cold and Wet Weather Conditions at Idomeni, Greece – March 24, 2016
On March 24, the wind was turbulent to the point people could barely walk straight. It was also incredibly cold. As a result, there was an increased demand for jackets. So after distributing the usual items in the morning such as clothes, boots and solar lamps at Idomeni camp, we returned in the afternoon and distributed more jackets, shoes, washing tubs and children’s clothes. We also brought balloons for the children to lighten up their mood. We noted to ourselves to bring more shoes next time, as the ground is wet and muddy from yesterday’s rain.
At the railway tracks near the Greece-Macedonia border, refugees were holding up banners asking for the borders to reopen. Protests have become a daily occurrence.
Our medical team went from tent to tent checking on and assisting 56 patients in total. One family was very appreciative, and thanked us for the cough medicine we brought them. We explained that we were only there thanks to Master’s love and grace. They sincerely thanked Master for our medical assistance. Having noticed that one of our team members had the flu, they lovingly offered tissues and bottled water. We were deeply moved by their act of kindness.
We also visited our interpreter Mr. Kaniwar Ali’s tent and his assistant Aido’s tent. We brought medicine for common ailments for them, and Mr. Ali kindly invited us to stay for tea. We exchanged hearty stories of hope, love and joy with their families. Despite the extremely difficult and painful times they went through, Mr. Ali always tries to help others whenever he can. His phone is always ringing, as he actively serves his community of 100 Syrians on his personal contact list. He is a shining role model of kindness and love.
We are happy to report that Mama dog is recovering from her wounds, and her pups are becoming more trusting and playful. We have also seen a huge improvement in the temperament of our other rescue dog, Elpída. She still walks with a bit of a wobble due to injuries, but she has transformed into the most playful pup; energetic and happy all the time.
We are grateful for the opportunity to be able to assist all of those in need, and wish loving kindness to prevail across all humanity.
Meeting Generous Greek Locals Who Gave Aid for the Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 25, 2016
On March 25, buses lined up on the road towards Idomeni camp to transport refugees to other established reception centers in Greece. According to representatives of The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Greek authorities will provide buses during the next two weeks to take refugees who voluntarily want to leave Idomeni for the reception centers, where living conditions are better.
In the morning, our relief team distributed clothes, shoes, diapers and washtubs to the refugees. As it was still very cold and windy, we received many requests for warm clothing. In the afternoon, we went to a local store to purchase some solar lamps. The store owner kindly gave us some blankets and scarves of her own accord to give to the refugees. Returning to Idomeni, we distributed the solar lamps, more clothing items and packs of peanuts and raisins.
The kind veterinarian, Mr. Konstantinos Pardalis, who helped us with the rescued dogs, also brought some soap and wet towelettes for the refugees. He planned to deliver two tons of firewood later at his own expense.
At Idomeni, we met some friends from Holland with whom we volunteered in Athens. We also came across some Polish volunteers who recognised the logo on our team members’ vests, because they had been to the Loving Hut restaurants in Poland. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist who was interested in our relief work interviewed one of our team members.
Our medical team served more than 30 people today. There were more cases of skin infection and hair lice. Many also had colds, generalized fatigue, or high fever due to the changing weather conditions. We gave advice on how to treat and prevent the lice.
One Syrian woman, whom we treated a few days ago, came to thank us on the street for the ear infection medication. She said that it was really effective. It was very rewarding to see positive changes in people’s health.
Marian, a volunteer at the warehouse, also thanked us for sending them a list of patients who are pregnant, chronically ill or require surgery. He told us that two volunteering doctors on his team would follow up with these patients. They are also planning to set up tents for pregnant women and their families, so it will be easier for doctors to assess them when needed.
Opening a “Free Market” for the Refugees and Finishing Our Medical Team’s Service at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 26, 2016
Volunteers at Idomeni camp were advised to do direct distribution, taking specific items to tents for safety precautions. Our relief team came up with another solution on March 25, which was to set up a “free market” in a designated area so the refugees could come choose what they needed openly and peacefully.
A high Greek official visited Idomeni, and urged refugees to move to camps that are being opened by the government. It is difficult to tell what will happen next, as the situation can change rapidly here. We hope all refugees will soon be able to live in peace.
Today was the last day our medical team served at Idomeni camp, seeing 36 patients in total. We saw more cases of skin infection, lip sores, hair lice and diaper rash for babies. Many complained of abdominal pain after eating, and diarrhea as well. One Syrian family thanked us profusely for a Chinese abdominal medicine we gave them, and asked for more for future use. We gave them the last dose we had. One grandfather thanked us for all our efforts, and invited us for tea in his tent. We received warm “Hallos” from many children and the elderly. We bid a teary goodbye to Mr. Kaniwar Ali and Aido after our last medical shift together. Though we have only been here for a few days, we feel everyone belongs together as one big family.
Distributing Balloons for Children and Other Supplies at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 27, 2016
On March 27, our relief team was happy to welcome two special guests joining our distribution effort at Idomeni; Mr. Konstantinos Pardalis, the veterinarian who kindly helped us with our rescued dogs, and also Mrs. Zhu Mei Zhuang, the local store owner who has helped us find the needed items for the refugees and gave us generous discounts.
In the morning, due to a demonstration going on inside Idomeni camp, no volunteers or NGOs were allowed access to the camp as a safety precaution. We decided to go to Hotel Hara in the small border town of Evzonoi near Idomeni, where hundreds of refugees were staying and distributed some diapers and balloons for the children. Then we went to a service station, also in Evzonoi, another area where refugees are camping, and distributed children’s and baby clothes, balloons and candy.
After learning that access to Idomeni camp was reopened, we returned to the camp and started our distribution. We planned to continue working with Mr. Kaniwar Ali, who was the interpreter for our medical team, as he had many good ideas on how to make improvements at the refugee camps based on his previous experience working in a large refugee camp in Iraq.
Here in Greece, we have met many great people during our relief activities. It all seemed to be a perfect arrangement by the Divine, because we ended up meeting the right person at the exact moment they were needed. We are deeply grateful for everyone who helps and cares for the refugees.
Distributing Clothes for Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 28, 2016
On March 28, our relief team spent another day at Idomeni camp distributing clothes for women and children as well as men’s jeans and shoes.
In the afternoon, we met a young Syrian man who wanted to join our team. He told us his mother passed away five years ago in Syria, which caused him a lot of heartbreak. We gave him Master’s pendant and he was so touched he had tears in his eyes.
A young mother requested clothes for her newborn baby, so we assured her that tomorrow we would bring her what she needed.
We also interviewed a student named Mr. Antonis Alexandridis, who is completing his PhD in anthropology. His project focuses on the refugee crisis, and how people band together to deal with the hardships. Mr. Alexandridis spent one week living as the refugees do at Idomeni camp. He said it was physically very challenging and tiring, but at the same time he was welcomed into the family community he was living next to, and formed a strong bond with them even though he was only there for a week.
Bringing Aid to Refugees in Polykastro and Idomeni, Greece – March 29, 2016
On March 29, our relief team went to a warehouse in Polykastro to pick up a variety of clothing and other items for distribution. A volunteer there told us that The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) needed help with transporting some refugees to Idomeni so that they could board the bus to go to a different camp. Our team had an 11-seater van and was able to transport a family of 13 members, including babies.
In the evening, we delivered 20 tons of firewood to Idomeni camp with the help of a local lumberjack who provides the wood and delivery at a very low cost. However, more was still required because the refugees needed the wood to boil water for bathing and cooking. Without firewood the refugees had to burn other things like clothes and plastic, which cause toxic fumes.
Later, one of our team members walked around carrying a boombox playing music from the home countries of the refugees with many children following. We danced and laughed together with them, and had a truly enjoyable time. We hope we were able to uplift their spirits for a short while amidst this difficult situation.
Speaking with Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 30, 2016
On March 30, two of our relief team members went to Idomeni Camp and delivered 20 more tons of firewood, while the others stayed at our accommodations to take care of the household chores and administrative tasks.
One of our members met up with a group of Syrian mothers. While babysitting for one of the mothers to allow her to take a shower, our member spoke with these women and listened to their hardships and sorrows. Life in the camp can be monotonous and stressful, so the women appreciated the company of our team member.
Idomeni is an unofficial camp with no infrastructure and no government agency or NGO in charge. It was originally a transit camp where people stayed a few days until they crossed the border. However, thousands of refugees have been here for several weeks. Even though Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) has set up some large tents for housing as well as water points for washing, hygiene conditions are still a matter of great concern. We plan to bring the requested hand sanitizers during our next visit to help address some of the hygiene issues.
Despite the poor living conditions, many refugees we spoke to remain at the camp in hopes that the borders will reopen. They wanted to send the message to the rest of the world that all they ask for is to be treated humanely and justly. We pray for the day where all nations, and all individuals may live in peace and safety.
Attending to the Hygiene Concerns at Idomeni Camp, Greece – March 31, 2016
On the morning of March 31, after discussing and identifying the priority needs at Idomeni camp, our relief team decided to start “Project Hygiene” to address the most pressing hygiene issues. The first thing on our list was to distribute hand sanitizers to all the families so they could clean their hands before eating and doing other activities because not all of them can make it to the water point Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) has set up.
With help from Mr. Kaniwar Ali, the Syrian/Kurdish refugee who assisted our medical team previously, we drew up a map of the camp and divided it into sectors so we could systematically hand out the hand sanitizers from tent to tent, making sure each family unit would receive one. Afterwards, we went around in the area marked as “Site A” on our map, and distributed 270 bottles with the assistance of Mr. Ali’s friend, Aido. We will continue the distribution tomorrow.
Distributing Aid and Setting Up a Hair Cutting Service at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 1, 2016
On April 1, our team went to Idomeni camp to distribute clothes for babies, women and children, and also pots and pans to some families. We continued with the distribution of hand sanitizers to each family as part of our ongoing Project Hygiene. The refugees were very grateful. Many children came to ask for candy and balloons, as we have become known for distributing them. The children love to follow us around and help us with our work. One boy, who was approximately 7-years-old, wanted us to convey a message to Master that he loves Her.
One of our team members set up an open-air hair cutting service as many people were in need of haircuts. For women, our member visited their tents to give haircuts, respecting their choice to not let their hair be seen in public. One Iraqi man, who was a barber in his country, volunteered to give haircuts free of charge to others, so we bought him professional hair clippers.
We formed a medical team again with the arrival of two doctors from Indonesia, a pediatrician and gynecologist. They spent the afternoon with our interpreter, Mr. Kaniwar Ali, getting to know the areas and tents where people will need to be visited for medical consultations.
Continued Relief Efforts at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 2 to 3, 2016
On April 2 and 3, some of our relief team members walked from tent to tent at Idomeni camp, distributing one bottle of dish washing liquid and a sponge to each family. All the families were very grateful to receive the much-needed items.
Meanwhile, another one of our team members joined the local store owner, Ms. Zhuang, to continue giving haircuts. Due to the lack of cleaning facilities, many people wanted to cut their hair short to stay more hygienic.
We spoke with people from different countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and were very touched by each individual story. A Syrian mother told us about the difficulties she encountered traveling to Europe. She was very worried about the safety of her 15-year-old daughter and the other children at the camp. She expressed her desire to return back to a peaceful Syria, and was praying to God that this might happen soon. We also met a blind man who came to Greece with the help of his relatives. He was very grateful to Master for the relief supplies.
After arriving in Idomeni, our medical team immediately went to observe the conditions at the camp, and bought basic medicines from some pharmacies in the nearby town of Polykastro. Most pharmacists were more than helpful. Not only did they provide all the requested supplies, but also gave us extra items for the refugee children.
On April 2, our team began giving mobile medical services from tent to tent. After finishing treating approximately 33 patients in the evening, we visited the family of our interpreter, Mr. Kaniwar Ali, and treated his four-month-old son who was suffering from a very bad cough, vomiting and high fever.
The next day, we treated another 89 patients including six pregnant women, 20 children and 63 adults. Most patients were affected by respiratory tract infections, headaches, skin rashes or diarrhea. Some patients had dental and gum problems.
Preparing Aid Supplies for Refugees in Idomeni, Greece – April 4, 2016
On April 4, our relief team started the morning shopping to purchase aid supplies for the refugees. Some of us went to the pharmacy to get more medicine. The staff was very friendly and supportive, giving us a box of latex gloves for free. Our other team members went to the local store in Polykastro to purchase pants, small mirrors and sandals for the women who requested the items at Idomeni camp. We also picked up more supplies in high demand, such as shoes, clothes and toothbrushes, from a warehouse in Polykastro.
We prepared bags of peanuts mixed with raisins before heading to Idomeni camp in the afternoon. However, on our way there, the road was blocked by several refugees sitting in the middle of the highway. Some of them were there to protest a certain food they were given that was old, which made a few people ill, while others were there asking for the borders to reopen.
As we were observing the demonstration, we saw a boy carrying a small turtle. Once we learned that the turtle was found in the forest near the roadside, we explained to him that a turtle has a family in the forest, which is her home. The boy kissed the turtle goodbye, and let her free. As the protestors informed us that they would continue throughout the night, we decided to head back to our accommodations and pray for the refugees.
Distributing Supplies, Giving Haircuts, and Providing Medical Aid to Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 5, 2016
On the morning of April 5, our relief team distributed the remaining dishwashing liquid and sponges in Idomeni camp, but we will purchase more to ensure each family will receive a set. We gave out toothbrushes and small flashlights to the children who helped us with our work. In the afternoon, we went tent to tent and distributed packs of vegan macaroni, peanuts and raisins, and some shoes and clothes to many individuals in the camp.
Our haircut team continued providing services free of charge to all the refugees. One toddler had to get his head shaved because lice are becoming problematic in the camp for children.
Our medical team was able to treat around 93 patients today. Most cases still are respiratory tract infections like coughing, sore throats and runny noses. We also managed to visit seven pregnant women and gave them a month supply of prenatal vitamins. Thankfully all of them were in good health.
Continuing Relief Efforts for Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 6, 2016
On the morning of April 6, 2016, our relief team headed to Idomeni camp after purchasing more medicines and necessary items for the refugees. We went tent to tent and distributed shoes for children, clothes for women and babies as well as nail clippers and razors. Seeing one child was wearing shoes that were too big for him, we helped him change into a pair of the right size. He was so happy that he ran everywhere he went. A lot of children came asking for shoes, and thankfully we were able to find the exact size for many of them. One refugee asked for a stroller for her baby, so we promised to try to find it for her.
We met a Syrian lady whose husband is in Germany, but she was unable to go there due to the border closure. Many also keep asking us about the latest news regarding their situation, and were afraid to be sent back to Syria. Before leaving, because of requests from the children, we sang songs for them in Arabic, English and French. They were very happy, and also sang Arabic songs.
Our haircut team extended its services to include shaving and trimming beards and mustaches. Three refugee men came to help us. We felt very blessed to have the opportunity to provide this service.
Our medical team was happy to welcome a new member who is a nurse from the United States. With her help, we managed to see 77 patients in approximately three hours. There were 16 children, and the rest were adults with various ailments including sunburn, skin rash, coughing, cold, flu, headache and urinary tract infection. We also checked blood sugar levels of two elderly people with diabetes, and gave them the medication they needed. We finished at 8pm, and some men even helped us carry our medicine boxes back to our car. We felt truly grateful to be able to help relieve some of the discomfort and pain of the refugees.
Meeting Noble, Kind and Selfless Refugees and Locals in Idomeni, Greece – April 7, 2016
On April 7, after shopping for additional supplies in the morning, our relief team went to Idomeni camp to distribute items to the refugees according to their requests, which included razors, hygiene products for women, baby clothes and strollers. We gave a thermos and a baby carrier to a woman who had just given birth to a girl two days prior. She also thanked us for the baby clothes we left for her yesterday, saying the supplies were like a blessing from God. Some refugees offered us their food as we visited their tents, which almost brought us to tears.
Another volunteer group was organizing classes for children in a large tent. We had the opportunity to hold a hygiene class, and also set up other activities for them. Many teachers from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq also came to offer their services for the children. We were incredibly touched to see so many noble souls.
Our haircut team set up two chairs, and continued their services free of charge. Many refugees offered their help, bringing seats and even cutting each other’s hair. One of them brought an umbrella to provide shade from the brightness of the sun. His kindness brought joy to all in sight.
Today, our medical team saw a total of 100 patients, many of whom were children. We also treated a couple from Aleppo, Syria. The husband was badly injured from air strikes and bombings in Aleppo, and was unable to walk as normal. The wife was suffering with severe nausea from her pregnancy. We helped change the husband’s bandage, and gave each of them their needed medications. They offered us a plateful of dates to thank us.
A sincere thanks to the kind pharmacists who always give us the requested medications with generous discounts and extra gifts. One of the pharmacy staff members mentioned how most Greek residents, including him, in the local area were descendants of refugees from the Greece/Turkey population exchange in 1923. His grandparents came from Russia as refugees, where they first lived in tents, suffered with malaria, had no food or medicine and were very poor. Seeing the current refugees’ situation, he was reminded of his own family background, and felt the need to help them.
Cleaning and Providing Medical Aid at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 8, 2016
On the morning of April 8, our relief team collected garbage as part of our Project Hygiene at Idomeni camp. Due to a shortage of trashcans, the refugees have been putting their trash into nearby fields near the entrance. With the help of many enthusiastic children, we were able to successfully clean up the entire field in just a few short hours. We provided the children with small gloves and facemasks for protection. The children worked very hard. They made sure every piece of trash was collected and properly disposed of. After we finished cleaning, we gave a cap to each child who participated. In the evening, we cleaned up another area in the nearby fields, and finished right before it began to rain.
That same morning, our medical team visited three pregnant women to follow up on their conditions. In the afternoon, we managed to treat 57 patients. We were able to work in one of the best tents, which we set up to use as a mobile clinic. Just as we finished up with our last three patients, rain started pouring down from the sky. We were very grateful for the arrangement, and felt the rain was full of blessings!
Visiting Other Refugee Camps Near Idomeni, Greece – April 9, 2016
On April 9, our relief team spent the day visiting Katerini camp run by the Greek Air Force. The refugees at Idomeni camp were reluctant to move anywhere else, so we promised them we would visit Katerini camp to let them know the situation there.
The Greek authorities were happy to let us in to visit. The refugees told us they were fed three times a day, and had access to hot showers. They were also allowed to walk freely in and out of the camp. The camp is smaller than Idomeni, but is organized, clean and able to provide more comfort for the refugees. The Greek authorities were also very pleased to let us return later to provide medical aid.
Our medical team went to another camp near a service station in Evzonoi on the main highway towards the Greece-Macedonia border, where approximately 500 people are staying. The environment there was clean, and people put their tents up under big Cyprus trees. We treated 45 people in five hours. We were happy to find an interpreter who was able to help us: Mr. Yossef Belain, a 20-year-old from Syria. He was extremely helpful, taking notes and describing for the patients how to take their medications. He told us that all of his family members were killed in Syria during the war. We were very impressed by his grace, and his eagerness to help everyone in need despite his own traumatic experience. We are hoping to return to this camp, as they do not have any other regular medical services nearby.
Providing Medical Aid at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 10, 2016
On April 10, upon arriving at Idomeni camp in the morning, our relief team found that tensions at the border of Greece and Macedonia had escalated. The refugees were trying to cross the border, and the police and military forces acted under orders, using tear gas and rubber bullets to push them back. We immediately called our medical team members, who were at Katerini camp, to come as soon as possible to attend to the affected people. We then went to the camp near the service station in Evzonoi, and distributed items we had prepared, such as baby clothes, razors, and hand sanitizers, to the refugees there.
Our medical team managed to see 38 patients at Katerini camp before being called back to Idomeni camp. We quickly set up a small clinic inside the culture and art school tent. Many people suffered from breathing difficulties, chest pain, burning eyes and migraines. Some even had hypothermia. All the volunteers were very helpful; they provided everything that we needed such as clean blankets, water, and assistance with interpretation. It was very effective teamwork. One 14-year-old boy named Sajed, who has no family, helped treat babies and small children affected by the tear gas. We were very touched by his courage and bravery. Thankfully, we managed to assist everyone in need. Hopefully situations like these will not happen again, because the ones who suffer most are the babies, children, women, elderly and people who are ill. May God be with us all.
Distributing Necessities and Providing Medical Assistance in Evzonoi and Idomeni, Greece – April 11, 2016
On the morning of April 11, our relief team stopped by a service station in Evzonoi to distribute vegan food to children there. The children formed a line to allow us to quickly distribute the food. They seemed happy and smiled a lot. Once we arrived at Idomeni camp, we distributed the remaining razors and hand sanitizers we had to refugees around the train tracks. Each family received at least two razors. With help from one of the young refugees, we were able to distribute in an orderly fashion. The people were happy to receive these necessities, and some invited us to eat with them. Their kindness touched us, and motivated us to continue with our work.
Our medical team welcomed two more doctors and a nurse from Formosa today. Our Indonesian doctors will leave in a couple of days. Together we went to Idomeni camp and treated 54 patients. We really appreciated the interpretation service provided by a young Syrian man. His English was excellent, and he helped us a lot. We were given a tent for medical consultations in the morning. In the afternoon, we moved to one of the classrooms in a green tent run by volunteers. One woman was suffering from the tear gas effects, so we suggested for her to change her clothes which were tainted with the chemicals from yesterday. Upon hearing that she did not have spare clothes, one of our Indonesian doctors gave her his jacket. She was very touched. We are grateful to God for this opportunity to serve.
Providing Medical Assistance to Refugees Who Are Expectant Mothers, Idomeni, Greece – April 12, 2016
On April 12, our relief team stopped by a hotel in Evzoni on the way to Idomeni camp. A lot of refugees were staying in the hotel’s surrounding. We distributed vegan food including chips to the small children staying there. An older refugee gentleman helped the children form an orderly line, so the distribution was completed quickly.
Our medical team treated patients in a medical train car at Idomeni camp, where we saw 83 people in total. A Syrian refugee who used to be a flight attendant, and spoke excellent English volunteered as our new interpreter. We brought a portable ultrasound machine from Formosa, which allowed many expectant mothers to see images of their developing babies. It was a really fascinating moment for them to see the heartbeats and movements of their precious babies. We feel blessed to witness such a joyful experience in the refugee camp. May peace be upon all of them!
Continued Supplies, Medical Aid and Haircuts at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 13, 2016
On April 13, our distribution team gave out shoes and clothes to the refugees in Idomeni camp. They were grateful for the supplies. After the high tension weekend, we saw some of the refugees leaving to go to different camps run by the Greek government.
Our medical team treated 95 patients including refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. The majority of the patients had a sore throat, cough or symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection. Many suffered from toothaches as well. We also treated pregnant women who had colds and gave them vitamins. In the afternoon as we were packing, a five-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl came to help us. The children at the camp are very sweet and always willing to help. They touched our hearts very much. We had three new interpreters today. They even thanked us for helping them and said that it was their duty to help with the translation work. We were very happy to share Master’s love and care for the refugees.
As usual, a lot of refugees lined up to get their hair cut. Many of them worked as hair stylists or barbers back home, so they were excited to give haircuts as well. Our team was occupied nonstop until lunchtime, when the refugees took over and continued cutting hair. After the lunch break, there were still many refugees waiting. We gave some clippers to a refugee who was a professional hair stylist and he promised to provide haircuts free of charge to all the refugees.
Distributing Supplies and Providing Medical Aid at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 14, 2016
On April 14, our relief team team continued to distribute hand sanitizers and razors at Idomeni camp. Two refugees kindly helped us with the distribution, so we were able to finish in a short time. As we walked around the camp, we noticed that many people had left to go to other government-run camps. We pray that they will be well taken care of, and eventually be able to start rebuilding their lives in a new community. Two of our friends, volunteers from Spain, came to say goodbye to us. They expressed their interest in meditation, and asked us about Supreme Master Ching Hai. We gave them some websites where they could learn more about Master’s teachings.
The refugees invited our medical team to use a tent as the clinic today. We treated 99 patients in total. The majority of the patients were children and elders suffering from the common cold and skin irritations. In the afternoon, we learned that a young woman had not eaten for three days after being badly affected by the tear gas from last Sunday. We treated her by washing her face and hands with sterile saline, and we gave her two different kinds of inhalers. She immediately felt better afterwards. We had four refugees interpret for us, and they were very helpful. During our medical services, we met many refugees of the Muslim faith who were kind and generous. We are grateful to have interacted with so many good people, and pray that with Allah’s blessing, the whole world will be peaceful soon.
More Supplies and Medical Aid for Refugees at Idomeni Camp, Greece, April 15, 2016
On April 15, 2016, our relief team continued to give out hand sanitizers and razors around the train station and inside train cars in Idomeni camp. One young refugee helped us with the distribution. The recipients were very thankful for the items.
In the morning, due to the high wind, our medical team went back to the medical train car to provide service. We treated 37 patients, most of whom had respiratory problems, the common cold, cuts and other ailments. We informed our interpreters that we would come back in the evening.
Once we arrived in the evening, the interpreters were waiting for us with two new interpreters. They were very excited to help us and were grateful for the medical aid. We set up outside in the parking lot and some young refugee children helped us to hold a line to divide the areas where our doctors were seeing patients. We treated 75 more patients for various health conditions. One older refugee who had a heart disease came to ask us if we had the medicine he needed. Luckily, we were able to help him. We thank Heaven for all the blessings bestowed upon us.
Hearing More Personal Stories from Refugees in Idomeni, Greece – April 16, 2016
On April 16, with the help of many kind refugee children, our relief team distributed hand sanitizers at the main camp in Idomeni. Almost every family now has one. We also continued giving out shaving razors. As we walked from tent to tent, we were invited by some refugees to sit with them and talk. One family even gave us some apples. A young man from Afghanistan told us his story. His father died when he was a little boy and a couple of years ago his older brother who worked as a journalist also died. Therefore, his mother decided to sell all their property and come to Europe, looking for a safe place for him and his brother. We also met a 17-year-old refugee from Syria who was injured in an explosion and needed to use crutches for walking. We were saddened by their stories of war, but we were glad to see that more and more independent volunteers from all over the world are coming here to help.
In the morning, our medical team went to smaller camps, one at an abandoned hotel and the other at a gas service station. A volunteer helped us interpret. The refugees politely told us their names, nationalities, and other information before being treated. We received 64 patients in total. Many of them had skin irritations, chronic coughing, nasal congestion or chronic conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Some refugees told us it was difficult for them to get certain medicines for chronic diseases and fortunately we brought just the medicines they needed. The refugees expressed their appreciation to our Association. In the afternoon we went to the main camp area of Idomeni, where a thirteen-year-old boy helped us interpret for 50 patients. The boy’s father is in Germany now, while he is here in Greece with his mother and sisters. We wish that his family and other separated families will reunite soon.
Refugees Receiving Needed Medical Assistance From NGOs and Volunteers at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 18, 2016
On the morning of April 18, our relief team distributed shaving razors for men with help from a young refugee. In the afternoon, we distributed socks and diapers. The refugees insisted on inviting us for tea to show their gratitude. We also prepared a bag with a baby clothes for a refugee woman with two children we met the day before. She was very grateful for the much-needed items.
One of the refugee families that we assisted included a 9-month pregnant woman. We asked her to please consult Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) at the camp. We checked with them, and they told us they would pay for all the expenses and provide transportation. The pregnant woman was grateful and agreed to their help.
Our medical team treated 113 patients in the Idomeni camp with the help of three refugee interpreters. Most of the patients suffered from skin rashes and itching, the common cold and some chronic diseases. After we finished our work in the morning, we asked the interpreters if they needed anything. They asked us for shoes, which we delivered to them in the afternoon when we returned. While discussing the plant-based diet with the female interpreter, she was surprised to hear that the cheese we gave her was vegan and became interested in knowing more about the vegan diet.
In the afternoon, on our way to Idomeni, we stopped by the camp located at a gas station to see one of our previous patients who was paralyzed from the waist down and needed colostomy bags. When we got to his tent, we saw that he was being taken care of by doctors from Switzerland. The doctors told us that they might be able to take him to a clinic in Switzerland for further treatment. We were very happy to hear that, and pray that he might be able to receive the necessary treatment.
Providing Children’s Shoes and Treating Refugees Who Are Ill, Idomeni, Greece – April 19, 2016
On April 19, our relief team walked around Idomeni camp and distributed shoes for the children. Many young people helped us distribute and carry the bags. The refugees showed much appreciation for the items.
Our medical team set up a clinic next to a tent that was serving as a mosque. We worked with three refugee interpreters who helped us before. They are such noble souls. One of them told us that working with us makes him happy. We were honored to hear that. We treated 58 patients who were suffering from different sicknesses including ear ailments, abdominal pain and the common cold. Numerous refugees have been staying at the camp for over two months. With the changing weather, many of them, mostly elders and children, got sick with the common cold due to the limited facilities.
Besides our team, there were three medical teams from other NGOs treating the refugees all day long. On a daily basis, many Greek policemen provide security for the camp. They are very gentle and kind. Also, a lot of local workers help manage the camp during the day, with duties including cleaning mobile toilets, maintaining water supplies and collecting the trash. May God bless the good-hearted Greek people.
Providing Supplies for Women, Children and a Teacher, and Medical Aid in Idomeni, Greece – April 20, 2016
On April 20, 2016, our relief team gave out hygiene products for women and diapers for babies. A young refugee woman helped us interpret while we walked from tent to tent. We took a woman who had problems with her spine to see our doctors and she was given some medication, vitamins and ointment to relieve the pain.
Our medical team set up a station in the medical train car and treated 58 patients. We saw people suffering from toothaches, muscle pain and flu. Some patients needed medicines for chronic diseases, so we will try to buy them in the pharmacy store. A few days ago, one of our interpreters told us that he wanted to teach children English and that he needed a writing board for presenting the lessons, so we bought a dry-erase board for him and gave it to him today. He was very happy. We are very grateful for this opportunity to serve.
Continuing Medical Assistance for Refugees in Idomeni, Greece – April 21, 2016
On April 21, our medical team treated 21 refugees at a gas station camp in the morning and 53 patients in Idomeni camp in the afternoon. As the weather was getting warmer, a lot of refugees asked for sunscreen. We treated many refugees for coughs and nasal congestions. Some asked for medicines that they had used in the past and we tried our best to provide what they needed. The refugees always showed gratitude for our help and offered us their assistance or food. A young boy who helped us interpret expressed interest in Master’s books, so we will bring him a couple of Master’s story books next time.
Distributing Supplies, Help from an Animal Friend, and Providing Medical Aid in Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 22, 2016
On the morning of April 22, our relief team distributed toothbrushes along with dental mirrors in Idomeni camp. In the afternoon, we gave out shoes for women and children; our bags were soon empty. Thankfully, we were supplied by a local warehouse which provides clothing, shoes, board games etc. donated by kind people from all over Europe. When we were in the warehouse, we made friends with one person from Croatia who works there. After hearing that we will have a dentist coming, he told us that our dentist could use the dental office that they have in Idomeni camp and that he also could help our dentist get access to refugee camps run by the military. We were very grateful for this arrangement.
Today, our team also delivered a tent to a family consisting of a couple, their daughter and a cat friend. The daughter contacted us on Facebook asking for a new tent to replace one that broke during a strong wind a couple of days ago. We found the family’s place after seeing the cat being walked by the father. The cat came with the family all the way from Syria and was very cute and friendly. In a sense, it was the cat who led us to their tent. Indeed, animal companions bring us a lot of blessing.
Our medical team treated 41 refugee patients. Most of them had ailments including the common cold, a sore throat, trouble with digestion, body pains, allergies, sunburns, dental problems and insect bites. We treated a child who suffered from a digestive problem for two months, and gave him probiotics to restore his digestive system. Also, we saw one pregnant refugee who had a severe case of skin eczema on her hand. We advised her not to touch water too much and wear gloves. We recommended to her husband that he should do the household work, like washing dishes and clothes until her hand gets better. He said that he would because he loves his wife. We were very touched to see such a devoted husband.
Providing Medical Treatment at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 23, 2016
On April 23, our medical team helped 41 people in Idomeni camp. One patient had a swollen, infected finger. We made an incision to clean the infection and then applied antibiotics on the finger. The patient was very happy with the treatment. Another person had pain on his waist, so we treated him with acupuncture and gave him pain medicine. After the acupuncture treatment, he felt a lot better and was very grateful. We also spoke with a refugee who suffers from inflammatory bowel disease. We explained to him the possible reasons why he developed this problem and suggested that he should change to a vegan diet.
Dental Team Arrives at Idomeni/Offering Medical Treatment and Meeting a Teacher at Nireas Camp, Greece – April 25, 2016
On April 25, we had a dentist and another nurse from our Formosa Association members join our medical team. After they arrived, they went to Idomeni camp to provide dental care. They saw around 20 patients who needed teeth extracted. All the patients were very happy and thankful to our dentist for relieving their suffering.
The rest of our medical team went to another camp managed by the Greek military, Nireas camp, which is about 116 kilometers (72 miles) south of Idomeni. With the help of our nurse and two assistants, we saw around 100 patients. We were given the official doctor’s office to use. The refugees were very happy to see us and told us that there had been no doctor at the camp for the last two weeks. Our patients suffered from various health conditions such as sore throat, coughing, headache, rashes, allergies, earache and others. A young girl who was having an asthma attack was brought to us. We gave her medicine and advised her to go to the hospital if her condition did not improve within a couple of days. Our last patient was a refugee father who had a heart attack, and he had a one-year-old baby who has a congenital heart disease and will need surgery. Thanks to a portable ultrasound machine, a few pregnant women were able to see their baby moving. We noticed that a lot of our patients just needed a good listener.
The Nireas camp is located in a very scenic area, next to the Aegean Sea and the mountains. We saw some volunteers putting up a big tent for a school. The teacher of the school, a young refugee woman named Sonia from Afghanistan, introduced herself to us and invited us to her school, which was currently in a small tent. She teaches English, math, art and sports to children in the morning, and in the evening, she teaches English to adult women. Most of the women in the classes never went to school and are not able to read or write in their own language. We were touched to see them practicing diligently writing English letters. The oldest woman in the class is 65-years-old. One of our team members who is a nurse shared her story of being a refugee from Bosnia to living a good and comfortable life in Georgia, USA. The women were very touched and encouraged to hear the story.
We received Supreme Master Ching Hai’s books, The Dogs in My Life, The Birds in My Life, The Noble Wilds, and God Takes Care of Everything. We plan to give these books, as well as other supplies, to this school next time we visit the camp. We were happy to meet so many beautiful people.
Helping a Baby with a Fever and a Girl with a Toothache, and Treating Patients with Acupuncture at Idomeni Camp, Greece – April 26, 2016
On the morning of April 26, our relief team went to Idomeni camp. It was a cold and very windy day, so we distributed some warm jackets for children. A lot of tents were damaged due to the wind.
Our medical doctors treated 35 refugees suffering from sore throat, coughing, sunburns, wounds and other problems. To lower the temperature of a 4-month-old baby with a fever of 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit), we massaged the baby’s body with wet wipes. After a while the baby’s temperature dropped to 38.4 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit). We also prescribed medicine for the baby. One refugee who lost a tip of his finger came for help. We applied antibiotics and dressed the wound. He was very grateful. Our nurse from Formosa treated a couple of patients with acupuncture. One patient had shoulder pain, another patient had a problem with her knee. After the treatment, the patients were very surprised that they were able to move without pain. They were very happy and grateful.
Our dentist saw around 30 patients. Some of them needed pain medicine for a toothache and some had their teeth extracted. All patients were very appreciative for the treatment. One father asked our Formosan dentist to extract his daughter’s tooth, saying, “My daughter is 4 years old and she has not been able to sleep for two weeks because of the toothache, and I cannot sleep also because of her crying.” After extracting the tooth, the father said happily: “I think my daughter and I can sleep well tonight.”
Medical and Dental Treatment at Nea Chrani Refugee Camp, Greece – April 27, 2016
On April 27, our medical team traveled about 110 kilometers (68 miles) south of Idomeni to the Nea Chrani refugee camp managed by the Greek military. While we were setting up in the doctor’s office there, two military officers came in and complained of back pain, and neck and back pain, respectively. Our Formosan nurse treated them both with acupuncture. After the treatment they were both very surprised and happy that their pain was relieved. They were smiling from ear to ear.
We treated around 50 patients, most of whom suffered from a runny nose, a sore throat, coughing, a fever, allergies, skin irritations or rashes. We gave a lot of sunscreen to the patients as a lot of refugees had sunburns. A couple of people had eye irritations and ear problems. A 10-year-old boy had a broken nose, so after the diagnosis, we gave the information to the military personnel and asked them to take the boy to the hospital to see the specialist.
Our dentist saw around 20 patients. One 5-year-old girl was shedding tears during the treatment, and her younger sister who was only three years old comforted her with a doll. The scene touched our heart deeply.
Returning to Nireas Camp with School Supplies and Providing More Medical and Dental Treatment, Greece – April 28, 2016 Report
On April 28, our relief team in Idomeni went back to Nireas camp, bringing supplies for their school such as coloring books, pencils, notebooks, coloring pencils, paint, balls, toys, shoes and gym pants. We also screened two animated movies for the children. The children enjoyed them very much and kept asking us afterwards when were we coming back.
Our doctors followed up on some patients we saw last time. One child was not getting better since our last visit, so we asked the military personnel to take him to the hospital for further treatment. We saw some new patients as well. Most cases were ailments such as a sore throat, coughing, skin irritation, sunburn, vomiting, diarrhea or allergies.
Our dentist treated 20 patients. Among the refugees, there was a dentist from Afghanistan who was willing to serve his people. So we gifted him a set of dental tools. He said appreciatively, “Thank you for giving me the tools to do dental care. I will make good use of these tools for my people, and then you can go to other camps to continue to help refugees.” We gave each other a big hug when saying goodbye.
Providing Medical Aid at Idomeni and Alexandria Camps, Greece – April 29, 2016
On April 29, our medical team made a trip to Idomeni camp to revisit a young mother who had been suffering from chronic pain and severe bodily discomfort. Despite that, she managed to travel all the way from Syria to Turkey and eventually to Greece. We used acupuncture to treat her and encouraged her to remain strong. We gave her a small electronic machine called TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) and showed her how to use it. The machine uses low-voltage electric current to help relieve pain. We also suggested ways for her to keep herself comfortable during daily duties. Eventually, she felt much better and smiled beautifully.
The next day, we visited Alexandria camp and set up workstations in a special room assigned to us for medical consultation. Within moments, a line of eager patients had formed. Acupuncture was also performed on those who required such treatment. Meanwhile our youngest team member graciously passed out balloons to the children outside their play area. Balloons are popular among the children and they kept asking for more.
The staff at Alexandria camp warmly expressed their gratitude towards our relief efforts and invited us to return. We are happy to provide comfort and laughter to the people in difficult times.
Medical and Dental Assistance for Refugees at Giannitsa and Idomeni Camps, Greece – May 1, 2016
On the morning of May 1, our medical team went to Giannitsa refugee camp, which is about an hour’s drive south of Idomeni and is managed by the military. The camp was well organized and each family had their own toilet and washroom with hot water. Every two days, the children were organized to help pick up the trash from the ground. We brought haircutting tools, and the enthusiastic barbers in the camp helped cut the hair of the refugees.
The camp doctor on duty was very happy to see us. Our dentist and doctor received patients in their own offices. A lot of people had problem with their teeth, so our dentist was busy providing dental care. Our doctor had less patients. One little girl had a skin allergy on her whole body. After checking, our doctor found out that she also had a throat infection and the bacteria or virus that caused the infection might have also induced the allergy. He gave her antibiotics and allergy medicine.
Our acupuncturist treated around 10 patients, most of whom had problems with their joints or back. They were happy with the result and were surprised at how well it worked. One of the patients, an older woman with a soreness in her knee, was so happy that she could walk again without pain that she kept kissing the acupuncturist.
After we finished treating all patients in that camp, we went to Idomeni to provide medical and dental care there. In Idomeni, one woman with an ear infection needed specific antibiotics and our doctor was happy to see that he had just the right medicine for her. The acupuncturist gave another treatment to a woman who suffered from back pain. We were grateful for this opportunity to work with the refugees.
Continued Medical and Dental Aid at Idomeni Camp, Greece – May 2, 2016
On May 2, our medical team went to Idomeni camp to continue providing medical and dental services to the refugees. Many of them suffered from sore throat, fever, coughing, infections, allergies, sunburn, and other health issues. One baby had a skin infection, so we gave the mother the proper cream to heal it. Our doctor also treated a couple of patients who had a problem with their neck and back with acupressure. Both felt better immediately and were happy afterwards. Our dentist took the time to provide quality care to each patient even though there was a large number of them on that day.
We also went back to visit the young refugee mother who suffers from various health problems and is in a chronic pain. We gave her Chinese medicine to help her heal her stomach. We also gave her a mat and clothes for her and her husband.
During our relief work, we met a Chinese woman who lives in Greece and owns a shop in Polykastro. She helped us buy supplies at the pharmacy. She told us, “I am a vegetarian and I am so touched by your love for the refugees. I also want to do some work for them.” She was also interested in knowing more about Supreme Master Ching Hai, so we gave her a copy of Master’s book The Key of Immediate Enlightenment, hoping Master’s words of wisdom will bring light and love to her soul.
Medical Treatment for Refugees as Idomeni Camp and a Hotel Camp, Greece – May 3, 2016
On May 3, our medical team traveled to Idomeni camp. Immediately upon arrival, we organized the workstations and our doctor personally toured the camp to see if anyone was in need of a medical consultation. Two of our team members revisited the young mother who was suffering from chronic pain to give her another checkup and a third acupuncture treatment. It was definitely a joy to see she greeted us with cheerful eyes and a warm smile. We gifted her with a sleeping bag and a floor mat. We also helped a young man hurt from an old sports injury, and our local interpreter.
Next, we visited a nearby hotel where refugees were camping and offered dental and medical treatments to the refugees there. A young girl who felt discomfort on her leg received reflective acupressure for the first time. She was so happy about how well it worked that she kept pointing her finger at the spot and said, “Good!” with her thumbs up. Her happiness reminded us that a little love goes a long way and love has no boundaries.
Offering Medical Assistance and Providing Entertainment for Children at Nireas Camp, Greece – May 4 to 5, 2016
On May 4, when our relief team went to a store Idomeni owned by a local Greek woman who has been helping with our relief efforts, an accident took place in which a young girl was injured. Immediately our doctor rushed to assess the situation and thankfully there was already medical staff on site, so we remained on standby until more help came.
The next day, we rose early and drove 1.5 hours to camp Nireas where we were warmly welcomed by the local authorities. One of the officers on duty asked us where we were from and was delighted to greet such a culturally diverse group of volunteers.
Our doctors worked in a room dedicated for medical consultations to address the health issues of the patients who were waiting in line. The rest of our team members set up a projector in the children’s tent area and turned it into a small, homey theater by showing a couple of children’s movies. The camp also had an inflatable bounce house, which the little children loved.
A young Afghan boy told us of the adversities he had gone through before reaching camp Nireas. He remained positive and hopeful of things to come. Another refugee who was a dentist in his home country tried his best to provide care to those in need even though he lacked familiar tools. Our hearts were deeply touched by the optimistic and kind spirits of many people in the camps.
Constructing a Classroom at Nea Kavala Camp and Distributing Supplies in Idomeni Camp, Greece – May 6 to 7, 2016
On May 6, with an addition of a construction expert from the United States, our relief team in Idomeni met with volunteers at the local warehouse and began planning for building a classroom tent in the government-organized Nea Kavala camp near Polykastro. Our construction expert spent the day making preparations. The next day, he traveled with a few other workers from the warehouse to Nea Kavala camp and worked until late in the evening to construct a two-room classroom with doors and windows for the children there.
On the same day, May 7, the rest of the team went to Idomeni camp and distributed assorted shoes, jackets, sweaters, shirts, pants and undergarments. To thank the children who have been helping us in the past visits, we gave them each a set of special gifts including a toy ball, shirts, pants and a pair of shoes.
Walking around the camp, a middle-aged Syrian man called out to one of our members and expressed his hope of reuniting with his loved ones. We were pleased to notice that many other organizations are becoming more involved in the relief efforts as well. On the way back, we gave a ride to two volunteers who shared with us their experiences in helping the refugees. We all agreed that a small selfless act could bring a lot of benefit to those in need.
Building a Community Center in Nea Kavala Camp and Distributing Supplies in Idomeni Camp, Greece – May 8 to 9, 2016
On May 8, the construction expert in our relief team worked together with the volunteers from the Intereuropean Human Aid Association (IHA), a German NGO assisting refugees, to build a community center in Nea Kavala camp. Additional supplies were brought in and a series of drilling, bolting, and hammering were followed. With windows and doors framed, the tarps were installed over the structure and cement weights were placed into each corner to make a stable foundation. They will try to finish this project in the next three days. Our team members were pleased to hear that most of the IHA members were vegetarian and one of them was even a vegan!
On May 9, the rest of our relief team went to Idomeni camp and distributed assorted goods such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mirrors, shaving razors, sponges, tubs and tote bags to the camp members. We also gave out adult hats in a variety of colors as well as children’s hats with cartoon figures. Two of our members revisited a young mother and gave her calcium supplements to strengthen her bones. Black sesame powder and an empty luggage case were also gifted to her. After the distribution, we spent some time having tea and talking with a Syrian/Kurdish family who have been quite helpful to us in our past distributions, assisting with hands-on work and interpreting.
Continued Work on the Community Center in Nea Kavala Camp and Putting Up Swings at Idomeni Camp, Greece – May 10 – 11, 2016
On May 10, our relief team in Idomeni visited a lumber yard and ordered enough wood for constructing the community center at Nea Kavala. Then we met with volunteers to discuss the next steps for the project.
Afterwards, we went to Idomeni camp and gave balloons and candy to the children there, bringing them moments of laughter and amusement. It was the first time for our construction expert to visit this camp and he expressed deep sympathy for the plight of the refugees.
The next day, our construction expert returned to Idomeni camp with another team member to assist with a small cleanup project and also put up rope swings for the children. After carefully scouting each location for safety, a total of four swings were set up throughout the camp. The children were very happy and screamed in delight. Next he headed to Nea Kavala camp to continue building the community center. There he spent the day leveling the ground and setting up additional fixtures to secure the building. Though he was tired at the end of the day, he felt grateful to able to contribute to the relief effort.
The rest of the team went to the local warehouse run by volunteers and helped organize, package, and sort various supplies for the refugees, including shirts, socks, scarves, hats and baby clothes. We also assisted in unloading an 18-wheeler truck carrying boxes of donated shoes and baby carriages. All the volunteers from different countries such as the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain worked together in peace and high spirits.
Delivering Supplies to Alexandria, Idomeni, and Kilkis Camps, Greece – May 12 – 13, 2016
On May 12, our construction expert spent the day in Nea Kavala camp installing wooden floors for the community center, while the rest of our relief team went to the warehouse in Polykastro to help sort donated supplies and organize boxed goods. Our newest team members from Mongolia worked until late in the evening. In the afternoon, two of our youngest members went to Alexandria camp in a van loaded with biscuits, fruit, shampoo, sun cream and 800 portions of dried food. Both the army personnel and the camp members graciously helped them unload and clean up. Next, our two members delivered a long metal pole purchased by a French NGO to Idomeni camp. The pole was set up with a light fixture attached, giving a much-needed source of light to camp members. Last, our drivers returned to the warehouse and picked up 30 baby strollers, which they delivered to Kilkis camp.
After a good night’s rest, our relief team members went to Idomeni camp for distribution. We gave out clothes, shoes, shampoo and sunscreen prepared the night before and the refugees gladly accepted them. Trying on a pair of shoes, a young man was overjoyed, saying, “Good! I love you!” We also took this opportunity to distribute flyers with Master’s words of wisdom translated into Arabic. Many children asked for more to bring back to their tents to share with their families.
More Dental Assistance in Idomeni Camp and Adding on to the Community Center and Building a Washing Unit in Nea Kavala Camp, Greece – May 14, 2016
On May 14, our relief team welcomed the arrival of one of our Association members who is a dental specialist from Formosa. After a brief lunch break, our dentist gathered his supplies and traveled to Idomeni camp with the rest of our team. We visited the medical unit in the camp and a young dental volunteer was delighted to have another pair of helping hands. After obtaining permission to use the medical train car to set up a temporary dental office, our dentist saw the first patient with the assistance from an interpreter. The patient agreed to have his tooth removed and would go to seek the appropriate consultation from the hospital as recommended.
Our construction expert and two Mongolian team members went to Nea Kavala camp where they adding a shelter to the community center to provide shade, and built a washing unit. Our three-member team worked earnestly until the project was completed.
Sorting Items in Polykastro, Continuing the Building of the Community Center in Nea Kavala Camp, and More Dental Treatment in Idomeni Camp, Greece – May 16, 2016
On May 16, a few members of our relief team went to the warehouse in Polykastro to sort donated items. Our construction expert went to Nea Kavala camp to continue building the community center and our dental specialist and assistants drove to Thessaloniki in search of dental supplies.
In Nea Kavala camp, while putting up a Styrofoam wall at the community center, fencing around the center, and constructing chairs and tables for the center, our construction expert showed the children the functions of the working tools and their English names. The children enjoyed the demonstrations and taught our construction expert the Arabic names of the tools. Everyone had fun working together.
With the acquired dental supplies, our medical team revisited the gentleman in Idomeni camp and successfully removed his tooth. The man thanked the team profusely, hugging each member with relief. The team then gave checkups and advice to those who sought consultation. It was rewarding to see so many happy faces afterwards.
Additional Dental Treatment and Sharing Flyers at Idomeni Camp, and Continued Construction Efforts a Nea Kavala Camp, Greece – May 17, 2016
Rising with the morning sun, our dental specialist readied his medical bag and traveled to Idomeni camp with a few of our Mongolia relief team members on May 17. A young Syrian woman agreed to be our interpreter. She graciously helped provide a location for setting up a temporary dental station and welcomed patients as they came in. Seeing many patients lacked proper vitamins, our dental specialist agreed to bring some next time. In the meantime, our Mongolian team members walked around the camp sharing “Those Who Have Love Are Nearest to God” flyers with Master’s comforting words in Arabic and English, and “Alternative Living” flyers, which encourage the compassionate, vegan diet. Bottles of shampoo, and balloons for the children were also distributed.
Our construction expert returned to Nea Kavala camp. He built picnic tables at the community center and added finishing touches to the washing unit he previously made. Having been working on this project for days with other volunteers, he felt accomplished as the structure was reaching completion. Soon, the camp members will be able to use the facility to gather with families and friends.
Providing Refugee Relief Assistance in Polykastro, Idomeni Camp, Nea Kavala Camp, and Peraia, Greece – May 18 to 19, 2016
On May 18, two of our Mongolian team members went to the local warehouse in Polykastro to help organize boxes containing clothing items of all types and sizes. Then we headed to Nea Kavala camp and distributed the selected clothes to those we met previously.
Meanwhile, our three-member medical team returned to Idomeni camp. First we handed out daily necessities, such as shampoo, personal bags, shoes, rope ties, and handkerchiefs, to the refugees. Next, with the assistance from a Syrian interpreter, we received dental patients in an area outside the medical train car. The interpreter also helped package medicine for the patients. A young man was quite nervous about his tooth extraction, but he soon learned of the painless procedure and felt comfortable. In the end, our dental specialist personally gave out stickers to young children.
In Nea Kavala camp, our construction expert spent his last day building additional tables and setting up a whiteboard for the classroom, in addition to helping transport various supplies. He was also involved in creating two gardens around the community center, planting fresh produce ranging from strawberries, oregano, peppers and tomatoes to squash, zucchini and more. The camp members were thrilled with the endeavor. They happily assisted with the planting and promised to take good care of the gardens. The next day, our construction expert headed home, leaving behind the community center and the strong bond he had formed with many camp members and volunteers. Our thankfulness for his hard work and positive spirit in assisting the refugees.
Our team drove to Peraia to deliver needed school items, such as a white board, several markers, and English textbooks, to Mr. Kaniwar Ali, a young Syrian man who was an interpreter for our Idomeni medical team previously. He has been giving English lessons to a group of refugees. We also gifted him copies of Supreme Master Ching Hai’s book, From Crisis to Peace – The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer translated into Arabic. In appreciation for the supplies and gift, he invited our team members to tea. During our chat, he mentioned that his wife was vegetarian and agreed that humans should live in peace with all beings.
More Dental Assistance, and Refugee Family Extends Kindness, Idomeni, Greece – May 20, 2016
On May 20, after loading our van with supplies and dental tools, our relief team traveled to Idomeni camp. A Kurdish family from Syria kindly granted us the usage of their tent, turning their home into a makeshift dental station. Courteous and welcoming, they offered our team tea when we arrived. This family has become like old friends, being supportive and assisting with interpretation and distribution work since the beginning of our relief efforts here.
Our dental specialist provided consultation and performed tooth extractions for many refugees, young and old. Our team also distributed sleeping bags, clothes, reusable bags and flashlights.
Afterwards, the Kurdish family insisted that we stay for dinner. They prepared a wonderful, home cooked, vegan meal over open fire. Deeply moved by their sincerity and love, our team continued spending the afternoon with them in songs and laughter. Despite being far from home and faced with hardship, our hosts extended their consideration and kindness to their guests. We wish peace to all the refugees who are going through difficulties.
Traveling to Athens and Chios Island, as Refugees in Idomeni Camp Are Relocated to Other Camps in Greece – May 21 to 23, 2016
With the implementation of the refugee relocation program by the Greek government in Idomeni, refugees were encouraged to move to other camps such as the newly opened ones in Thessaloniki and the surrounding areas. As a result, our relief team spent the last three days from May 21 to 23 finishing up our work. We distributed the remaining supplies and made plans to join the teams in Athens and Chios Island. Our volunteer friends at the warehouse in Polykastro expressed their appreciation for our assistance and wished us well in our future efforts. We exchanged warm embraces and contact numbers.
After a six-hour road trip, our dental specialist arrived at Piraeus Port, joining the Athens team to provide dental care at the port. Our Athens team was delighted, as dental help was very much needed there. We hope the combined efforts of our teams will continue providing comfort and assistance, small or large, to those on their journey towards safety.
Expenditures By The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association For Refugee Relief Work In Idomeni, Greece
|Food for refugees (bananas, bread, juice packs, vegan chocolates etc.), cash assistance to help Syrian refugees and other expenses (toll, flashlights and batteries)||424.56||A|
|Rain boots, materials for shelter and tools for refugees||2,118.00||B|
|Food (peanuts, sultanas, candy, oil, fruit etc.), supplies (digging tools, socks, flashlights, stationery, balloons, gloves, talcum powder, solar lamps, washing tubs, hairbands, firewood, hand sanitizer and other hygiene items etc.), medicine for the refugees, veterinary bills and collars for rescued dogs and relief team’s expenses (transportation, food, phone cards, utilities etc.)||14,176.14||C|
|Medicines, medical expenses, cleaning supplies, clothing items, firewood, school supplies and transportation expenses for the refugees; relief team’s expenses (transportation, food, phone cards, utilities etc.)||14,087.85||D|
|Firewood, shampoo, sunscreen, medicines, school supplies, chocolates, vitamins, bottled water, transportation, monetary contributions, and construction and gardening tools for the refugees; veterinary care, medicines and other expenses for the rescued dogs; relief team’s expenses (transportation, food, phone cards, utilities etc.)||8,128.28||E|
|Total|| EUR 38,934.83