By Chios Island International Relief Team (Originally in English)
Click to reveal reports August 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017
Preparing Vegan Meals and Sharing a Peaceful Atmosphere with the Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – August 1 to 2, 2016
On August 1, our relief team on Chios Island prepared rice and fideo (short noodles) to be served with cucumbers and bread to the refugees. Our Spanish friends helped us and brought much laughter as they brainstormed different skits they could perform for the children at the camps. We also prepared 48 vegan sandwiches, peaches and juice boxes for children going to the school managed by volunteers from Be Aware And Share, a Switzerland-based humanitarian aid organization.
Distribution went very smoothly and efficiently at both Souda and Dipethe camps. We saved about 30 portions of food for the new arrivals from Turkey that evening. By the time everyone had received their meals, there was still a bit of daylight for us to play volleyball and spend time with the people at the camp. As usual, the wind gusts had calmed down and many people were enjoying a swim or cooling down in their homes. Many kids seem to grow taller every time we saw them. Some of them were practicing different languages and others were helping look after their neighbors’ babies. A number of refugees were eagerly getting ready for the interviews in Athens that will determine where their journeys will take them next.
The next morning, it was quiet and the waters serene. We prepared tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches, and bread for this evening’s distribution. We also began cooking chickpeas to make hummus for the next day’s dinner. Upon learning that many refugees were expected to arrive that morning by boat, we felt thankful for Allah’s protection that gave them a safe trip.
At Souda and Dipethe camps, the atmosphere was very light and mellow. Everyone waited patiently in line to receive food and was happy that extra servings of fruits and veggies were available. We also had fun joking around with the refugees, taking pictures together, and playing with the children. A sweet little boy even made a necklace for one of our relief team members. A couple of people told us that they did not know how to play volleyball, so we began teaching them the game. Before we knew it, a large group had joined in the activity. Indeed, it was a blessed day. We pray that such fortune may continue for all beings as humanity unites in compassion and solidarity.
Preparing for More Refugees and Serving a New Vegan Dish, Chios Island, Greece – August 3 to 5, 2016
On August 3, our relief team on Chios Island served bread, olives, cucumbers, and hummus topped with seasonings,. As most of the hummus preparation was done the day before, it was an easier day at the kitchen and the team had more time to meditate and recharge for the evening distribution. At the weekly meeting with all the NGOs, it was decided that nutritious foods such as peanuts, canned beans, and dates will be included to increase the nutritious calories of the dinners in a time-efficient manner. Frontex, the border patrol officers, informed us that they expect more refugees to journey to the island via boat during this period of good weather, so we will have vegan food packs ready in case of any urgent need for the new arrivals.
That evening, things went smoothly at distribution. At Dipethe camp, one little boy also happily came up to us to announce that he will soon be going to Athens. At the end of the day, we had a team meeting about the current situation on the island and the upcoming changes we will be implementing based on the decisions from the weekly meeting. We are grateful to Greece and all the organizations for their compassionate endeavors to help those in need, and pray that such tragic circumstances may quickly be alleviated as more people follow in such a loving, benevolent example.
On August 4, while cooking rice and fideo (short noodles), we started to prepare a new vegan eggplant dish suggested by the refugees for the next day. Several volunteers from CERST (Chios Eastern Response Shore Team) helped us wash, prepare, and boil 350 kilograms of eggplants. As usual, we also packed vegan food with juice packs and dates for the children traveling to school from Vial camp. That evening, we distributed the rice and fideo, bread, cucumbers, and tomatoes to Dipethe and Souda camps. Both places seemed calmer, with a number of families having moved to Athens. Some refugees told us that they had begun the interview process to move on to their next destination and talked with us about their next plans. We were so happy to hear about the progress and share their excitement for the future.
On August 5, the people at both camps were happy to see so many new things. Our eggplant dish was dressed with tomatoes and onions. We also prepared cucumbers and bread, and packed bags of nutrient-rich nuts and raisins to accompany the meal. Everyone’s containers were filled to the brim, and a number of people said they really enjoyed the eggplants. We are eager to continue trying different menu items on Fridays. The arrival of a new food processor to our kitchen will certainly be of great assistance!
With Master’s blessings, we hope to bring the refugees comfort and joy through the gift of vegan cuisine. We pray that all beings may live in peace, health, and well-being as more and more people realize the many delights and benefits of a compassionate vegan lifestyle.
Simple Moments of Joy With Refugees on Chios Island, Greece – August 6 to 8, 2016
On the early morning of August 6, upon hearing that about 60 refugees just arrived by boat from Turkey at a beach on the southern part of the Chios Island, a member of our relief team went to deliver dry vegan food packages to them, assisted by two volunteers. Although, for safety reasons, they could not hand out the food at the beach, they were given permission to do so in Vial camp. The officer in charge said, “You guys do great work!” At the kitchen, we prepared fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and peaches for dinner distribution. A couple of Spanish volunteers brought us Greek sundried tomatoes and seaweed, calling us “family.” We also began making the hummus for the following day. With the collaboration from the volunteers, the dinner distribution went very smoothly. One of the vegan members of Samaritan’s Purse, a United States-based NGO, explained the health benefits of the plant-based diet to the refugees.
On August 7, after a rejuvenating morning of group meditation and watching Master’s videos, some of us traveled to Karfas to pick up dates donated by two young Norwegians for Dipethe camp, while the rest of us started dinner preparations and packing sandwiches for 45 school children. We finished making hummus and got the olives and bread ready. We also loaded biscuit packs donated by some locals to bring to Souda camp. The air was buzzing with excitement in both camps during distribution. Many refugees told us that they liked the food.
The next day, we attended a small food coordination meeting with NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council) and two other volunteer kitchens to plan next month’s meal arrangements, apart from cooking vegam rice and fideo (short noodles) for the refugees and making healthy vegan sandwiches for the students.
At the distribution that evening, we served the food along with bread, peaches, and cucumbers. Four eager young volunteers from Norway and the Netherlands joined us in Souda camp, helping make things very smooth and efficient. In Dipethe camp, our relief team joined other volunteers to dance and sing with the children. It was a delightful experience, and several children kept coming up to our relief members giving kisses and hugs saying, “I love you!” At the end of the night, our relief team and the new young volunteers returned to the kitchen full of vigor and smiles to pack 100 dry vegan food packs to be distributed to new arrivals.
We cherish all these simple moments of joy with people from all walks of life and are grateful to all the officials, volunteers, and locals who help those in need. We pray that the world may soon embrace peace and harmony for all.
Working Together to Provide Vegan Food for Refugees on Chios Island, Greece – August 9 to 10, 2016
August 9 was a hot day on Chios Island, so the pears, tomatoes, bread, and cucumbers our relief team gave out to the refugees were well received. The children loved the Minions stickers we brought them and coincidentally, the very movie would be screened at Souda camp that evening! Distribution went very smoothly and efficiently and the refugees were happy to receive extra fresh produce.
The next day, we organized the olives, hummus, cucumbers and dates for dinner. As most of the preparations were done the day before, some of us were able to enjoy more meditation and sea blessings. With uplifted spirits and renewed energy, we arrived at the camps. A number of people told us that the food was good, and many families came back to receive more portions. In Souda camp, things were busier since there were fewer volunteers. Seeing this, a young Iraqi gentleman from the camp came to assist us. After the dinner distribution, we usually dance and sing with the children in Dipethe camp. Many adults would also join in, laughing and having fun while eating food and enjoying the music. Despite some tension at the camps prior to our arrival, the atmosphere was relaxed and blissful. We thank Allah for watching over the people at the camp, and for bringing us together in friendship and merriment.
On August 10, during the weekly food meeting with other NGOs, NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council) informed us that currently there are 815 refugees in Souda camp and 219 in Dipethe camp. Despite the decreased population, there were 400 new arrivals in the first week of August, with only 10 to 15 people departing every day due to the lengthy asylum process, which raises concerns over where the newcomers will stay and how to provide enough food for them. Per the United States-based NGO Samaritan’s Purse’s suggestion, we will make enough to feed 1,300 people, and the Norwegian NGOs, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) and NRC, will keep track of the extra portions of food that are being distributed at every meal. In addition, Samaritan’s Purse will take care of providing extra fruit to the people in Vial registration camp and our team will supplement this with other nutritious treats such as dates.
We are deeply grateful to the Greek government, officials, and all organizations working to help improve the refugees’ situation, and pray that the refugees may soon enjoy the peace and comforts of a stable home as we join in goodwill to foster a harmonious world.
Continuing to Provide Vegan Meals with Love on Chios Island, Greece – August 11 to 15, 2016
On August 11, our relief team on Chios Island served rice and fideo (short noodles) together with tomatoes, peaches, and bread to the refugees in the evening. Many of them smiled and gave us a thumbs up when they tried the vegan food. There were many new arrivals at Souda camp, so the number of people coming for meals was much higher than before. But thanks to Heaven’s grace, we had just the perfect amount of rice for everyone with extra produce to give out at the end. In Dipethe camp, everything went smoothly, so the team came back to the kitchen early to make falafel using our handy new food processor for the next day.
On August 12, with the help of Spanish volunteers, we were able to finish preparing falafels and tahini sauce, as well as cucumbers and bread, in time for distribution. The people at the camps were excited to see falafels on the menu. The atmosphere was calm in both camps and people received their meals with smiles.
Following distribution, the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) hosted a party in Dipethe with snacks, drinks, and lots of dancing. Volunteers and locals joined the refugees in merriment late into the night. It was a blessed day that filled us with more energy to work harder and bring more scrumptious, nutritious vegan meals to the people in need.
The next day, the Norwegian Refugee Council told us that due to the increasing number of new arrivals on the island, the registration camp in Vial was reaching its capacity and more people will need to be fed. Therefore, our team will also increase the amount of vegan meals we serve accordingly. For dinner, we prepared delicious hummus and tomatoes, cucumbers, pears and bread, and included canned beans in tomato sauce for the refugees.
For the children in Vial camp attending the Education Center in town, we made a fun vegan meal including pasta, which was shaped like the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants, topped with tomato sauce and veggies. At both camps, people were happy as usual to see fresh produce and many also expressed gratitude for the canned beans we offered. Regularly, we receive invitations to join the refugees in their tents for a cup of tea or food, as they are people of great hospitality.
Following another day of serving hummus, bread, olives and dates, we changed the menu to rice and fideo again on August 15. Since it was a public holiday, all bakeries and grocery shops were closed. Thus, we had previously ordered sliced sandwich bread and pre-packaged mixed nuts and raisins to be delivered for serving with dinner. Distribution on both days was calm and smooth. We noticed more people were coming to receive food with some new faces. We hope that both the old and new refugees will continue their journeys for a better life very soon.
Our hearts are ever grateful to Supreme Master Ching Hai for Her compassionate example and for giving us this precious opportunity to take part in this relief mission. Also, our sincere appreciation to the Greek people, the organizations, and volunteers working to assist the people in time of need. We pray that love and generosity may encompass the world and quickly bring peace and comfort for all beings.
Working to Provide Arabic Flatbread and Even Tastier Falafels for Refugees, Chios Island, Greece –August 16 to 19, 2016
On August 16, our relief team on Chios Island prepared tomatoes, cucumbers, pears and bread for dinner distribution. We also gave out canned beans and packs of mixed nuts and raisins at both Souda and Dipethe camps. During distribution, people lined up calmly for their share of fresh produce, dry vegan foods and bread.
The next morning, during the food coordination meeting with all the NGOs, it was reiterated how extraordinary the situation on Chios Island is, where volunteer kitchens are the main food providers for two camps on the island. Funds are available to support the work till January 2017, and by then, the Greek government will be in the position to feed the refugees. For dinner that day, we served hummus, bread, olives, cucumbers and mixed nuts. We were able to give the remaining vegan food to the refugees from Vial.
On August 18, volunteers from different NGOs met with a group of refugees to obtain feedback regarding the meals provided. We learned that a lot of refugees were missing Arabic style flatbread, which is not well known in Greece. We will try to order it promptly. After making the rice and fideo (short noodles) for dinner, we began falafel preparations. We invited a lovely Syrian woman residing at Souda camp to help us alter the recipe so that it was more to the liking of the refugees. The woman told us that even though she looks happy on the outside, her heart was always aching and longing to be with her family back home. We pray that all families and loved ones will be reunited, and the world will soon be peaceful with all beings living in harmony.
Loving Volunteers Helping to Make Falafel, and Vial Camp Schoolchildren Enjoying Vegan Lunches, Chios Island, Greece – August 19 to 22, 2016
On August 19, to prepare falafel, we needed to make thousands of patties by hand and fry them. Luckily, we were joined by two volunteers from Spain who have come to call us their family, a new volunteer from Italy, a returning volunteer from the Czech Republic and a couple of local volunteers. Together we made almost 5,000 falafels using the Syrian recipe from Mervat, a lovely Syrian woman from Souda camp. During dinner distribution, Mervat also helped us serve falafels with tahini sauce to the other residents in the camp. Many were delighted to see her there and were grateful to our group for continuing to find ways of offering meals according to their taste. The feedback was very positive and the atmosphere was light and happy.
The next day, we offered fresh produce and dried fruits and nuts. As the fresh tomatoes are always popular, when we had extras to give, there is a rush to line up. We have come to know many of the people who stay at the camps who always greet us with smiles and sometimes with hugs and kisses. We are grateful to offer nutritious vegan food to our friends and treasure the welcoming nature of the people living at the camps.
On August 21, we made sandwiches with vegan cheese, hummus, tomatoes and lettuce, and also supplied bananas and juice packs for the Vial camp children going to a school run by the Swiss NGO, Be Aware And Share (BAAS). The food was picked up by the volunteers from BAAS the next day. They told us the children loved our food and one of the students even said he/she came to school because of the delicious food. In those two days, we distributed hummus and a rice and fideo dish, respectively at Souda and Dipethe camps. We will continue doing our best to serve the people living in the camps and hope that their asylum application progresses quickly for their peace of mind and so that they may proceed to a better life.
Traditional Syrian Tabouleh and Falafel Friday Meals for Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – August 23 to 25, 2016
On August 23, our relief team on Chios Island welcomed the arrival of five new team members from Mongolia. We also served fresh produce to the refugees. The next day, we prepared rice and fideo (short noodles) and white beans with tomato sauce to be served on August 25. Mervat, a Syrian woman from Souda camp, came to show us how to make traditional Syrian tabouleh with cracked wheat (bulgur), chopped parsley, tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with lemon juice and olive oil. It is a truly refreshing dish, and we will likely include it on the menu. Mervat lovingly helped us make enough tabouleh for the Vial camp schoolchildren’s dinner, which also included vegan popsicles kindly donated by Samaritan’s Purse, a United States NGO.
With the additional team members, we were able to personally deliver the children’s dinner to the Be Aware And Share (BAAS) Education Center and also presented Master’s books, The Dogs in My Life and The Birds in My Life in English and The Noble Wilds in German to the school to help children learn new languages. One of the BAAS volunteers guided us to the Youth Center, where many activities and programs are organized, providing an outlet for creativity and expression for the young people. It is also a way for them to meet and socialize with other youths in a stress-free environment. We hope this support continues and that all young people will grow up in a peaceful, harmonious world.
On August 26, with many helping hands, we made almost 5,670 falafels. This meant that four falafels per person could be served at both Souda and Dipethe camps. We made a slight variation to the tahini sauce by adding diced tomatoes and finely chopped parsley. Everyone loved it! Some people kept asking for more. Even though it was very time consuming to make so many patties by hand, we love Falafel Friday because it is also one of the refugees’ favorite meals.
Today, we also said farewell to two of our Formosan team members. Our Mongolian Association members sang a beautiful song in their honor. We were all very touched and felt much delight from their heartfelt performance. We hope that joy, laughter and peace pervade the entire planet so that we may soon live in a serene world.
New Vegan Dish for Vial Camp Schoolchildren, Chios Island, Greece – August 27 to 29, 2016
On August 27, we made a new pasta dish for the Vial camp schoolchildren with veggie protein mince in tomato sauce and mixed vegetables. The pasta was shaped in fun figures from popular children’s shows. We also prepared bags of dates, juice packs and cucumber sticks for the children. At the kitchen, we were joined by one of our refugee friends from Vial camp who usually walks all the way to Souda camp every day to meet us. He worked diligently and efficiently to help us with hummus preparations, packaging mixed nuts and distribution. We were very touched and welcomed him to join us again.
The next day, we made vegan lunches including sandwiches with vegan cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, hummus and tomatoes, as well as carrot sticks, olives and juice packs for the Vial camp schoolchildren. When the volunteer from the Swiss NGO Be Aware And Share (BAAS) came to pick up the dinner for the young people, she told us one of the children urgently needed clothing items. Therefore, we quickly went to a warehouse nearby and found what was needed. At both Souda and Dipethe camps, we served the hummus with bread along with dried nuts and dried mixed fruit. The atmosphere was calm and distribution ran smoothly.
On August 29, we made more than the usual amount of rice and fideo (short noodles) with mixed veggies, so at dinner distribution, many people in both Souda and Dipethe camps happily lined up for seconds. We even had enough for some of the hungry volunteers from A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet), a Norwegian NGO. One of them is vegan and had not eaten all day, so we made sure he received a generous amount. We were thankful for the opportunity to serve people going through hardships and hope the calm atmosphere will continue in the camps and that the refugees will be able to journey to their desired countries in a timely manner.
Gratitude for a Sweet Smile and Trying a New Way to Cook Rice, Chios Island, Greece – August 30 to 31, 2016
Every day our relief team on Chios Island aspires to serve 1,100 portions of vegan meals in Souda camp and 300 portions in Dipethe camp. Occasionally we have extra food, and the refugees are more than happy to receive it. On August 30, we distributed fresh produce as well as mixed nuts and freshly baked bread. Afterwards, two lovely Arabic girls gave one of us a big hug and a kiss, and one taught us how to say “thank you” and “I love you” in Arabic. We felt that a single sweet smile from a little girl was worth all the day’s hard work.
The next day, after putting the finishing touches on the hummus, we served a tasty vegan meal full of love, nutrition and a good amount of calories. Accompanying the hummus were olives, cucumbers, bread and mixed nuts. Distribution at both camps was smooth and people were happy with their meals.
To improve the way we cook the rice, a team member was inspired to collect wild grass reeds from the local beach to create steam tubes. We normally cook rice in large pots, which has been challenging to cook the rice evenly. We will use the reed tubes as steam outlets in a couple of days to see if the rice will come out better.
More Refugees Arriving in Souda and Dipethe Camps, Chios Island, Greece – September 1 to 3, 2016
Due to the rising number of people making their way across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, the population of refugees on Chios Island has increased. The new refugees used to be taken to the official registration camp in Vial, and stay there. Now as the Vial has reached its capacity, they are coming to Souda and Dipethe camps. Our relief team on the island now needs to prepare approximately 1,450 portions of vegan food to serve both camps.
On September 1, we cooked rice and fideo (short noodles) with mixed veggies, fresh baked bread, pears and dates. The idea of using handmade reed tubes during rice cooking, which was thought of by one of our members, worked well. The rice was cooked more evenly as the reed tubes worked as chimneys pushing the steam up. We will improve the process by cutting the tubes a little shorter to allow more steam to circulate in the pot next time.
To our great honor, we received an emailed letter of appreciation from Floramae, a representative of Samaritan’s Purse, a United States-based NGO. She wrote:
“It has been a pleasure working with you these past months to provide food for the refugees on Chios. I admire your attentive and persistent efforts to provide delicious nutritious meals on a daily basis. On behalf of Samaritan’s Purse, I would like to offer our sincere thanks and wish you success in your subsequent endeavors.”
On September 2, two refugees from Souda camp joined us in the kitchen and gave us good advice on how to improve the falafels. We added a little more water to make them moister and used a little less spices. We also tried falafel scoops for the first time, which helped us make the patties quicker than before. The scoops were a timely gift from Chef Ifty Patel, who started The People’s Street Kitchen and still stays up-to-date with our work through the Love Pyotu Facebook page. Our falafels, served with tahini sauce, fresh cucumbers, and flatbread, was a bigger hit than ever. In Souda camp, one boy came up to hug and kiss us out of appreciation.
We met a 22-year-old Syrian man who arrived on the Island a couple of days ago from Turkey. During the voyage across the Aegean Sea, the small boat capsized and he had to swim for about four hours before being saved by the Hellenic Coast Guard. He lost everything except the clothes he was wearing. Despite such an extreme ordeal, he was staying positive and in good spirits. We will assist him with getting clothes to wear.
On September 3, for the Vial camp children going to the school run by the Swiss NGO Be Aware and Share, we made vegan pasta topped with a delicious tomato sauce with veggie mince and mixed veggies. We also included mixed nuts and juice packs for the youngsters.
To add varieties to the weekly menu for the camps, we plan to serve a scrumptious, vegan Russian salad, which we all loved. We look forward to introducing new vegan meals to the refugees who are waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. We sincerely wish that all countries open their borders in acceptance of displaced people for the opportunity for them to find loving homes.
Looking Forward to Trying New Vegan Recipes for Refugees’ Meals, Chios Island, Greece – September 4 to 6, 2016
On September 4, our relief team on Chios Island served hummus, black olives, flatbread, and mixed nuts at Souda and Dipethe camps. The hearty fava beans in tomato sauce we served with rice the next day was a hit! Understanding that the people need more variety for their meals, we will introduce other vegan dishes to the weekly menu. On both September 4 and 5, we made delicious vegan sandwiches containing tomato, cucumber and vegan cheese for the school children from Vial camp.
On September 6, more people were arriving at Chios Island from Turkey. Luckily, we had enough fresh produce, raisins and bread to distribute to all the regulars and the newcomers at both camps. With the calmer seas, we expect more arrivals, thus we will adjust the amount of portions served accordingly. We look forward to trying vegan new recipes in an effort to provide more variety and good nutrition to the people in need.
Sharing Languages and Meeting with a Friend in Athens, Chios Island, Greece – September 7 to 9, 2016
Two refugees regularly come to the The People’s Street Kitchen on Chios Island to assist our relief team with preparing vegan meals. They teach us some Arabic words to help us communicate with the refugees while distributing food and we teach them some English to help them on their interviews for the asylum application process.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) official, there are currently 1,100 people in Souda camp and 257 in Dipethe camp. We always prepare more meal portions in case there are new arrivals. On September 7, we made and served rice and fideo (short noodles) in tomato sauce, accompanied by cucumbers, black olives, raisins, and freshly baked bread. The next day, we prepared rice and lentil stew served with pears, dates and bread. The lentil stew was another first for our cooking team and at dinnertime, and it was well accepted.
Friday is that time of week when we serve the refugees’ favorite meal – falafels drizzled in tahini sauce. Again, on September 9, the falafels were a massive hit with everyone. Even the volunteers from the Norwegian NGOs, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) and NRC, wanted to try some because they looked and smelled so delicious. Thankfully, we made plenty and we were able to serve people without food cards including those who travel all the way from Vial.
On the same day, one of our team members traveled to Athens to meet Kaniwar and his family, the Syrian/Kurd refugees who assisted our medical teams in Idomeni camp earlier this year. Kaniwar worked as a translator and also helped us set up a system to record all patients’ details, ailments and treatments. It was such a pleasure to see Kaniwar, his wife and little baby boy in a better environment and in happier times, as they are relocating to Lithuania very soon to start their lives anew. We were more elated to hear the family is going veggie and studying Master’s spiritual teachings. We hope many more people join the circle of compassion and become vegan for a peaceful, harmonious world.
Help from Italian Friends; Refugees Appreciate the Hearty, Vegan Meals, Chios Island, Greece –September 10 to 11, 2016
On September 10, an Italian couple came to visit The People’s Street Kitchen ran by our relief team on Chios Island because they were curious about how we cook and serve food to the refugees. Both of them are vegetarian and one of them works for the Asylum Office based at the Vial registration camp. They ended up helping us with food preparation and making sandwiches for the schoolchildren. They were impressed by the teamwork and that the kitchen is completely vegan.
On September 11, we served a very healthy congee (vegetable and rice soup) made with rice, short noodles, potatoes, carrots and yellow lentils, accompanied by olives, mixed nuts, and flatbread. Many of the refugees were grateful for the hearty vegan meal, providing us with very good feedback. They were thankful and appreciative of the effort we put into making their food. After receiving this warm response, we all felt very happy and full of energy again. We hope people around the world continue to remember and embrace the spirit of giving and gratitude.
Deep Gratitude for Master’s Blessings and Sincere Appreciation for Volunteers’ Help, Chios Island, Greece –September 12 to 13, 2016
On September 12, our relief team on Chios Island served vegan fusilli pasta in rich tomato sauce for the first time. At both camps, everyone loved the meal, giving it a thumbs up. The red sauce was made from fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, soya mince, olive oil, onion, green peas, some garlic, and spices. In addition we served nectarines and dried dates. The distribution went quickly and smoothly in a calm atmosphere, and everyone present felt quite content.
The next day, we served delicious green lentil stew with medium grain rice as well as fresh tomatoes, fresh baked bread and dried plums. People enjoyed the vegan food very much and many asked for more. At the end of the day, we even shared our empty bags with those who requested them. We did not have to throw anything away, so we called it “real-time recycling.”
We are thankful for the kind and friendly volunteers from the Norwegian NGO, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet), and some of the refugees who help us set up the area for food distribution everyday, always with a big smile. Above all our deep gratitude for Master’s blessings that envelope us all with unconditional love and happiness.
New Vegan Dishes Served, and Gratitude to Caring NGOs, Chios Island, Greece – September 14 to 16, 2016
On September 14, our relief team on Chios Island introduced another new vegan dish, tomato and fava stew, to the refugees at both Souda and Dipethe camps at dinner time. We also distributed fresh vegetables and mixed nuts. At the town square near Dipethe camp, there was a demonstration by the locals, expressing their frustrations about the refugee situation on the island. Therefore, we distributed the food inside the camp rather than on the outside footpath like we normally do. Even though we prepared a large quantity, the food soon ran out, so a couple of our team members sprinted to the local supermarket and bought sliced bread. They then went to Souda camp to bring back some extra stew. We were grateful for everyone’s kindness and patience during this waiting time.
The next day, rice and red lentils in tomato sauce was served. The people at both camps loved the vegan meal, especially the sauce, so we tried our best to serve every portion with as much tomato sauce as possible. We also distributed fresh tomatoes, pears, mixed nuts, and fresh bread. An elderly lady from the Norwegian NGO, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet), came to tell us we were doing very good job and she appreciated our hard work. Her kind words filled us with love and energy.
On September 16, we prepared falafels. When one of our team members asked jokingly why we always made food on Fridays that needed to be fried? Another team member answered quickly, “because it’s Fry-day.” The witty reply brought laughter to all of us. Smelling the delicious falafels, a passerby stopped by our kitchen, wanting to buy some. We gave him a few to take home as a free sample.
During our daily food distributions we have developed bonds and connections with some refugees. We get hugs and kisses from some, and one of the ladies even greets one of our members as ‘mama’. Among the newer arrivals and some of the older camp residents, we are beginning to see more smiling faces and feel grateful to see a more positive change.
We are also grateful to organizations like the United States-based NGO Samaritan’s Purse and the Norwegian Refugee Council whose staff work very hard and diligently to support the volunteer kitchens on Chios Island to continue providing food for the refugees. Without the support and cooperation of these noble organizations, our relief team members would not have been able to carry on. We are grateful to all who are working towards alleviating the pain and suffering of people in distress and in need. God bless them all.
Surrounded by Kind and Caring People, Chios Island, Greece – September 17 to 18, 2016
On September 17, our relief team on Chios Island served vegan pasta with tomato sauce, veggie mince accompanied by nectarines, peanuts and fresh bread. Many refugees loved the pasta so much that they said they could eat it everyday. Several people came to tell us how much they enjoyed the meal and some even danced to show their appreciation. We were elated to receive this positive feedback. When we returned to the kitchen, one local person kindly gave us a bottle of homemade olive oil. We feel so blessed to have such caring people around us.
The next day, we prepared rice porridge with fideo (short noodles), soy protein, carrots, potatoes and corn, as well as black olives, mixed nuts and flatbread. It was the second time we served the rice porridge. Although it was not in their native cuisine, many people were willing to try it. The atmosphere was calm and the distribution went much faster and smoother than usual. We sensed warmheartedness and care between people. At Souda camp, one little girl came to us with a packet of mixed nuts, asking us to open it for her. As soon as it was opened, she put a peanut into a team member’s mouth to say thank you. It was a very loving and tender moment.
We were glad to see many people at the camps are doing their best to stay happy and positive in their current situation. We felt we are being accepted more into their community, and it is such a honor. We wish them an abundance of God’s love and blessings.
Welcoming Back a Friend, Wishing a Fond Farewell to Team Members, and Grateful That Refugees Enjoy the Vegan Meals, Chios Island, Greece – September 19 to 20, 2016
On September 19, our relief team on Chios Island joyfully welcomed back a volunteer who had previously helped at the The People’s Street Kitchen early this year. She comes from Ireland and is very supportive of the work we do here. She noticed the atmosphere was much calmer in the camps especially during distribution time. At both camps we served vegan penne pasta in tomato sauce with green peas, onions and some garlic, accompanied by pairs and prunes. As soon as people got their share of pasta they immediately ate it and let us know how much they enjoyed it.
As five of our Mongolian team members would be leaving the next day, we had a special vegan dinner at Kostas’ restaurant. Kostas is the incredible person who helped start The People’s Street Kitchen with chef Ifty Patel last year. We were honored to have worked with the beautiful, loving brothers and sisters from Mongolia. We wished them well on their trip back home.
On September 20, we served green lentils with rice, another popular vegan dish among the refugees, as well as fresh tomatoes, mixed nuts and fresh bread. Some people returned to the distribution line asking for more. Volunteers form the Norwegian NGO, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet), also tried it and loved the taste. We were delighted to hear the compliments. We wish all people in the world to have nutritious vegan meals every day. World Vegan, World Peace.
The Closing of Dipethe Camp, and Meeting More New Arrivals, Chios Island, Greece – September 21 to 22, 2016
During the food meeting with other NGOs on September 21, our relief team on Chios Island learned that the Dipethe camp was being closed down and most refugees would be relocated to hotels or camps in Athens, depending on the stage of their asylum application. The Norwegian Refugee Council advised us to adjust the amount of food we prepare over the next couple of days.
We served fava beans in rich tomato sauce, fresh vegetables, peanuts and flatbread at both camps in the evening. The next day, we served rice with fideo (short noodles), veggie mince and green peas, along with apples, mixed nuts and fresh bread. There were significantly less people in Dipethe camp and people enjoyed the extra vegan food they received. One little girl happily told us both she and her brother ate the food and were very full. They said it was delicious.
Over the last couple of days, there have been over 100 new arrivals to Chios Island so we have been meeting many people of different nationalities. In the afternoon of September 22, a small group of the new arrivals held a demonstration to voice their concerns over the asylum application process and barricaded the entrance to Souda camp. Fortunately with the persuasion of the volunteers, officials and other refugees, they cleared the barricades before dinnertime. The atmosphere returned to being calm, and we were able to proceed with the vegan meal distribution as normal. May God’s love embrace all the refugees.
Continuing to Serve Dipethe and Souda Camps; Welcoming New Team Members and Bidding a Fond Farewell to Those Who Were Leaving, Chios Island, Greece – September 23 to 24, 2016
On September 23, our relief team on Chios Island prepared pasta with tomato sauce, mixed nuts and flatbread for dinner. In Dipethe camp, there were even less people compared to yesterday because most families had been moved into hotel accommodations. In Souda camp, there were many people lined up for the vegan meal and it took about two hours as usual to complete the distribution. We were happy that the refugees enjoyed the dinner.
The next day, we served a green lentil dish with flatbread, tomatoes, cucumbers, mixed nuts and olives. Even though Norwegian Refugee Council counted about 60 people still residing at Dipethe camp, we distributed 110 portions of the vegan food because many came back for seconds.
Over the past few days, we have said farewell to some wonderful team members from Mongolia and the United States, and also welcomed the arrival of more team members. One South Korean member is back for the second time and was recognized by a few refugees. One child was so excited to see him that he clung to him tightly! It was lovely to see the reunion. We are grateful for the love and support of our Association members from all parts of the world. Most of all, our deep gratitude to our beloved Master for leading the way and reminding us to be loving, grateful, kind and considerate to people in need.
Wishing All Asylum Seekers Well as Dipethe Camp Closes, Chios Island, Greece – September 25 to 26, 2016
On September 26, our relief team on Chios Island served dinner for the last time in Dipethe camp. After the distribution, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) sent out a message announcing that the camp was closed. The remaining refugees were moved to Souda camp. One local lady who has a store nearby told us she would miss the refugee friends she made. Her children always played with their children and she had formed a strong bond with them. Her loving reaction and loyalty was touching and heartwarming. We wish that all asylum seekers will be be surrounded by caring locals in whichever country they are in. We hope they make progress with their asylum applications so they can begin a new life soon.
At Souda camp, we always work at a fast pace to distribute all the food items so that the refugees do not have to wait too long in the queue, especially with the weather cooling down. We served vegan fusilli pasta, apples, mixed nuts and fresh bread today and chickpeas, black olives, peanuts and flatbread the day before. The NRC is working on developing a food distribution area in Souda that is protected from the wind and rain. We wish them success.
Three volunteers from the Norwegian NGO, A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) visited the kitchen, saying they always wanted to see how we made the food. They were impressed by the food preparation processes because the kitchen is small and there are five gas burners and large pots to cook delicious vegan meals for thousands of people. They said they were truly amazed and grateful. We too thank them wholeheartedly for their kind support.
Serving a Vegan Dinner and Lunch at Souda Camp, Chios Island, Greece – September 27 to 28, 2016
With the closing of Dipethe camp, our relief team on Chios Island only needed to serve meals in Souda camp. On September 27, we made rice, green lentils plus fresh tomatoes, mixed nuts and flatbread. One of our regular volunteers from Italy made a delicious mushroom risotto for us and we were grateful for his assistance.
On September 28, due to another demonstration organized by the locals to express their frustration over the refugee situation on the island, we changed our schedule to distribute food at lunchtime. Thankfully the demonstration was peaceful. We served fava beans and some lentils in a rich tomato sauce, accompanied by flatbread, fresh tomatoes, peaches and mixed nuts.
During distribution, some of us played with the children and talked with the people. One young man from Cameroon became interested in veganism, meditation and our Association. We directed him to a website (www.SMCHIA.com) where he downloaded The Key of Immediate Enlightenment Sample Booklet in French and can watch Supreme Master Ching Hai’s videos. God bless our planet for World Vegan, World Peace.
Grateful for the Assistance and Love from our Refugee Friends, Chios Island, Greece – September 29 to 30, 2016
On September 29, our relief team on Chios Island prepared five pots of cooked rice for over 1,200 people. We continue to use and refine the technique invented by one of our team members of using grass reeds to help circulate the steam in the large pots to cook the rice evenly. Today’s menu included rice with fideo (short noodles), peas and mixed veggies accompanied by flatbread, pears and mixed nuts.
Some of our team members found time to clean and reorganize the little kitchen we are using, making it neat and tidy. One of our regular volunteers was a little sad today because he was missing one of our team members who left yesterday. He is originally from Syria and stays at the Vial registration camp. Having been through a very difficult ordeal in his homeland, he considers us to be his family.
On September 30, we served fusilli pasta in a rich tomato sauce with soya mince, zucchini and onions, accompanied by fresh tomatoes, black olives, prunes and flatbread, for dinner in Souda camp. One of the camp’s residents volunteered to interpret for us on the women’s side of the distribution line. This allowed us to understand their needs and share more laughter with them. We were grateful to such a kind helper. We were also delighted to see a positive change in a young man named Khalid from Syria. He was smiling more, singing and communicating with us more than before, and even making jokes. We felt it was a wonderful day.
Offering Comfort and Vegan Food for Refugees Who Are Ill, Chios Island, Greece – October 1 to 2, 2016
In the evening of October 1, many young people came to help our relief team on Chios Island to unload the van and set up for the vegan dinner distribution in Souda camp. They were happy to help and did so very efficiently with the assistance of an interpreter. While we were giving out extra food, the people waiting in line sang a cheerful song. It was wonderful to see people so joyous. On tonight’s menu, we had rice and green lentils accompanied by fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, dates and flatbread. We also made nutritious sandwiches on wholemeal bread for the children from Vial camp going to school in town. In addition, we brought leftover vegan pasta from the day before to a retirement home. They were very grateful for the food and welcomed us to come again.
On October 2, a young man from Cameroon named Jonathan joined our team to clean the area in front of the kitchen. He was interested in Master’s teaching and our Association, and he enjoyed the vegan lunch made by our team cook. We served fava beans in tomato sauce as well as olives, dates, peanuts and flatbread in Souda camp. A little girl gave bougainvillea flowers to our team members and the volunteers from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet). It was a lovely gesture and we enjoyed working amongst the beautiful flora.
Upon the request from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) – The UN Refugee Agency, we brought food to the refugees living in a hotel near the kitchen who needed special care. Two men from Syria were very sick, but they were not able to go to the hospitals in Athens at the moment. It was clear that they needed special dietary requirements and some extra TLC (tender loving care). We spent some extra time with them and transferred one of Master’s songs to the young man’s phone encouraging him to listen to it whenever he was feeling down. We also called Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario (SMH) to assist the men with their medical needs. SMH are true heroes. They are a small group of medical volunteers from the Basque Country in Spain, dedicated to helping refugees in need of medical care. We will continue to visit these people who are ill, and provide them with nutritious vegan meals. We pray they will receive the treatment they need very soon.
Touched by the Refugees’ Support and Transformations, Chios Island, Greece – October 3 to 5, 2016
Recently there have been many new arrivals to Chios Island, so our relief team has been preparing more portions of vegan food in order to feed everyone. On October 4, after we finished the dinner distribution in Souda camp, some new arrivals came after they had registered in Vial. Many looked exhausted. Luckily we had some leftovers, so we walked up to them and offered them a meal. The next evening, one man came to tell us the food was delicious. He kept saying “thank you” while placing his hand on his heart in gratitude. We were incredibly moved and grateful for his sincere support.
Being on the island for many months, we have had the opportunity to connect with many people and witness the positive changes in them. For example, when we first met 19-year-old Khalid from Syria, he had been drinking and had lost all hope. One day when he told us his story, he broke down and cried. Now he has stopped drinking, looks bright and happy, and even jokes around with us. He comes to help us in the kitchen sometimes as well. We thank Heaven for this great transformation in him.
Jonathan, the young man from Cameroon who has also been helping us in the kitchen, was very depressed because he had lost his phone, which was the only way for him to communicate with his family, watch Master’s videos or read The Key of Immediate Enlightenment Sample Booklet. After we presented him a new phone, he was extremely happy as he could resume contact with his family and continue studying Master’s teachings.
Sharing a Vegan Lunch with Special Guests; More New Arrivals at Souda Camp, Chios Island, Greece – October 6 to 7, 2016
On October 6, our relief team on Chios Island prepared a delicious vegan lunch for two special guests visiting our kitchen: one was a representative from European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and the other was the Regional Manager in Greece for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). They wanted to see how we managed to cook for thousands of refugees every day. Both were very impressed that the cooking could be done in such a small space using a few pots. They were doubly impressed by the vegan lunch, which included nori rolls, summer rolls, hummus on lettuce, vegan protein slices with eggplant, stir fried noodles, vegan cheese and steamed cake. NRC’s Regional Manager commented that he could easily become vegan if he could eat this food every day.
At dinnertime, we served rice with fideo (short noodles) with mixed veggies and tomato sauce in Souda camp. We also shared bananas, mixed nuts and flatbread. People loved the food, and by the end of distribution, all the portions had been served. Two volunteers from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) returned here after a couple of months, bringing back music and dancing activities. It was a joy to see both the children and the adults joining in the fun again.
The next day, with more new arrivals in Souda camp, we served over 1,470 portions of vegan food without missing anyone. We made fusilli pasta in tomato sauce with soya mince and zucchini accompanied by fresh tomatoes, black olives and flatbread. People enjoyed the pasta so much they came back to thank us for the delicious meal.
On a different note, we noticed that there was a family of ducks living in the area of our team base. It was heartening to see that people had accepted them as a part of the local community. Not only do they feed the ducks, they even built a little floating house for them in the small harbor. The ducks occasionally come to our doorstep for water and food, which we lovingly provide. We pray that all creatures, humans and non-humans, live peacefully together on Earth.
Recovering from a Fire in Souda Camp; Locals Donating Vegetables for the Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – October 8 to 9, 2016
In the early morning of October 8, our relief team on Chios Island received messages and photos via WhatsApp that there was a fire in Souda camp in the waking hours. Many NGOs’ containers were burned, and some people had to be evacuated. Thankfully no one was hurt. Our hearts go out to the families and individuals who had to go through such an ordeal during their current situation.
Fortunately, by dinnertime, the camp returned to calm and had been cleared of the burnt debris. We served 1,420 portions of vegan green lentil stew with rice, accompanied by tomatoes, cucumbers, dates and flatbread. We had enough for the new arrivals too. As the lights in the camp had not been repaired after the fire, we used headlights, flashlights or phone lights during distribution. Volunteers from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) played music for the children and held a dancing activity, which helped cheer everyone up.
On October 9, several lovely local people stopped by our kitchen to donate some frozen green beans and carrots intended for the refugees. We were grateful to these thoughtful people for their support. We served fava beans in a rich tomato sauce, along with olives, figs, mixed nuts and flatbread. After the dinner distribution, a lovely little girl came and hugged all the volunteers. It was her way to say thank you and goodnight. It was so sweet and heartwarming. We wish her to be loving and cheerful all the time.
In these two days, we also prepared vegan sandwiches and snacks for the school children from Vial camp. For the young girls going on an excursion organized by NGO Be Aware and Share, we packed them extra vegan pasta and vegetable meals as well.
Help from Norwegian Refugee Council; Preparing for Colder Weather; Chios Island, Greece – October 10 to 11, 2016
On October 10, since the electricity in Souda camp on Chios Island had not been restored after the fire a couple of days ago, the Norwegian Refugee Council kindly installed lights powered by a portable generator on top of the our relief team’s van. Thanks to their support, we were able to serve over 1,360 portions of vegan fusilli pasta in tomato sauce with soya mince and zucchini, accompanied by fresh bananas, peanuts and flatbread. We also prepared a vegan dinner for the school children from Vial camp, which included pasta, peanuts, juice packs and small vegan chocolates.
The next day, new arrivals came to Souda camp after registration in Vial. We personally delivered a vegan dinner to them so they did not have to wait in line. They were grateful to receive the food after the exhausting boat journey from Turkey to Greece. We served everyone vegan green lentil stew with rice plus fresh tomatoes, peanuts, dates and flatbread.
As the temperature starts to drop, the authorities are searching for another food distribution spot so that volunteers and the refugees can be sheltered from the weather elements. They are also looking at improving the accommodations in Souda camp, as the tents are not suitable for cold, wet weather. We hope they will quickly find solutions.
Offering Vegan Meals to New Arrivals, and Continuing to Serve the Refugees in Souda Camp, Chios Island, Greece – October 12 to 13, 2016
On October 12, our relief team on Chios Island served 1,230 portions of hearty chickpeas in tomato sauce with flatbread, fresh tomatoes, pears and mixed nuts to the refugees in Souda camp. During the distribution, one volunteer from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) informed us that 15 new arrivals were in the camp and they were tired and hungry. We saved many portions for them and personally handed them their vegan meals wishing them bon appetite. We are always grateful for the support of the volunteers from A Drop in the Ocean, and always share our food with them.
On October 13, we prepared 35 portions of a vegan rice and fideo (short noodles) dish and yummy vegan cheese made in Greece for the schoolchildren from Vial camp. We also gave them peanuts, juice packs and traditional vegan Greek cookies. For the refugees, in addition to the rice and fideo, we also served fresh bananas, peanuts and flatbread.
One of our team members made almond milk for the entire team and used the remaining parts of the almonds to make vegan fish and ham. It was a lovely treat for the team. The food was absolutely delicious and environmentally sustainable, too. We wish all people in the world to turn to sustainable living, lighten their eco-footprint, and enjoy vegan food as good as we have.
Thankful for International Helpers in the Kitchen, and Offering a New Vegan Dish, Chios Island, Greece – October 14 to 15, 2016
On October 14, thanks to the assistance from five refugees from Souda camp and our usual helper, Salem, our relief team on Chios Island was able to finish cooking 1,326 servings of vegan fusilli pasta for tonight and prepare for a new vegan dish called ragoût for tomorrow. Our kitchen was like a mini-United Nations with people from 12 different countries gathering together to peel and prepare 60 kilograms of onions, 160 kilograms of potatoes, 100 kilograms of sweet potatoes, and grind up 20 kilograms of peanuts.
To our great delight, ragoût was a hit. Everyone loved it, and it was a perfect hearty meal for a cold night. We also served fresh tomatoes, peanuts and flatbread. We noticed a few less people lining up for food, and later found out from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that a few families had been moved into hotels.
For the schoolchildren from Vial camp, we made 30 vegan sandwiches with whole wheat bread, vegan cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and a sprinkling of parsley. We also gave them orange juice packs and vegan grape cookies. The volunteers from Be Aware And Share, the Swiss NGO that manages the school, expressed their appreciation for the meals. We are grateful to all volunteers from various organizations helping out during this crisis and wish them lots of strength, love and courage.
Colder Weather Begins on Chios Island, Greece – October 16 to 18, 2016
On October 16, a young Syrian/Kurd refugee from Souda camp who is interested in veganism joined our relief team on Chios Island to prepare 1,190 portions of a vegan fava bean dish for the refugees and 40 vegan sandwiches for schoolchildren from Vial camp. We were sincerely grateful for his support. Our regular helper from Vial camp let us know that the schoolchildren thought the sandwiches we made for them were the most delicious in the world!
The next day, the weather was extremely windy and chilly. We noticed during dinner distribution in Souda camp that some refugees were wearing very light clothes and flip-flops. We took one man who was feeling ill to the warehouse and helped him select a warm hoodie, a rain jacket, socks and good shoes. He was very grateful.
On October 18, there were less people at Souda camp because a couple families were moved to hotels and some accommodated in Vial camp. We served 940 portions of vegan green lentil stew with rice plus fresh tomatoes, dates and flatbread for dinner. It was also very gusty and cold, like winter had arrived. Fortunately, we heard that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will have a clothing distribution in a few days.
Meeting with Other Volunteer Kitchens to Improve Service to Refugees; Touched by Refugees’ Stories, Chios Island, Greece – October 19 to 20, 2016
On October 19, a member of our relief team on Chios Island attended a focus group meeting with other volunteer kitchens held at the office of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). During the meeting, representatives of the refugees in Souda camp gave us feedback. One request was to have more salt added to the food for flavor. Our team member raised concern for those who have high blood pressure. The NRC assured us that people with special diet requirements are taken care of by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
After the meeting, three refugee representatives were invited to our kitchen for lunch. They suggested seven vegan traditional dishes that we could try in the future. A few of our team members spent some time teaching English to Salem, our diligent helper from Vial camp. He was learning numbers and how to use “I”, “you,” “he,” and “she.” It is not easy for him but he keeps trying. We are looking at sourcing some English language books for him.
For dinner, we served chickpeas in rich tomato sauce with flatbread, fresh tomatoes, figs and peanuts. There were less people to get food as the weather is turning colder, and some people had left for Athens. A group of young men from Syria told us that it was difficult for them to get any clothing items because the vulnerable people are normally cared for first. We promised to provide them with warm jackets, shoes and socks soon. From our conversation, we learned that back in Syria their school was bombed and many of their classmates and teachers did not make it. We thank God they are still alive and encouraged them to stay hopeful and pray with us for world peace.
The next day, we served 1,235 portions of vegan pasta in tomato sauce with soya mince and zucchini accompanied by flatbread, fresh tomatoes and black olives. We also prepared 40 portions of vegan pasta and snacks for the schoolchildren from Vial camp. Three refugees came to help us prepare food in our kitchen. One of them, a man from Lebanon, told us that he swam all the way from Turkey to Chios Island. It took him over seven hours! We were all amazed by his incredible feat. He revealed that he stopped eating meat when he was five years old because he did not like the thought of eating animals. He does not drink or smoke and is now completely vegan. We happily shared with him an Arabic version of Master’s book From Crisis to Peace – the Organic Vegan Way is the Answer, hoping Master’s words of wisdom will bring him comfort and inspiration.
Introducing New Vegan Dishes Each Week on “Surprise Friday,” Chios Island, Greece – October 21 to 22, 2016
Our relief team on Chios Island decided to make each Friday a “Surprise Friday,” meaning on this day we will create a new vegan dish to add varieties to the dinner menu for the refugees in Souda camp. On October 21, our first Surprise Friday, we made a scrumptious veggie-protein stew, which included potatoes, white beans, chickpeas, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms, served with rice. Words about the tasty new dish were soon spread around camp, and fairly quickly almost 1,200 portions were served with no leftovers. A few women came over to tell us that it was the best dish we have made. We were extremely happy and thank God for giving us the inspiration.
The next day, according to the feedback of the refugees, we added more salt to the rice and fideo (short noodles) dish, which was distributed with flatbread, bananas and peanuts. People appreciated the hot and flavorful food during these colder weather conditions, and by the end of the day, everything was gone. A volunteer from the Norwegian Refugee Council played music to entertain those waiting in line, and some people started dancing. Many children came with their faces painted as cute kittens. They would “meow” and we would “meow” back. The atmosphere was warm and joyful.
Today was one of our Mongolian team members’ birthday. Even though we do not have an oven, our talented team cook from Formosa made an orange steamed cake with beautiful decorations on it. Everyone loved the cake including our two helpers from Souda and Vial camps.
Eco-friendly Cooking Practices While Preparing Vegan Meals for Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – October 23 to 24, 2016
On October 23 and 24, our relief team prepared vegan wholemeal sandwiches and delicious pasta dishes, respectively, for the children going to the school in Vial managed by the Swiss NGO Be Aware And Share (BAAS). The volunteers from BAAS expressed their gratitude for the vegan food, because the children love it and it is one of the main things they look forward to when they come to school.
For the refugees in Souda camp, we served fava beans on the first day and vegan pasta with zucchini and soya mince on the second, which were distributed with flatbread and various fruits and nuts. When it got windy, we made sure to cover the meals to keep them free of sand or dust.
To celebrate The Supreme Master Ching Hai Day on October 25, and bid farewell to our four Mongolia team members, our cook made a special chocolate steamed cake decorated with oranges, accompanied by French fries and organic soymilk. The leftover soybean sediments were used to make soft tofu and fried soybean cakes, which were tasty and environmental friendly.
We do our best to recycle and reuse in our kitchen to protect Mother Earth. For example, all the vegetable peels and food waste are saved for a local organic farmer to collect on a daily basis. The packaging bags and boxes are either used in the kitchen or given to the refugees to carry their meals. We will continue striving to minimize our ecological footprint and work for a peaceful, vegan world.
Special Treats to Celebrate The Supreme Master Ching Hai Day, Chios Island, Greece – October 25 to 26, 2016
In celebration of The Supreme Master Ching Hai Day on October 25, our relief team on Chios Island distributed Turkish Delights, a traditional vegan Middle Eastern sweet, while serving vegan lentil stew and rice at dinnertime. On the windy and cold evening, the Souda camp residents appreciated the hot, hearty meal and the special treats very much. Many of them kept coming back for more until we ran out at the very end. Our relief team enjoyed the vegan, non-alcoholic wine made by a team member. Two of our regular refugee helpers in the kitchen gave it a thumbs up.
There are currently fewer people in Souda camp because some of the refugees were transferred to hotels and others had left the island for Athens. On October 26, we served 1,045 portions of chickpeas in tahini sauce with diced tomatoes and parsley, accompanied by flatbread, fresh tomatoes, peanuts and figs. The tahini sauce was made with the help of a young lady from Syria who also joined us for the dinner distribution. Thanks to her and other volunteers in the camp, the food was distributed smoothly and efficiently.
Grateful for Our Refugee Friends’ Help in The People’s Street Kitchen, Chios Island, Greece – October 27 to 30, 2016
On October 27, our relief team on Chios Island served 1,041 portions of vegan pasta accompanied by flatbread, fresh tomatoes, peanuts and raisins. Several young refugees helped us set up in Souda camp. At one point, the floodlights suddenly went off and some refugees quickly turned on their mobile phone lights to help us see. We were grateful for their timely help. We also packed Turkish Delights in addition to a vegan chickpea dish for the schoolchildren in Vial. In preparation for tomorrow’s dish, three refugee helpers joined us to prepare veggies. One of them used to be a chef and he cut all the tomatoes in a quick and professional manner. He also made a nice vegan tabouleh salad for us.
October 28 was a national holiday in Greece. As our van approached the kitchen, we were greeted by Salem, our regular helper from Vial camp, who was cheerfully waving a Greek flag. We served dinner for the first time at a new distribution site set up by Norwegian Refugee Council. It was at a much better location with more space. We distributed 1,030 portions of veggie-protein stew with mixed vegetables and rice, which would help warm everyone up on such a cold and windy night.
The next day, we served another 1,120 portions of rice and fideo (short noodles) with veggies, accompanied by flatbread, fresh bananas and peanuts. For the schoolchildren in Vial, we made 40 of their favorite type of sandwich, which includes vegan cheese, tomatoes, tahini, parsley and lettuce. One of our helpers, Jihad from Souda camp, made a beautifully decorated traditional Syrian rice dish for us, which we greatly appreciated.
On the evening of October 30, we distributed less food than usual, partly because more refugees were relocated and partly because of the conflict that happened the night before. Upon knowing that one of our helpers had been translating for the police several hours and needed vegan food, our cook quickly prepared a delicious meal, which we delivered promptly to him and other translators. We also shared Turkish Delights with the police to lighten up their evening. We hope the conflicts and tensions in the camp will subside and that people will turn to be more loving and understanding in these times of hardship.
Serving a Traditional Syrian Dish, Chios Island, Greece – October 31 to November 2, 2016
After the recent conflict in Souda camp, we heard that the leaders from each community in the camp came together one night to talk about how to bring peace to the camp. We hope this sort of communication continues.
On October 31, we served over 1,100 portions of a vegan pasta dish for dinner accompanied by flatbread, fresh bananas and peanuts. With the help of Jihad, one of the refugee volunteers, we made 40 vegan fajitas for schoolchildren from Vial camp. It was the first time Jihad used vegan protein, and he did an amazing job.
The next day fewer people came to eat the vegan rice dish we brought due to the chilly night, and also two families had left for Athens. During the day, together with two refugee volunteers, we dismantled a large palm tree stump that was blocking the access to a driveway. Another team member cleaned the kitchen windows.
On November 2, we served a traditional Syrian dish for the first time, which was vegan and made of broad beans in tahini sauce. Flatbread, fresh tomatoes, figs and peanuts were also distributed. We always try to improve the meals so that everyone is happy.
Coping with the Rain, and Preparing Mjadara, Chios Island, Greece – November 3 to 6, 2016
Despite the cold and windy weather, on November 3, a lovely couple from Ancona, Italy returned to The People’s Street Kitchen on Chios Island to volunteer to help our relief team prepare meals. They were here previously in April. We are sincerely grateful for their kind hearts and support. At dinnertime in Souda camp, we served 1,054 portions of a vegan pasta dish with flatbread, black olives and mixed nuts. We also made 40 healthy, vegan sandwiches for the children from Vial camp attending a school managed by the Swiss NGO Be Aware And Share (BAAS). We always make lunches for the BAAS volunteers as well, and they are very appreciative.
Because of the prolonged rain on November 4, we moved inside to prepare vegetables and other ingredients. It was cramped, but we managed to cook a hearty, vegan vegetable stew with rice, which was distributed with flatbread, fresh tomatoes and peanuts. We learned that rain had seeped through some of the refugees’ tents leaving many of their clothes and belongings wet. We pray that they will soon move on to better living conditions and better lives.
Thankfully the sun came out on November 5. Our team served 1,027 portions of rice and fideo (short noodles) for dinner along with lots of bananas, flatbread and peanuts. In addition to the nutritious vegan sandwiches for the Vial schoolchildren, we gave them each vegan chocolate wafers as treats.
With the help from chef Jihad and a few other refugees from Souda camp, we prepared a traditional, vegan Syrian rice and lentil dish called mjadara on November 6. Many people were happy to eat a familiar dish like mjadara. Jihad has a passion for cooking and feels grateful for the opportunity to cook again. He is very considerate of our team and made falafels for all of us. He also made some for the Vial schoolchildren, which we put into whole wheat sandwiches, drizzled with tahini sauce, tomatoes and lettuce. We heard the following day that the children absolutely loved it! We too are grateful for the opportunity to work with such beautiful people of different nationalities and cultures and learn from them. God bless them all.
Volunteers from Around the World Working Harmoniously to Prepare Meals; Serving a Vegan, Traditional Nigerian Dish, Chios Island, Greece – November 7 to 11, 2016
These days, many refugees in Souda camp volunteer to work in the kitchen of our relief team on Chios Island. We are happy to see people of different nationalities working harmoniously together. Not only are they willing to help, but they also have a passion for cooking.
On November 7, we distributed 1,110 portions of vegan pasta in tomato sauce, vegetables and soya mince, together with kiwis, peanuts and flatbread. Everyone loved the meal so much that there was absolutely none leftover. Jihad, our young refugee friend, made 40 portions of rice with veggies for dinner for the schoolchildren from Vial camp. We also packed juice, black olives and vegan chocolate wafers for them.
On November 8, three guests from the Basque volunteer kitchen came to interview us and observe how we cook rice in big pots. Jihad showed them his method and our chef demonstrated how to use grass reeds to circulate steam. We also offered them Greek coffee, vegan cheese and fried soya bean cakes. The guests were very impressed. The rice dish prepared by Jihad received positive feedback from the refugees and many of them gave it a thumbs up. Another refugee named Victor made a traditional Nigerian dish for us to sample at lunch. It was very flavorful, so we decided to add it to our menu for Souda camp.
On November 9, due to an incident in Souda camp, the electricity was disrupted, so we served dinner in the stormy weather with barely any lighting. Even though many of us were soaking wet, we continued working with the other volunteers from the Norway-based A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) and the Norwegian Refugee Council to make sure everyone got their share. We were grateful to the diligent volunteers for their dedication and commitment to help the refugees.
Our mood was lifted by the bright sun on November 10. With the extra help from the refugee volunteers, not only did we serve over 1,050 portions of a vegan pasta dish, we also prepared for the Nigeria dish to be served the next day, which was a Happy Friday and a holiday on the Island as well. Victor’s Nigerian vegan dish, the black-eyed peas with sweet potatoes, was incredibly tasty and many people praised the hearty meal. We served almost 1,100 portions with flatbread, fresh tomatoes and peanuts. We look forward to making it again for the people.
A New School Opens for Refugee Children, Chios Island, Greece – November 12 to 15, 2016
On November 12, our relief team on Chios Island served over 1,100 portions of rice with fideo (short noodles) accompanied by flatbread, fresh bananas and peanuts in Souda camp. Bananas are always popular among the children many of whom came asking for them.
The next day, we brought a steamed cake decorated with various fruits and Mexican fajitas to the opening ceremony of a new school organized by Be Aware And Share (BAAS), a Switzerland-based humanitarian aid organization. The atmosphere was harmonious. We felt the school was a wonderful place for children to learn and make friends. For dinner, we assisted the refugee volunteers to make mjadara, a traditional, vegan Syrian dish with rice and lentils, which was distributed with flatbread, black olives, dates and mixed nuts.
On November 14, apart from making a vegan pasta dish for the refugees, we also put together 20 meal packs with juice and Turkish Delight for the children going to the new school. At night, we were blessed to see the beautiful supermoon over the Sea, which delighted our hearts.
It was incredibly windy and chilly on November 15, and fortunately, volunteers from the Norway-based NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) started distributing warm clothing items. Together with Jihad, a refugee volunteer who is a very talented and creative cook with over nine years of experience, we made a vegan rice dish with peas, sweet corn and carrots for the refugees. We also packed 45 portions of food for the schoolchildren.
A couple of days ago, a very adorable, stray kitten came to our house, seeking food and comfort. We discovered one of his hind legs was very swollen so we took him to the vet. The vet performed a minor procedure and the kitty has since been in a very good spirits. We all fell in love with this sweet and playful kitten, and wish to find a loving home for him.
Offering Love, Warmth and Support for Refugees on Chios Island, Greece – November 16 to 17, 2016
On November 16, our relief team members on Chios Island took some of our volunteers from Souda and Vial camps to the warehouse to find some warm clothes, hats and blankets, as the weather is getting colder. They were very happy to select their clothing. In the evening, we served a hearty, vegan meal including broad beans, flatbread, fresh tomatoes, kiwis and peanuts. Some of our team members made Chinese dumplings for the team and the volunteers, which was enjoyed by everyone.
The next day at noon, we went to check the condition of Souda camp after hearing that the camp had been attacked the night before. We saw that some tents were damaged by huge rocks, and one of the main tents was set on fire. A United Nation Refugee Agency representative was doing her best to find other accommodations for the frightened families wanting to leave the camp. We had much less people come to receive their food for dinner.
In the evening, there was another attack by the same group, so many families chose to stay in a nearby car park outside the camp for safety. We brought more blankets from the warehouse and distributed them among the families at the car park. We also provided everyone hot tea to keep them warm, and gave candy for the children. To show our love and support, we stayed with them throughout the night until early the next morning. A young mother with a baby told us she was very cold, so we let her and her family sleep inside our van. We sincerely hope and pray that the situation will quickly improve as more people are turning towards their loving, compassionate nature.
Continuing to Support Refugees with Vegan Meals and Hot Tea, Chios Island, Greece – November 18 to 19, 2016
On November 18, after serving dinner in Souda camp, we received a call from Dalia, a refugee volunteer at our kitchen who is sharing an apartment with a few other women. The apartment was arranged and paid for by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Dalia asked us if we could provide meals for 12 people because she had taken in some women and children after the conflict in the camp. Our team quickly heated up 12 portions of a vegan pasta dish and packed pears, peanuts and flatbread for them. They were extremely grateful for the meal. For safety reasons, many people still chose to spend the night outside the camp in the cold car park, so we brought them hot tea that night and the next morning.
On November 19, Victor, a volunteer from Souda camp cooked a vegan Nigerian dish with black-eyed beans and sweet potatoes, which was served with freshly baked bread as well as tomatoes and peanuts. Some refugees came to let us know they appreciated the meal very much. For the Vial children going to school, we prepared 45 delicious vegan sandwiches and small vegan chocolates as snacks. That night, the weather was cold, so some refugees moved back to their tents as the situation in the camp was calmer. However, a few families decided to stay outside again, so we served them hot tea to help keep them warm and show them that we care.
Refugee Children Promote Peace in Photos That Go Viral, Chios Island, Greece – November 20-23, 2016
From November 20 to 23, several refugees on Chios Island continued to stay overnight in the nearby car park in a peaceful protest to highlight the security and safety issues in Souda camp. They wish to make peace with the Greek people, and disagree with those who violated the laws. Thus, our relief team continued to offer them warm tea every day apart from serving over 1,000 portions of a vegan dinner in the camp.
Before leaving for Athens, one of the refugee volunteers at our kitchen, Dalia, had the idea of making a photo with children from Souda camp forming the word “PEACE.” We quickly arranged a professional photographer to come to the camp and help the children to make the formation, which they did with much delight and laughter. As soon as the photographer sent us his photos, we shared them via social media and within a couple of hours they went viral! We thank God for the inspiration, and hope the images of “Peace in Souda” will help raise awareness about the refugee situation and inspire peace and acceptance in all.
P.S. We brought the rescued kitten home after he had stayed at the vet’s for a few days and named him Henry. Henry is looking bigger and happier now. He will stay with us until we find him a permanent and loving home.
Vegan Meals for a Women’s Center for Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – November 24 to 27, 2016
On November 24, our relief team on Chios Island served vegan pasta in tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms along with flatbread, black olives and peanuts. We also saved 45 portions of the pasta dish for the children going to the school managed by the Swiss NGO Be Aware And Share (BAAS). In the evening BAAS volunteers sent us a photo of the olives we provided for the children arranged in the shape of heart, expressing their gratefulness for our support. We too thank them for their benevolent service to the refugee children.
It was the last day of our Spanish team members on the island. As a gesture of love and friendship, they printed four English learning books for our refugee volunteers, encouraging them to enhance their English language skills.
The next day, after serving 1,200 portions of a rice and fideo (short noodles) dish, a woman from the Women’s Center for Refugees came and asked for the remaining food to share with the women and children at the Women’s Center. We were very touched by her love and care.
On November 26, as there had been an increase in the number of refugees coming by boat from Turkey, we made an extra broad bean vegan dish for dinner to make sure everyone received a portion. We also made 45 portions of vegan sandwiches with soya protein prepared by Jihad, our refugee chef from Souda camp, who fried it with onions and mushrooms. It was wonderful to see how quickly he has picked up ways to make delicious vegan meals. At the end of distribution, the kind woman from the Women’s Center returned to take the remaining food back, so we planned to include them in our meal planning going forward.
It was wet and rainy on November 27, but thankfully not too cold. We served almost 1,120 portions of a vegan rice dish made by chef Jihad based on a traditional Syrian recipe. With the participation of Jihad and other refugee volunteers, The People’s Street Kitchen is becoming warmer and more vibrant with the different nationalities present. We are thankful for this experience and the opportunity to learn more about other cultures.
Helping Refugees as Winter Nears, Chios Island, Greece – November 28 to 30, 2016
During the past three days (November 28 to 30), the weather on Chios Island has been incredibly wet and cold. Our relief team members were very concerned about the living condition of the refugees, as Souda camp is not well equipped for winter. We were especially worried about those staying on the beach, as their tents would not withstand the strong wind. Thankfully, the municipality team and volunteers helped assemble stronger tents on the beach and add extra protection for the ones in the camp.
As our team has access to the refugee supply warehouse, we were able to provide the needed clothing items and blankets to some refugees. Other volunteer groups, such as Chios Eastern Shore Response Team and the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet), were also working diligently to deliver basic supplies. However, it is important to move the refugees indoors such as in hotels, apartments or community halls that are available. We pray that the authorities on the island will take action soon.
Our team continued serving vegan dinners to the refugees to keep them healthy and warm. On November 29, the refugee volunteers took charge of the kitchen and prepared mjadara, a traditional, vegan Syrian dish with rice and lentils, thus allowing most of our team members a break. We took the chance to do a little tour of this beautiful island.
After dinner distribution on November 30, one of our refugee volunteers mentioned he was cold at night, so we took him to the warehouse to collect blankets. He is only 20 years old and he fled the war in Syria. On the way back, he spoke of his home, where he used to have everything like a warm bed and a computer, but now his house is rubble. He said he missed his mother and wanted to continue his journey to meet up with his family members. He is looking forward for the war to be over, so that he can go back home. It was heartbreaking to hear his story. May Heaven bless all the people afflicted by wars with courage to continue life. May all people find love and kindness within to end all wars.
Refugees on the Beach Moved Inside Souda Camp; Bidding Farewell to Several Volunteers, Chios Island, Greece – Dec 1 to 6, 2016
As winter approaches in early December, our relief team on Chios Island was happy to see that the majority of the tents on Souda beach had been cleared by the municipality management team with the help of the volunteer group Chios Eastern Shore Response Team. The refugees who lived there had been relocated to alternate accommodations within Souda camp.
From December 1 to 6, our relief team served various nutritious, vegan dishes to the refugees in Souda camp, and packed vegan lunches for schoolchildren in Vial. We were blessed to have the assistance from an Italian couple, Marco and Doriana, who stayed for a month at their own expense helping us prepare and distribute food. As the couple and three of our team members were leaving, the chefs from Souda camp, Jihad and Victor, made special mini pizzas and a Nigeria rice dish for the team. The food was very tasty. Marco made a specially baked, vegan dish with zucchini and eggplant – au gratin style. It was also delicious. He even fixed our kitchen door handle and painted the wooden table outside. We were deeply touched by the dedication and selflessness of all the volunteers, and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors
Providing Hearty Vegan Meals as More Refugees Arrive, and Praying for Peace, Chios Island, Greece – December 7 to 11, 2016
Recently there have been more people crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Chios and other islands to seek refuge in Greece. However, the progress of asylum applications has still been fairly slow, so more people have been arriving than those moving on. Sometimes there have been tensions in Souda camp, but fortunately there were people helping to keep others calm and preventing any outbreaks. In addition, a ferryboat strike started in Greece, which means supplies on the island have been getting low. Thankfully the suppliers of our relief team have been doing their best to make sure we have the ordered ingredients and suggest alternatives if certain items were not available.
Despite these new challenges, our relief team provided delicious vegan meals to the refugees from December 7 to 11, such as chickpeas in tomato sauce served with flatbread, white beans with rice and fideo (short noodles), rice and fideo with mixed veggies, and red beans with potatoes. Even though we had fewer members, we were able to manage with the help from our refugee friends from Souda camp – Salem, Jeser, Ahmed and Hasan. Some of them even started to help us wash all the big pots after distribution. We were greatly touched by their sincerity and commitment. We were also grateful to volunteers from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) who lovingly helped fold the lids on the food trays to keep the food warm for the refugees.
On December 11, we made a delicious vegan lunch for six visitors from the head office of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) who secured funding from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) to support the volunteer kitchens providing food to the refugees. The NRC representatives were very impressed by the vegan food and one of them said it exceeded his expectations. During the dinner distribution, we were cautioned by the NRC staff to be careful as there was another major conflict in the daytime that resulted in some injuries. We hope and pray that everyone stays calm and has a restful night, and are grateful to the police for doing their job in protecting all people.
Transitioning Cooking Responsibilities, Chios Island, Greece – December 12 to 15, 2016
The dinner distribution in Souda camp was calm on December 12 as our relief team on Chios Island distributed 1,175 portions of a vegan pasta dish, which was more than the usual number of servings. People from Vial camp and those staying at hotels came for our food as well. We also gave out mandarins, peanuts and flatbread. The next two days were very chilly and we distributed mjadara, a traditional vegan Syrian dish with rice and lentils, and chickpeas in tomato sauce, respectively. Many people also came to get bananas we were offering.
On December 14, our cook made a surprise cake for a team member who has been in Greece for a year doing relief work. We had a lovely celebration with our refugee volunteers. All of us felt grateful for this opportunity to grow and develop our loving nature.
As another team member left for Formosa (Taiwan) on December 15, we now have five members. With the help from the refugee friends, we served white beans in tomato sauce with rice. We are winding down our presence on Chios Island and planning to complete transitioning the cooking responsibility to the refugees and the locals by early 2017. We feel very blessed to be working alongside these admirable people.
On certain days of the week, two of our young refugee volunteers from Souda camp are attending the school managed by the Swiss NGO Be Aware and Share (BAAS). BAAS is doing a brilliant job of helping refugee children get an education. They are currently running a campaign seeking 400 “godfathers and godmothers” to support the school so that it can continue for at least another year. For more information on the campaign visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1159112204116287/1519109204783250/.
Continuing to Share Our Love and Vegan Food with the Refugees, Chios Island, Greece – December 16 to 18, 2016
From December 16 to 18, our relief team served nutritious vegan meals to refugees on Chios Island during the cold winterlike days. Our friends from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) have been helping us place lids on the food containers to keep the meals hot. We are grateful for everyone’s help.
There was a hunger strike on December 18 in Souda camp because the water for showering had been cold most of the time and the electricity was out for many hours on that day. Thankfully, the lights came back on shortly after we started distributing dinner and the strike was soon ended. We hope that the electricity supply of the camp will be more stable and that the Souda camp management team can find a way to provide hot water for the people to bathe in.
Warming Up the Holiday Season with Vegan Soup, and Wishing a Safe, Happy, Peaceful and Loving Home for All, Chios Island, Greece – December 19 to 24, 2016
Since the week before Christmas, the weather had become incredibly cold on Chios Island. The volunteers from the Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) said it was colder than Norway! Unfortunately, there had been many electricity outages in Souda camp, and the refugees had been without hot water for many days. The management team of the camp was doing their best to improve the supply of electricity and the hot water system.
To provide some warmth and love to the refugees, our relief team served nourishing vegan dishes with the assistance of many volunteers. People especially appreciated the lentil soup the kitchen team made and kept giving us positive feedback afterwards. Before heading back to Holland for the holiday, Kostas, the co-founder of The People’s Street Kitchen, visited our team to wish us a Merry Christmas. We feel very blessed to be able to work with such a loving and helpful soul.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, we took our dedicated volunteers from Souda camp Christmas shopping. They were very happy to be able to choose something new for themselves and were extremely grateful for the gifts. During the dinner distribution, we wore colorful headgear to add extra cheer. We were happy to learn that the electricity supply was more stable so people could keep their tents or cabins warm. It was a peaceful night in the camp.
After distribution, our team enjoyed a special holiday vegan feast with the refugee volunteers. There was much joy and laughter. Our chef prepared vegan shepherd’s pie, salad, cinnamon scrolls, an apple Christmas cake and tea. On this holiday season, we wish everyone in the world a safe home where they can find peace, happiness and love.
Santa Claus Gives Gifts to Children in Souda Camp; Working Together to Help the Refugees During the Cold Weather, Chios Island, Greece – December 25 to 29, 2016
December 25, Christmas Day, was a joyful day in Souda camp. Our relief team was invited to join the holiday celebration organized by Chios Solidarity, a caring team of local people. The Norwegian NGO A Drop in the Ocean (Dråpen i havet) kindly helped with the games and distribution. We delivered vegan apple cupcakes happily decorated with vegan cream, bananas and goji berries, which delighted the children. One of the refugees in the camp dressed up as Santa Claus giving gifts to these little angels. It was such a fun and loving atmosphere. Three volunteers from the United Kingdom enthusiastically assisted our dinner preparation, peeling and chopping vegetables and packing food. One of them played the ukulele for us, bringing cheer to the kitchen. Our chef of the day was Jihad from Souda camp who cooked white beans in tomato sauce with potato and carrots and served with rice.
The weather leading up to the New Year was freezing cold. The food distribution area for Souda camp was still outside near the sea where it is almost always windy and cold. Our team has been doing our best to prepare nutritious meals and distribute as quickly as we can. One night, when the temperature was near zero degrees Celsius, the Norwegian Refugee Council decided not to check everyone’s food cards before serving food, which speeded up the process, thankfully. We made sure there was extra food each time so people have enough to eat.
On December 29, due to strong winds and relentless rain, the tent of three of our refugee volunteers in Souda camp collapsed and water soaked almost everything inside. While a couple of us went to the warehouse to find them more blankets and sleeping mats, workers from the United States NGO Samaritan’s Purse helped repair the tent. They were able to move in the next day when the tarpaulin roof was secured back on the roof frame. We continue to hope that a better solution can be found for all the refugees living in extreme conditions. We thank the organizations and the Chios Municipality management team in Souda who are doing their best to improve the life of the refugees.
Wishing for a Peaceful Vegan 2017, Chios Island, Greece – December 30 to 31, 2016 and January 1, 2017
We saw the return of many volunteers who had been on Chios Island a few months ago to help the refugees, including a couple who traveled all the way back from Perth, Australia! Our relief team also welcomed back a member who was returning for the third time to help out. Many refugees were happy to see these familiar faces, as it showed that people had not forgotten about them and care about them.
On New Year’s Eve, three representatives from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) came to wish us a Happy New Year and presented us with a pot of beautiful cyclamen flowers to show their appreciation for our work. We were very heartened by such a caring gesture.
The local NGO Chios Solidarity organized a chocolate-themed New Year celebration in Souda camp. To support this event, our chef made incredibly delicious vegan chocolate fudge slices, which were delivered by a few of our team members. Before heading back, they joined the festivities and danced with the children.
We had extra help in the kitchen on New Year’s Day, with four volunteers from the United Kingdom and one local who works for the NRC. Together, we made a white bean and potato dish sprinkled with lots of love for the refugees. After the dinner distribution, our team and the volunteers enjoyed a scrumptious vegan chocolate cake, wishing for a peaceful vegan New Year in 2017 and a brighter future for all. Be Vegan, Make Peace.
Protective Shelter Set Up Outside The People’s Street Kitchen; Appreciation for the Swiss NGO Be Aware and Share, Chios Island, Greece – January 2 to 6, 2017
On January 2, our relief team on Chios Island served minestrone soup for the first time this winter. It was a big hit and everyone loved it. The next day, with the extra help of the United Kingdom volunteers, we were able to finish preparing food quickly and even had time to clean the kitchen windows. Our chef made a delicious vegan chocolate cake for the veterinarian who has been helping us with Henry, the kitten who came to our door. One of our team members will fly with Henry to Belgium where he will be adopted by one of our Association members there.
So that we could continue working at The People’s Street Kitchen with protection from the wind and rain, we had a shelter set up in the outdoor area in the front of the kitchen. It rained heavily in the morning of January 3, and we were very grateful for the workmen who constructed the shelter for us.
On January 4, we brought broad beans in tahini sauce, which is a favorite among the refugees from Middle Eastern areas. For those from other countries, Jihad, our chef for the day, kindly used tomato sauce. We also prepared special vegan food for the school children in Vial camp. Three volunteers from Palestine joined us today, and they were able to chat with the refugee volunteers from Souda camp in Arabic, which made the refugee volunteers very happy.
On January 5, on behalf of our Association, we presented a monetary gift of EUR 3,000 to the Swiss NGO Be Aware And Share (BAAS) for all the good work they have been doing for the refugee children on Chios Island. Since May 2016, they have been providing safe places of learning and creativity for the children and teenagers of both Souda and Vial camps. We also presented the three coordinators with Master’s books – The Birds in My Life in English for Nicholas from the United Kingdom, The Noble Wilds and The Dogs in My Life in German for the two Swiss-German coordinators, Jacob and Bastian. We congratulate BAAS on their successful initiative and wish them to continue being a beacon of light for all children.
Our Last Week on Chios Island, Greece – January 7 to 13, 2017
On January 7, it snowed on Chios Island. The mountains near the kitchen of our relief team looked like they had been sprinkled with coconut frosting. It was cold but picturesque everywhere. Thankfully the management team in charge of Souda camp had fixed the electricity issues, and now all cabins, tents and larger tent halls have electricity and heating.
It was the last week for our relief team to serve food to the refugees on the island. As usual, we prepared various healthy vegan dishes such as red lentil soup, rice with vegetables, minestrone soup and chickpea curry. The refugee chef from Souda camp, Jihad, was very creative. He had the idea of adding wild green leafy vegetables from a nearby area to the food to make it even more nutritious. The residents of Souda camp liked it. We also made a tasty vegan pasta in tomato sauce topped with vegan cheese for the Vial camp children going to the school managed by the Swiss NGO Be Aware and Share (BAAS).
We celebrated two birthdays of our friends this week. January 9 was the birthday of one of the Norwegian Refugee Council staff who is responsible for recording the food card numbers of the refugees when they collect their portions. A refugee volunteer from Souda camp lovingly bought her a beautiful scarf and a hat to keep her warm during distribution. The NRC staff was incredibly touched by his thoughtfulness. January 11 was the birthday of Salem, one of our refugee helpers who has been with us for a few months. Our chef made him a scrumptious cake, which he absolutely loved.
We brought our cat Henry to see the vet for the last time to prepare him for his trip to Belgium where he will be adopted by one of our Association member families. Our team will miss him dearly, and we wish him a blessed and long life with his new parents.
On January 13, we received a visit from a representative from the NRC, who came to thank our relief team as well as other volunteers of The People’s Street Kitchen (PSK) for all the hard work feeding the refugee population of Souda camp and previously Dipethe camp. Our Association members have been the core volunteers of PSK on Chios Island for almost one year. January 15 will be our last day to prepare and distribute food for all the people at Souda camp. The NRC presented us with some sweet gifts and a card with very touching words that read: “Only few times in life one has the blessing of meeting people like you with such strength, passion, love and devotion to missions as hard as the one we all experience in Chios. The way your team has stand up and fight for your belief against mainstream way of living is an example to follow. Your offer to the travellers of Chios is invaluable. We are so lucky to have met and worked with you. Thank you.”
We too are grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such loving and dedicated people, and wish the commitment to help the refugees continues, and that solutions for them to move on to better lives are found soon.
Refugee Volunteers to Begin Managing The People’s Street Kitchen on Chios Island, Greece – January 14 to 15, 2017
On January 14, our relief team on Chios Island served a nourishing vegan stew with veggie protein for the refugees in Souda camp. People loved it. Our chef, with the help of rest of the team, has been making nutritious vegan food for the refugees since July of 2016. As a tribute to the chef’s efforts, one of our refugee volunteers sang a beautiful Arabic song. It was a very sweet and heartwarming gesture.
January 15 was our final day of food preparation and distribution at Souda camp. Some of us will stay for a few more days to help transition the responsibility to the refugee volunteers who will continue to prepare meals for people in Souda camp as well as for the school children in Vial camp. We will also consider running vegan cooking classes for the refugees and anyone else who might be interested.
For almost one year, our Association members have been the core volunteers of The People’s Street Kitchen (PSK), offering vegan meals to the refugees on Chios Island. Some of the refugee volunteers have been working with us to cook over 1,000 servings of wholesome food daily during the last two months. We feel like one big happy family, full of love and we will miss them all.
We are deeply grateful to our beloved Supreme Master Ching Hai for Her boundless love and grace. She is the source of our inspiration. Our team members have come from all over the globe to this small island in the Aegean Sea to serve and bring love and comfort to those enduring difficult times. Members have come from Australia, Benin, Canada, Formosa, Greece, Hong Kong, New Caledonia, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, we managed to keep our kitchen running continuously even in situations that seemed unfavorable.
We hope and pray that a better solution to the refugee crisis will soon be found, the conflicts in the world will diminish and our Earth will transform into a peaceful and harmonious planet.
Note: More information on relief work and expenditures will be published in the future.
Refugee Relief Work, Chios, Greece – January 1, 2017