By Greece Relief Team (Originally in English)
In a continuous effort to help the refugees and to spread the vegan news in Greece, some of our Association members traveled from Canada, China, Korea, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States to Athens beginning in July 2017, and joined the local team to partake in a variety of activities. With a total of EUR 35,714 from our Association members from Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom, we participated in a Vegan Life Festival and brought assistance to those in need in Athens and the surrounding area, as well as those on Lesbos Island and Chios Island.
Vegan Life Festival, Athens, Greece – July 9, 2017
We were excited to participate in the second-ever Vegan Life Festival in Athens on July 9. The festival is the largest vegan event in Greece with the participation of a variety of vegan food, apparel and product companies. Patrik Baboumian, a vegan strongman athlete who holds the title of the Strongest Man in Germany, and who has set several world powerlifting records, was also at the event. We gave out Alternative Living flyers, “Be Vegan, Make Peace” brochures in Greek and English, and displayed Master’s books, banners and pictures. Many came to visit our booth and asked questions about Master and veganism. We stayed well into the night to talk with people and share the benefits of the plant-based diet, and about the cruelty of animal agriculture. We hope more people will get to know more about the compassionate lifestyle through events like this.
Assisting Refugees in Athens, Patras and Lavrio, Greece – July 8 to 11, 2017
On July 8, upon the arrival of our new relief team in Athens, we were asked to help Tent to Home and CRIBS (Care for Refugee Interim Baby Shelter) International in Athens, which are NGOs funded by donations from individuals and managed by volunteers. They both provide homes for vulnerable families who would otherwise be living in tents, and with the kind donations from individuals, they find them apartments in the city. CRIBS International does fundraising to provide accommodations for families with newborn babies as well as for women who are pregnant, so they can leave the camps and have a roof over their heads.
After shopping for fresh vegetables and fruit, dried vegan food and cleaning items in the morning, our team packed bags according to the size of each family. At 3 pm, we left with two vehicles and headed to Victoria Square to meet Florence from Tent to Home, and Saleem, a Syrian refugee who helps Tent to Home and CRIBS International. It took five hours to complete the distribution to 32 refugee families that were housed in different areas around Athens. We are so thankful to Master for arranging for us to meet such good people and for giving us the opportunity to deliver much-needed items to the families.
Although many families have now been moved from camps into apartments, the situation is still very hard for them. Despite being tired from the extreme heat and exhausted from their long ordeal, they still have smiles on their faces and are always so hospitable, many wanting to invite us for tea!
On July 10, continuing the refugee relief work in areas around Athens, our team drove to Patras, which is about 220 kilometers east of Athens.
In Patras, 200 male refugees stay in two abandoned warehouses near the port. The living conditions are difficult. Fortunately, the owners of the warehouse pay for the electric and water supply for the refugees. This kind gesture is very heartwarming in what looks like such a desperate situation for the men.
A group called foodKIND, which is made up of individual volunteers, works from an apartment in Patras, and they cook meals daily for the men who receive no financial assistance. We met with the volunteers who run foodKIND, and then we purchased sacks of chickpeas, lentils, basmati rice, approximately 500 flat breads, oil, canned tomatoes, beans, watermelons, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and bananas, and delivered the supplies to the organization’s kitchen.
Later, we went to one of the warehouses to meet the young and old refugees staying there, and hopefully bring some comfort to them. Upon arriving at one of the warehouses, we saw how very tired most of the men were due to the very hot weather. We chatted for a few minutes and in time many had started playing volleyball with the balls we had purchased for them. The atmosphere changed completely, and there were smiles and conversations to relieve their boredom, if only briefly.
At the warehouses, we met a 17 year-old boy from Afghanistan who is hoping to go to France with his two brothers. He wants to continue studying when he meets his family there, although his mother is still in Afghanistan. We also met Abdullah, who talked with one of our team members about the importance of finding inner peace. He even said he could sometimes see the light around trees and plants, and around our team member. When the conversation was ending, his eyes were moist when we mentioned how the future will be very happy for all of us, and all will find peace, love and abundance when more people choose the compassionate way of life. Food and supplies are important, but giving hope to them at such difficult times is something they also need.
At Patras, the situation for the refugees was challenging. We came back to our flat hoping that while we are here in Greece we will be able to convey Master’s love where it is really needed. We appreciated a motto we heard from one of the volunteers for the refugees, even though what we do seems so little on the grand scale of things: “Do what you can, where you can, and when you can.”
On July 11, we visited a camp made up of small cabins on a vacant lot on the outskirts of the town of Lavrio, about an hour’s drive southeast of Athens. It receives some food assistance from the Red Cross. As we arrived, we were instantly welcomed with bright beaming smiles.
Earlier in the morning, part of our team in Athens went shopping, buying fresh produce like watermelons and tomatoes, as well as cooking oil, tea, coffee and sugar, which had all been requested by the people of the camp through an individual volunteer whom we had made contact with. We also purchased volleyballs, soccer balls and lots of blow bubbles for the children. In addition, we bought clothing items, including shorts, T-shirts, women’s tops and trousers and children’s clothes, for approximately 120 adults and children. We left all we had purchased in the trust of the head of the camp for fair distribution later to the families.
Lavrio camp is a Kurdish refugee camp, and although we did not speak the same language, the residents expressed their joy and gratitude at receiving fresh watermelons, especially given the very hot weather. There was such a happy atmosphere when the children all received the blow bubbles we had purchased, and soon many of the men and older boys started to play volleyball with some of our team. So many of the residents lovingly wanted to take photos of us with them. Their love, hospitality, purity and warmth touched us deeply. Apart from offering cold water they also made us coffee the way they have it in their country.
We shook hands and hugged when we were leaving, and some women who could speak limited English were saying “We love you.” They waved until the car was out of sight, and our hearts went out to them.
As we think of the traumatic ordeal these young children and families have experienced we feel immense gratitude for all we have and pray they will soon be relocated and can start a new life in a new country in peace and safety.
Our immense thanks and deep gratitude to Master for the opportunity to share Master’s unconditional love with those who need it most. Also, we are sincerely appreciative to the small independent groups of people who are striving to relieve the suffering of the refugees, especially during the extremely hot summer Greece is having. May God bring the refugees inner peace and comfort at this difficult time.
Returning to Lesbos Island and Chios Island to Assist Refugees, Greece – July 11 to 15, 2017
From July 11 to 14, four of our members spent time on Lesbos Island and coordinated the relief effort for the refugees at Pikpa camp, and also at the hotel supported by Caritas Internationalis, a Catholic relief and service organization. Our team also provided relief for the earthquake victims in the town of Vrisa.
Pikpa camp was well-organized, with 80 resident refugees, including 23 babies and children. Volunteer workers cook food at the camp for the families in need. They also organize social activities for refugees in a big dome-shaped tent especially built for such purposes. There were small pieces of land for cultivating vegetables and herbs. At our request, a volunteer listed a number of items they needed at the camp.
The town of Vrisa was seriously damaged by the earthquake that took place a month earlier. There were piles of rubble from collapsed buildings. Some houses were flattened to the ground, while others had the inner walls intact. There was no set date when the rebuilding of the village will start. Those who can make a living to support themselves are a little better off, while others who do not have jobs are much more desperate.
When we visited Caritas refugee hotel, Dmitris, the person in charge, gave us a thorough overview of the place. We learned that the hotel was funded by Caritas Greece and Caritas Switzerland, and only accepts families and women in need, including women who are pregnant. Currently, about 50 refugees are living there, most of whom are from various war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The refugees are encouraged to take part in managing the place, and the kitchen is open for all to come and cook. In addition, there were classes in English and Greek for both the children and adults, and every week doctors come to give them checkups.
Before heading back, we handed out vegan chocolates and packs of juice we had prepared in advance for the children. We also arranged a local wholesale market to deliver fresh vegetables and fruits when they are available to Pipka, Vrisa, and the Caritas refugee hotel, and left EUR 4,076 for our local team member to pay for the food we ordered. From various local stores, we managed to procure some of the required supplies including medicines, swimsuits, flip flops, diapers, sunscreen, razors and some sweets, and dropped them off at Pikpa camp with our small vehicle.
On July 15, we traveled from Lesbos Island to Chios Island on a ferry and went straight to the The People’s Street Kitchen where our Association members had cooked for the refugees for almost a year. The current kitchen staff, four refugees and two volunteers, provide two meals a day to children going to a refugee school and serve tea in Souda camp every day. They also cook for a few vulnerable families who need special medical care. We were pleased to hear that the kitchen continues to serve vegan food, and we happily helped with dinner preparation for the day. We spent a couple of hours cleaning the kitchen thoroughly, and afterwards, we returned to Athens and joined part of our team members who had been there assisting refugees.
Providing Supplies for Refugees in Athens, Greece – July 14 to 17, 2017
On July 14, we met with two refugees in Athens and gave them three backpacks they had requested. Both of them will be relocated to Sweden soon. One is the father of four children who has known our group for many months, and named one of his children Mary Âu Lạc in honor of Master. (Supreme Master Ching Hai was born in Âu Lạc (Vietnam).) He is actively promoting the veg lifestyle among the refugees. The other is named Amjad, who left his home in Syria and traveled for three years through four countries before coming to Greece. He is recently married, and is keen on going to Sweden with his wife to start a new life.
Our next stop was the Khora Community Centre and two other refugee centers, where we shared more phrase books. These books are very popular among the refugees. One camp manager said they are very precious, like gold! Khora Community Centre is a well-equipped five-story building divided into different areas including cafés, dentists, doctors and surgery, schools and a ladies-only area. They also have special workshops like skateboarding for children and knitting for women. Three days later, we donated 96 pairs of men’s underwear to the Centre, which were accepted gratefully.
Our Athens relief team met Bilal, a Pakistani refugee who lived with his friends in an old building owned by a senior Greek man named Niko. The man kindly offered them lodging in exchange for cleaning and occasional other work, even though he was in a difficult financial condition. We gave them two used smartphones they requested, and some fruit. We talked with them about Islam and encouraged them to have faith despite the current situation.
Our relief team members are happy to have the chance to help the refugees in Greece and are grateful to all the volunteers and individuals who selflessly give their time and support. We have witnessed so many angels who try to share love with one person or one family at a time so that the refugees will not lose hope. Thanks to Master’s guidance and arrangement, we came to this place to meet these wonderful people and learn how to love.
Helping Refugees and Visiting Refugee Camps in Athens, Greece – July 18 to 23, 2017
Our Athens relief team again met with Bilal, a Pakistani refugee, and his friends. Based on their requests, on July 21, we bought various vegan food items, shampoo, razors, soap and other necessities. Bilal was delighted to see his favorite vegetable: okra. We feel thankful to be able to reach out to them and help them in a small way. Later, we went to a refugee center and delivered food and cleaning supplies that were needed for 50 children and their families. Seeing the happy smiles on the faces of the refugees, our hearts were warmed.
On July 23, after delivering cleaning supplies to another refugee center, we headed straight to Ritsona camp, about a one-hour drive north of Athens, and handed out some juice. The beautiful murals at the entrance painted by refugees and volunteers lightened up the atmosphere. There were about 750 refugees in the camp, with 90 percent of them being from Syria. They stay in prefabricated houses with air conditioning, kitchen and bathroom facilities donated by The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United Arab Emirates. Many of them were waiting to go to other countries like Sweden. In the meantime, they live only partly on the UN-issued cash, which began working at the end of May, and really appreciated the additional help from volunteers. We were happy to hear that they welcomed the first baby in the camp just the day before our visit. We had the pleasure of meeting Carolynn, a volunteer who manages the Café Rits in the camp, which provides food for all the residents in the camp. She also manages a soccer team of about 20 young men, all of whom work in the Café. The leader of the soccer team was a national soccer player in Iraq. They often have matches with a Greek soccer team.
Next we visited Oinofyta camp, about 15 minutes away, where about 500 refugees were living in temporary housing in a warehouse. With most of the residents being from Afghanistan, the camp is mainly operated through the help of various NGOs. Some refugees did not have cash cards and were totally dependent on donations and help from individuals and NGOs. What is unique about Oinofyta camp is that they have a special sewing facility in which experienced refugee workers make colorful bags from clothing materials and torn tents. These bags are sold online, and the proceeds are used for refugees. Each bag is embossed with the names of the refugees who made them and is beautifully decorated with words about peace, love, and the symbol of Oinofyta camp. We shared a few copies of Master’s books and phrase books with the refugees in the camp.
We were deeply touched by the devotion and sacrifice of the volunteers we met. For example, Carolynn in Ritsona camp had injured one of her legs and was walking with crutches, and Lisa in Oinofyta looked very tired, but they looked after the refugees first and did not take time for themselves. We pray for the health and well-being of these lovely saints.
Visiting Lesbos Island, Greece – July 25 to 28, 2017
On July 25, when we again visited the earthquake stricken village of Vrisa, we learned that most residents now live in their relatives’ homes, or in empty houses in their villages or in their summer houses. We were surprised that as soon as we left the village and headed to our apartment, we received a phone call from the leader of the village who delivered the relief food we contributed earlier in the month. Every food item was well received, and were ample and of good quality, so the villagers were happy. We were so happy to hear that they distributed watermelons first and every villager enjoyed them very much.
On July 26, we visited the Moria and Kara Tepe refugee camps on Lesbos. We could not enter the camps without booking in advance. They were under the management and control of military units and policeman, and seemed well-managed.
We then revisited the Caritas refugee hotel. The children’s playroom there had chairs, a desk, paper for coloring, and markers. There was a broken plastic slide outdoors, but a staff woman said they could not afford a new one. We had some fun with children drawing pictures and coloring together. At first, the children were very shy, but they came over to play. We also played Arabic songs on YouTube, and children asked us to play them again and again. They happily sang along with the songs. We saw the bright smiles of the children, and we hoped to see their laughter continue.
We wanted to buy more things for children to draw pictures, and toys that they would enjoy, so the next day, we asked the camp staff what they needed, and they asked for a soccer ball, a volleyball, a thick marker pen, and non-toxic finger paint. We bought the items requested by the staff and bought a few more toys and play equipment that we thought the children would like.
Also, on July 27, we went to Pikpa camp to help the volunteers. Erica, a staff member, welcomed us and told us about the camp. The camp is managed by the NGO Lesbos Solidarity. The camp had a very stable, free and warm atmosphere. While many camps are far from the city and away from the traffic, Pikpa camp is located about 10 minutes by car from the city center of Mytilene and residential areas. It used to be a camping site, but Lesbos Solidarity made it as a refugee camp, so unlike other camps where refugees live in container houses, there were many refugees living in wooden cabins designed for camping. Still some refugees have lived in tents, but there are newly built wooden houses being constructed by a refugee carpenter from Pakistan and volunteers.
To help at the camp, we categorized clothes that were donated to the refugees. There is a “shopping room” under the office of Pikpa camp that is opened for an hour three times each week so that refugees can pick any clothes they want. Until some time ago, donated clothes and shoes were stacked in boxes with no arrangement. It was good to sort out by gender, age, and size, and hang them on hangers to make sure that the people could find the clothes they needed. The volunteers at the shop also recorded how many clothes and what kind of clothes the refugees had taken for each family to determine what clothes they needed.
We also helped install insulation in a newly built wooden house. The inside of the house was very hot. So we added an insulation panel to block the heat during the day and to prevent the cold at night. They did not have enough money at the camp, so they made their own insulation panel by attaching Styrofoam to plywood. We moved their insulation panel and attached it to the ceiling. It was done in the heat, but we did not take care about it, thinking of the refugees who would live in the house.
The Pakistani refugee in charge of building houses and furniture at the camp did carpentry jobs in his home country. He has suffered personal tragedies, including the death of his wife, and his health was not good. Even under such circumstances, we felt that his heartfelt service for other refugees was very beautiful. We sincerely prayed for a bright future for him with God’s blessings and protection. We live in the same world, but most times we live without knowing that there are so many people who suffer like him. Many of the refugees who met during the refugee relief activities showed their gratitude to God without losing hope. We could feel a lot in their smiles. We prayed and prayed again for peace in the hearts of the many suffering refugees.
On July 28, we went back to Pikpa camp and picked up trash throughout the camp, and helped construct a public table.
We heard the sad news that the Caritas refugee hotel would close in two months. That means that about 50 refugees who had been living a stable life here have to leave for a camp. We wished them good luck for their new living arrangement.
Delivering Food and Supplies for Refugees in the Athens Urban Area, Lavrio, Oinofyta and Ritsona, Greece – July 31 to August 5, 2017
After distributing the Greek version of Alternative Living leaflet in Piraeus and Glyfada in the Athens Urban Area on July 31, our relief team delivered vegan food and necessities to a refugee center the next day. In this center, refugees can enjoy coffee or tea while chatting, and request free hot meals. The volunteers there welcome all the refugees with open hearts, and their unconditional love creates a sense of home for these people during difficult times. Other activities organized by the center include distributing food, providing accommodations and offering legal service and cash transfers for the refugees.
During the next few days, we visited refugee camps in Lavrio, Oinofyta and Ritsona. Lavrio camp accommodates 180 people who are not officially considered as refugees, so they have received very limited financial support from outside. We came prepared with watermelons, needed supplies such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, and soap bars, medicines and language books, which were shared with refugees along with Alternative Living flyers in Turkish. We also purchased a baby stroller for a young mom.
Prior to visiting Oinofyta and Ritsona camps, we purchased soccer balls, volleyballs, basketballs, card games and coloring books for children of different age groups. On August 5, we stopped at a grocery store owned by Ansar, a refugee from Pakistan who offers the lowest price for the weekly order from Ritsona camp. To serve the refugees, and following the suggestion from the manager of Ritsona camp that we could contribute to their weekly food order, we paid EUR 501 for the eggplants and onions they ordered.
In Ritsona camp, we participated in their food distribution and provided massages and emotional comfort to improve the well-being of the refugees. On behalf of everyone, the manager of the camp, Carolyn, expressed sincere appreciation for the contribution from our Association during the past two years and invited us to watch a final soccer competition on August 7. We plan to prepare some traditional Asian-style vegan dishes, snacks and desserts to share with all the people at the party after the match.
At Oinofyta camp, we offered 150 kilograms of basmati rice, which is the favorite of the Syrians. We talked to the camp manager and the volunteers to find out the items needed by the refugees. We will bring vegan soya protein, men’s grooming tools, leggings for women, and children’s exercise shoes in the following visits.
We thank God for giving us the opportunity to serve the people most in need and we will pray for all refugees during our daily meditation. We hope our visits will bring Master’s love to them and brighten their lives.
Ritsona Soccer Competition Celebration, Ritsona, Greece – August 7, 2017
Following the invitation from the Ritsona refugee camp manager to join the soccer competition celebration, our Athens relief team went to the soccer field on the evening of August 7. This camp is located north of Athens and accommodates over 700 refugees, mainly from Syria. One of our drivers was a supplier who delivers vegetables to the camp weekly. We were warmly greeted at the field and each of us received a T-shirt with the logo of Café Rits. Our team served noodles, sushi rolls, and a mung bean dessert for around 150-180 people. There were a lot of group activities, such as dancing, games, and musical performances for both children and adults. We could feel the positive energy from the refugees, although they were experiencing the most difficult periods in their lives. All the attendees very much enjoyed the food we brought. Some even told us that it was the first time in their lives to enjoy real vegan food. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the supplier, who drove us and spent at least 8 hours in supporting our work.
Delivering Vegan Food to a Cafe for Refugees, Athens, Greece – August 8 to 10, 2017
The next morning, our team delivered vegetables and fruit to Hope Cafe in Athens. The manager, Ms. Kerrie, started this cafe about four months ago, providing free lunches and a social place for all refugees on weekdays. The cafe has at least 12-15 volunteers, serving about 200-220 refugees daily from 12 noon to 3pm. Ms. Kerrie was very happy to accept our offer of support. She hoped that we could supply food ingredients on a weekly basis, provide lunch one day or several days per week and cooperate with the refugee chef to develop vegan recipes.
On August 10, our team delivered 225 vegan lunch boxes to the cafe. Each box contained curried mixed vegetables, stir-fry tofu with French beans, vegan onion-omelettes and rice. We also put an Alternative Living flyer in Arabic and Kurdish on top of each box. All the refugees highly praised the food and enjoyed the meal a lot. Some of them carefully read all the information on the flyer. We hope that the small lunch boxes could bring some light and Master’s love to them.
Visiting a Refugee Center, Athens, Greece – August 9, 2017
At the invitation from a volunteer, we visited a refugee center in Athens housing 100 families from Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan. Several volunteers play with the children in the center on a weekly basis. We met with the center managers and checked their storage rooms to understand their urgent requirements. The storage had a lot of donations from all over the world. A girl told us that they really needed lightweight long-sleeve shirts and pants, so we decided to purchase the needed clothing supplies for them, help clean the center, and also provide some vegan snacks and fruit on our next trip.
Helping Refugees at a Cafe in Athens, Greece – August 14 to 17, 2017
As a lot of new refugees arrived on Monday, August 14, the cafe for refugees we visted earlier in the month became very busy. At the request of the cafe’s manager, our relief team in Athens delivered vegan lunch boxes on that day. We also cooked a pot of congee using donated brown rice and frozen vegetables that the cafe had on hand. The refugees highly praised the vegan food. The manager hoped that we could cooperate with her chef team to develop vegan menus by utilizing their food supplies. In the following weeks, we plan to increase the food delivery to two or three days per week and invite the cafe’s chef to cook one dish for the lunch boxes. On August 17, we delivered 150 kilograms of watermelons to bring some cool refreshment during this hot summer.
Assisting Refugees at Lavrio Camp, an Athens Refugee Center, Oinofyta Camp and Ritsona Camp, Greece, August 15 to 18, 2017
Lavrio Refugee Camp:
On August 15, our team brought several daily use items to Lavrio refugee camp including leggings for the ladies, shaving foam and razor blades for the men, and children’s shoes. Upon reaching the site, we were warmly greeted. The refugees told us that they would no longer receive cash cards from other organizations, and they had been lacking food for a while. So we drove to the nearest shopping area and purchased food for them, including rice, sugar, spaghetti, macaroni, cooking oil, pita bread, tomato sauce, canned baked beans, and cucumbers. They were very glad that we gave so much food to them. Hopefully, our support would help them a little bit.
A Refugee Center in Downtown Athens:
In the early morning of August 16, we brought daily necessities requested to a refugee center in downtown Athens, where 150 refugees were waiting to immigrate to other European countries. We distributed leggings for the ladies and shaving foam and razor blades for the men.
We also set up a place in the playground to distribute snacks and sports shoes to children. The children seemed to enjoy our company and the snacks. Before leaving, we met a group of volunteers from Spain who have been organizing various activities in the school such as women’s chit-chat days, movie nights, and children’s language classes. We decided to work together for the next visit – our team will prepare food and bring more supplies, while the Spanish volunteers will organize programs for the children. We hope Master’s love and blessings will help the refugees stay strong and positive.
Oinofyta Refugee Camp:
On August 18, we delivered leggings for the ladies, shaving foam and razor blades for the men, and sport shoes for the children to Oinofyta refugee camp. The volunteer coordinator kindly offered us a tour around the camp, which used to be a big factory. The camp is now used by the government to accommodate the refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, and is supported by 17 volunteers from six NGOs. The place is well organized and maintained with 105 air conditioned rooms, two common kitchens, a laundry room, a hospital, a gym, a computer lab, a tool room, a football field, and a school for all ages. One major donor recently agreed to provide the refugees with almost everything they needed. We were happy to see the refugees have such a nice and comfortable place to stay for the time being.
Ritsona Refugee Camp:
Since our team had agreed to supply vegetables and household items to Ritsona refugee camp on a weekly basis, on August 18, we delivered eggplants and tomatoes to the camp. After unloading, we helped to repack all the vegetables into 160 small bags for distribution. Each family received one bottle of cooking oil and some vegetables. Additionally, to celebrate a wedding the next day, we baked some vegan cakes to bring Master’s blessings to the new couple, wishing them a happy and blissful marriage.
Weekly Vegan Lunch Boxes and Supplies for a Cafe for Refugees in Athens, Greece – August 21 to 24, 2017
After researching Syrian recipes, our relief team prepared simmered eggplant and fried potato in mushroom sauce to make 220 lunch boxes on Monday, August 21, for the cafe for refugees in Athens where we have been contributing vegan supplies. We hope our menu will inspire the chef to explore more vegan options in the future. Based on the request of the cafe manager, we also purchased coffee, vegetables, fruits, soya milk, environmental friendly detergent, and other necessities to support their daily operation. Many volunteers and refugees helped us unload all the donations. We were pleased to hear that the leftover lunch boxes were shared with homeless people on the street.
Since there are a lot of children who visit the cafe everyday, the cafe’s manager hoped to provide some cakes and cookies for them. Our team proposed to teach the chef and the refugees how to bake vegan cakes. On August 24, we arrived with baking utensils and showed them by hand how to bake cupcakes with orange and chocolate flavors. When the cakes were ready, all the children could not wait for them to cool down and finished them all in one minute! Seeing everyone was eager to learn more about vegan baking, our team scheduled another class for a few days later.
Delivering Vegan Cakes and Fruit Cups to a Refugee Center in Athens, Greece – August 23, 2017
Following last week’s arrangement with a group of volunteers from Spain, on August 23, our team again visited the refugee center in Athens with loving snacks and more essential supplies. Our team provided 70 vegan cupcakes (banana and chocolate flavors) and 70 fruit cups (grape, watermelon and cantaloupe). Both children and adults came to pick up the treats and our trays were empty within just half an hour. We decided to prepare more snacks for the next week’s visit. We also distributed more leggings for the ladies as well as several used cell phones donated by our Association members.
While we were distributing snacks, the Spanish volunteers started to build a small swimming pool. When it was ready, the children and the volunteers jumped in immediately and played with water toys, and splashed water on each other.
Visiting Thiva and Thermopylae Refugee Camps, Greece – August 25 2017
On August 25, our team visited Thiva refugee camp and Thermopylae refugee camp operated by the International Organization for Migration- The United Nation Migration Agency. Thiva refugee camp used to be a factory warehouse and is now rented by the UN to accommodate 430 refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Morocco and Pakistan. The camp manager told us there were 28 refugees in the middle of their registration process and that they needed urgent help, because they could not receive a monthly cash card of EUR 100 to EUR 550 for daily expenditures like the other registered residents in the camp. Our team quickly drove to the nearest grocery store and purchased spaghetti, sugar, salt, oil, rice, potatoes, onions, tomato paste, and bath soaps. The manager repeatedly thanked us for our sincerity and immediate response to aid these 28 non-registered refugees.
Thermopylae refugee camp houses 450 refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Once a hotel, the camp was established by the UN Refugee Agency. Some NGOs provide in-camp activities, such as an English class for the children, yoga for the ladies, and movie nights. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (Doctors Without Borders) provides medical service on a weekly basis, especially for the pregnant ladies. Next month, the camp will employ teachers and have a kindergarten. The refugees here also receive monthly cash cards from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) to cover their food expense. We were relieved to see the basic living requirements of the refugees were already fulfilled.
More Assistance for Cafe for Refugees in Downtown Athens, Greece – August 28, 2017
For the week of August 28, our relief team in Athens continued to focus on improving our recipes so that refugees would like to try more vegan food. Since the soya kebab we donated to other refugee camps received good feedback, we included vegan mock meat in tomato sauce and blanched cabbage with carrots in this week’s lunch box. To avoid wasting, we reduced the total portions to 150. Some refugees told us that sweet and sour was their favorite flavor so they enjoyed the dish very much. They could not believe that the soya protein could have the same texture and flavor as real meat, even tastier and healthier.
Supporting Ill Children in Lavrio Refugee Camp, Greece – August 29, 2017
The refugee camp in Lavrio has been short of financial support, so when we visited them on August 29, we delivered various food items, such as cooking oil, pasta, watermelons, and potatoes — enough to feed all of them for two weeks. As soon as we heard there was not enough food for infants and babies, we drove to the closest supermarket and purchased various types of food for them, such as organic vegan milk, vegan porridge, and vitamin supplies. We also checked all the pharmacies in Lavrio, trying to fill a prescription for a sick baby. Unfortunately, no one could fill that prescription. One pharmacy helped us make an order for a similar medicine, which would be available within one week. We left the baby’s parents with EUR 50 so that they could pay for the medicine later. Best wishes to the baby, his family, and all other families in that refugee camp.
Cakes and Fruit Cups for a Refugee Center in Athens and Delivery of Master’s Book to Chinese Business Owners, Greece – August 30, 2017
To satisfy the demand for cupcakes and fruit cups at a center for refugees in Athens, we prepared 100 of each of them on August 30. Once our tables were set up in the central playground, the residents made a line to pick up the food directly. All the treats were gone within five minutes. The orange and chocolate flavored cupcakes were the most popular ones. Furthermore, we left a box of English phrase books for the Spanish volunteers, who will use them in their English class for the refugee children. We are very happy to learn that some children had already immigrated to other European countries with their families. We hope every refugee will soon find a home in a safe place and resume their regular lives.
Our relief work would not be successful without the support from some owners of Chinese stores in Athens who always offer us the lowest price for their products. To express our appreciation, on August 30, we gifted them Master’s books including The Noble Wilds, The Birds in My Life, The Dogs in My Life, and a copy of The Key of Immediate Enlightenment Sample Booklet. The storeowners were very happy to accept these books and showed great interest in the vegan diet. We also showed them our organization’s website so that they could obtain more information.
Food and Medicine Supply Delivery to Greece and a Baking Class at Cafe for Refugees, Downtown Athens, Greece – August 31, 2017
AMURTEL Greece, an international, grassroots organization managed by women, supports refugee mothers and infants during pregnancy, birth, and infancy. We heard that they were looking for donations to support their daily operation as well as nutritious food for new mothers. So accordingly, our team purchased examination gloves, undergarments, and medical tools, as well as various types of nuts, beans, and rice. When we dropped off the supplies on August 31 to their center, the manager immediately recognized our organization by the yellow vest we were wearing and indicated that our team cooperated with their team to conduct relief work in the port last year. We exchanged contact information and will try to prepare some special vegan meals for new mothers and more medical supplies in the following weeks.
Next we conducted the second baking class for all the refugees who missed the one last week. We were happy to see that the baking material we left last week was completely gone since the chef tried the vegan recipes several times. The chef was very proud to invite us to taste the chocolate cake they baked. We all understand that showing how to cook vegan food is more important and useful than just delivering vegan food. The baking classes will help the refugees to bake vegan treats for themselves, their families, and friends, and more and more people
Cooperative Vegan Cooking, and Delivery at the Cafe for Refugees in Athens, Greece – September 4 and 5, 2017
Our relief team in Athens firmly believes that showing refugees how to cook vegan food is more powerful than just delivering the food and materials. Therefore, three new team members decided to work in the cafe for refugees in Athens regularly to help the chefs to develop and prepare more vegan cuisine. This way we can bring more of Master’s blessing and love to the refugees.
After checking the cafe’s storage, we included the following dishes on Monday’s menu: vegetable sushi with sweet-sour sauce, spring rolls, vegan noodles with mushroom sauce, French fries, and fruits. Collaborating with the Syrian cooking team, we prepared over 200 lunch portions in two hours on September 4, using ingredients from their storage or purchased from the local supermarkets. Some refugees told us that it was the first time in their lives to enjoy so many different types of vegan dishes. The sushi and French fries were the children’s favorites. The Syrian chefs appreciated that we showed them how to use the donated food materials. One volunteer said even though they were very busy preparing such a big lunch, she felt everything went smoothly and peacefully and all were very calm and happy on that day.
At 1:30 am the next morning, we received an urgent message from the manager of the cafe for refugees in Athens, indicating that they were not able to serve any food that day because they ran out of cash. The manager had exhausted all other resources and finally contacted us. Thus, in the early morning, we purchased 20 kilograms of tomatoes, 40 kilograms of potatoes, 20 kilograms of frozen peas, four bags of French fries, five boxes of tomato sauce, five liters of olive oil, 12 bottles of ketchup, and 15 bottles of soymilk. When we arrived at the cafe, all the volunteers and refugees came to help us to unload. The shop leader on that day was extremely grateful for us fulfilling their urgent requirements so quickly.
East Asian Vegan Food Festival at a Refugee Center in Athens, Greece – September 6, 2017
On Wednesday, September 6, we made the weekly trip to a refugee center in Athens with loving snacks and more essentials. Our theme for this week was East Asian vegan food. Hence, our team prepared 80 boxes of sushi, 100 portions of cold noodles, and 150 fruit cups along with 110 of their favorite vegan cupcakes. We also purchased 60 new schoolbags for all the school children with the new semester approaching. We thanked the storeowner of Zixin International Enterprise for offering us an unforgettably low price for the schoolbags. Both the children and the adults appreciated the items. The manager of the refugee center said every Wednesday had become their weekly holiday. We observed there were less activities organized by volunteers this week as many of them were students who had to return to their home countries for the new school year.
Vegan Nutrition for New Mothers at AMURTEL Greece, Athens, Greece – September 7, 2017
On our second visit to AMURTEL Greece on September 7, we brought the requested items such as rice, nuts, and medical supplies. For the new mothers, our chef prepared special congee with different types of beans, nuts, and dates. We also prepared cupcakes and fruit cups for children as well as for the volunteers and staff, who are mostly vegetarian and vegan. The clinic manager expressed sincere appreciation for our assistance. We wish the best for all the mothers and babies and will continue offering our support in the following weeks.
Delivery Daily Necessities to a Refugee Camp in Lavrio, Greece – September 9, 2017
On September 9, we went to the refugee camp in Lavrio to provide them food for the next two weeks and to check the sick baby we visited last week. We purchased 50 kilograms of potatoes, 40 kilograms of onions, 15 kilograms of pita bread, and a lot of baby food. Since there are around 50 children in the camp, we also baked special vegan cakes for them. The father of the sick baby told us that he used the cash we left to fill the prescription and purchase some food for his family. During our visiting, we noticed that the children needed some toys to play with. We will add them to the shopping list of our next visit. We distributed the Kurdish version of Alternative Living flyers, hoping the information would assist them in the future and help them to get through this difficult period.
Cooperative Cooking in a Cafe for Refugees in Athens, Greece – September 11, 2017
To support our theme of North American Food this week, our cooking team in Athens worked with the Syrian chefs at the a cafe for refugees we have been helping in Athens and prepared over 200 Mexican vegan wraps and French fries on September 11. The wrap included soya protein, vegan cheese, fresh lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes with sesame sauce. It was the first time for most of the refugees to taste this type of food, and almost everyone finished all the food on their plates! The Syrian chef has become extremely interested in learning vegan cuisine and we will continue giving him more hands on experience in the next few weeks.
Vegan Food and Supplies for New Mothers at AMURTEL Center for Mothers and Babies, Athens, Greece – September 12, 2017
On September 12, our relief team brought more supplies to AMURTEL, including 60 kilograms of peas, 100 kilograms of rice, 10 kilograms of nuts and 24 lady’s undergarments. We also gifted them with two of Master’s books, The Dogs in My Life and The Noble Wilds. In addition, we prepared 50 portions of vegan sushi for their working staff who barely have time to eat during their very busy working day. The clinic manager appreciated our contribution very much. She told us that their limited funding could only support the clinic’s daily operation. With the contribution, they can give extra support to the women and babies. They have shown the women how to cook the grains and nuts we donated to increase nutrition for their families. We pray for them and will continue our contributions in the following weeks.
Delivering Vegan Food and Fruits to a Refugee Center in Athens, Greece – September 13, 2017,
On September 13, our team visited the refugee center in Athens that we have been assisting, and delivered 150 fruit cups. We also showed the refugees there how to make vegan Mexican wraps. Some refugees helped us set up tables in the playground and our chefs demonstrated step-by-step instructions on how to make the wraps with the ingredients available in their kitchen. Some refugees even brought their own pita bread and requested us to teach them so that they could cook for their family later. Together we made 120 delicious healthy wraps. In addition, we donated Master’s books, The Dogs in My Life and The Noble Wilds to the manager and distributed 150 copies of From Crisis to Peace – the Organic Vegan Way is the Answer (Arabic version) to the refugees. We hope these books can provide comfort to all the refugees there.
Delivering Vegan Food, Vegetables, and Fruits to a Refugee Camp in Thiva, Greece – September 14, 2017
During our visit to Thiva refugee camp on September 14, we provided 50 kilograms of potatoes, 20 kilograms of onions, 80 kilograms of rice, 24 kilograms of pasta, and 20 cucumbers, as well as vegetables and fruit for the 20 non-registered refugees, enough to last them for two weeks. The non-registered refugees are not able to obtain any cash support from the official NGOs until the registration process is completed. We also brought 54 homemade vegan cupcakes and 100 Those Who Have Love are Nearest to God flyers. The crew in the camp helped us to distribute all the flyers. We gave the managers Master’s books The Dogs in My Life and The Noble Wilds as gifts.
We also did some group activities with the children, which was much appreciated by all. A refugee girl voluntarily offered to give us a tour around the camp. From the smiles on the faces of the refugees, we could feel their hope and strength. We pray they will have a safe and happy future and their children can grow in peace and continue their education. We thank Master for Her loving example of service and sincere concern for all who are suffering, and we are grateful to be able to make a little difference to the lives of some of the refugees who are currently in Greece.
More Cooperative Cooking in a Cafe for Refugees in Athens and Sharing the Vegan Message with a Storeowner, Greece – September 18, 2017,
On September 18, 2017, the Syrian chef and the volunteers in the cafe for refugees in Athens where we have been helping prepared 200 servings of vegan Asian and Syrian food with assistance from our relief team. This fusion menu included curry dumplings, vegetable stew with Syrian spices and the traditional Syrian style rice.
The refugees welcomed the dishes. Many asked for extra for their family members. Some children saved some curry dumplings for later. The next week will be our team’s last week at the cafe. Our chef will focus more on vegan desserts and other special dishes so that the Syrian chef team will have more experience to provide a variety of vegan dishes for the refugees.
The next day, at the request of the cafe manager, we delivered 30 kilograms of potatoes, 30 kilograms of onions, 20 kilograms of carrots, 24 kilograms of tomatoes, 20 kilograms of frozen peas, 12 200-gram instant coffee packages and three one-liter bottles of soya milk. We also gave Master’s books to our suppliers who have offered us generous discounts. Each gift bag contained a copy of The Noble Wilds and a copy of The Birds in My Life, which were much appreciated.
In the nut store where we shopped for AMURTEL, we gave copies of the Greek version of the Alternative Living flyer to the storeowner. The flyer lists the nutritional values of different types of beans and nuts, and the owner was very happy to share them with her customers. We have built good relationships with many shop owners through our relief work and our spirits are lifted by their willingness to help promote veganism.
Continuing to Provide Vegan Food and Fruits to a Refugee Center in Athens, Greece – September 20, 2017
On September 20, our team brought 98 boxes of sushi, 150 boxes of mixed fruits and 66 bowls of bubble tea to the refugee center in Athens where we have been assisting. Some of the refugees voluntarily helped us to unload all supplies, prepare the sushi, and distribute the food. One refugee said that he felt very happy to work with us. We also gave forty copies of Master’s book, The Birds in My Life, to some children, who held the books to their hearts. We were delighted the children loved Mater’s books and felt She was blessing them.
Bringing Vegan Food and Fruits to the AMURTEL Center for Mothers and Babies, Athens, Greece – September 21, 2017
On September 21, our team brought rice, a variety of nuts, and lady’s undergarments to the refugees at AMURTEL. Additionally, our team members from mainland China also donated their own goji berries, red dates and Bai He (lily bulbs), especially for the new mothers. For the busy working staff there, we also prepared noodle dishes and mixed fruits. The staff liked the special treats and were very grateful.
Vegan Food, Vegetables, Toys and Fruits for a Refugee Camp in Lavrio, Greece – September 22, 2017
To assist in providing some activities for the children in Lavrio Camp, we brought some toys, games and balls, in addition to vegetables and fruits during our weekly visit on September 22. The refugees welcomed us with open arms and helped us carry all the supplies. They were delighted to see the vegan sushi we prepared for them and were eager to try it, as many of them had never seen sushi before. We hope they liked it! To help uplift their spirit, we shared with them Alternative Living flyers and 48 copies of Master’s book The Birds in My Life.
We were pleased to see several NGOs had approached the camp to offer help. One refugee told us that their children would go to school very soon. We sincerely hope and pray that with the combined effort of all the loving people, the refugees’ lives will change for the better in the near future.
Saying Goodbye at the Cafe for Refugees in Athens, Greece – September 25, 2017
Since the vegan Mexican wrap served by our relief team received such favorable feedback from the refugees, we decided to make it again during our last week in Athens on September 25. The wrap included soya protein, vegan cheese, fresh lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes with sesame sauce. After watching the demonstration given by our team’s chef, the Syrian chef of the cafe for refugees and two new volunteers from the USA completed making 216 wraps in just two hours. The residents finished all the food on their plates, which was the best compliment to the chefs!
Through the last four weeks of cooperation, the Syrian chef and some of their volunteers have learned the basic skills of preparing vegan cuisine. We were very delighted and wish that they could continue exploring and developing more vegan recipes. One of our members made origami figures for the children today, bringing them extra laughter and fun. On our way home, we gave some rice dumplings, Master’s books From Crisis to Peace – the Organic Vegan Way is the Answer and The Birds in My Life, the Alternative Living flyer and vegan recipes to all the vendors who had supported our work. Some of them offered us very generous discounts. We appreciate their kindness and the unconditional love shown to the refugees.
Bidding Farewell With Vegan Food and Supplies for New Mothers at AMURTEL Centre for Mothers and Babies, Athens, Greece – September 26, 2017
On September 26, we brought supplies to AMURTEL consisting of 10 big bags of diapers, 180 pairs of women’s undergarments, 10 kilograms of almonds, 10 kilograms of peas, 10 kilograms of peanuts, 10 kilograms of dates and five kilograms of black beans. We also prepared 16 boxes of sushi and 10 rice dumplings for their dedicated working staff. The security guard greeted us warmly and made sure we could unload all the supplies smoothly on the one-way single lane road. Knowing it was our last trip, the clinic manager took pictures with us and expressed sincere appreciation for our assistance. We were happy to have had the opportunity to introduce the nutritious vegan diet to the pregnant women, new mothers and newborns in AMURTEL center.
Sharing Master’s Spiritual Books, and Vegan Food and Fruits During Our Last Visit at a Refugee Center in Athens, Greece – September 27, 2017
With our vehicle full of 150 vegan cupcakes and 155 boxes of fruits, containing grapes, watermelons, cantaloupes and pineapples, we arrived at the refugee center we have been assisting in Athens, on September 27. The children ran to us quickly with big smiles. We shared special candies with them, hoping to sweeten their day. Together with the food, we distributed Master’s book The Birds in My Life filled with uplifting wisdom, wonderful pictures and touching stories. Many refugees hugged the books and could not wait to read them in their rooms.
Delivering Vegan Food, Vegetables, Fruits and Children’s Shoes to a Refugee Camp in Thiva, Greece – September 28 and October 2, 2017
On September 28, we delivered 25 kilograms of potatoes, 10 kilograms of onions, 30 kilograms of rice, 20 kilograms of bananas, 42 cucumbers and 12 bottles of cooking oil to Thiva refugee camp. In addition, we brought 120 homemade vegan cupcakes and four boxes of Master’s books The Birds in My Life. It took us about two hours to drive to the camp and many refugees came to help us unload all the items. The children were especially happy to receive candy from us.
The camp manager requested us to provide some shoes for the children in the camp, as the new school would begin soon and most of them did not have sport shoes. So we obtained the shoe size and gender information for all the children there, purchased 107 pairs of shoes, and delivered them on October 2. We wish all the children a successful year in school.
Providing Vegan Food and Vegetables to a Refugee Camp in Ritsona, Greece – September 29, 2017
On September 29, we made our last delivery to Ritsona refugee camp with potatoes, onions, tomatoes, mint leaves as well as seven homemade vegan cakes. With the help from the refugees, we prepared vegetable bags, each could last one family for several days. Afterwards, we went door to door to distribute the bags to the refugees, who received the gifts with big smiles and sincere thanks. We also took the opportunity to explain to them the benefit of the vegan diet. The camp manager highly appreciated our group’s support during the last two years. She happily accepted Master’s books The Birds in My Life and From Crisis to Peace – the Organic Vegan Way is the Answer, and indicated she obtained some very useful information on the vegan diet from us.
As our refugee relief work in Athens comes to a close, we would like to thank all the camps, businesses, volunteers, organizations and the government groups for their selfless assistance to the refugees. Our deep gratitude to Supreme Master Ching Hai for reminding us of the true meaning of “love your neighbor” and for Her constant guidance and blessing visibly and invisibly. We pray that the refugees will soon find welcoming homes in this world and rebuild their lives.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association for Refugee Relief Work in Greece, July to October 2017
|Food, vegetables, fruits, Arabic bread, baby diapers, baby clothes, pants, tops, socks, underwear, sports items, donations to families, toys, financial assistance and relief team expenses (car rental, tolls, gas) in Athens||7,947.06||A|
|Medicines, clothes, food for Pikpa camp, fund for buying vegetables and fruits for earthquake victims and refugee camps, and relief team expenses (car rental, repair, gas and labor) on Lesbos Island||6,000.00||B|
|Food and underwear for refugees, backpacks, used smartphones and relief team expenses (car rental, gas) in Athens||2,517.75||C|
|Food, shoes, cleaning supplies, cash contribution, and relief team expenses (car fuel) in Athens||1,707.67||D|
|Food, toys, grooming materials for men, ladies’ wear, cell phones, packing materials, infant food, medicines for refugees and relief team expenses (car rental, gas, tolls, Simcard, household supplies and condiments)||10,865.16||E|
|Food (vegetables, fruits, oil and bread), baking materials, infant food, medical supplies, clothing items, cleaning supplies, toys, school bags, sport shoes etc., for refugees and relief team expenses (daily necessities, condiments, gas, car repair and tolls)||6,676.35||F|
|Total||EUR 35,713.99 (US$41,605.25)|