Why I wanted to undertake this project.
I went on holiday to Kos in July 2015 and saw this desperate refugee crisis first hand. It is the most heart-breaking and devastating situation which has spiralled out of control and it is impossible to try and provide all the necessities for these people. I cannot even comprehend getting on a rubber dingy with my family and entrusting someone to get me to another island across a deadly sea – but these people do because it’s their only option if they want to be try and reach safety.
It became extremely clear during the 2015 summer months that the refugee crisis was worsening in Kos. The refugees that are lucky enough to reach Kos arrive with nothing but the clothes on their back. They have very minimal shelter and food and water supplies are limited to what a handful of charities are able to provide.
After witnessing the crisis, and hearing about the increasing numbers of people reaching Kos I wanted to take some action. Donating to charities wasn’t enough – I wanted to start something myself and get my local community involved that would bring a bit of happiness into the lives of these vulnerable people, even if it was short-lived. With the Christmas period approaching, I decided to have a festive theme and my aim was to get 2,000 drawstring bags filled by local people and then shipped and distributed out to refugees in Kos.
The bags were waterproof and broken down into 5 main categories; newborn, young boy, young girl, teenager and adult. This allowed local people to pick a bag they felt they could fill the best as well as allowing us to provide specific essentials for different ages and genders. We were able to meet more specific needs rather than providing general donations which many charities already had a large amount of. Fundraising was vital to ensure all the costs of producing the bags and getting them shipped to Kos could be covered. There are a few ways we fundraised; company sponsorship, crowdfunding, church collections and £1 donations with each bag. Having various methods enabled us to raise as much as possible and in 2015 we raised more than was required to cover our costs and therefore could donate additional items that were urgently required along with the bags.
Early on in the start up of the project, I made regular contact with a charity based on the island of Kos called Kos Kindness. They agreed to be our point of contact in Kos where we could send all of the bags and donations and they would distribute them out to the refugees for us. It was great to be able to have a contact based on the island, who knew the crisis inside out and could advise us on the most essential items required so that all of our donations could be put to good use.
However, with the nature of the refugee crisis having significantly changed during 2016 we have decided that distributing filled bags is not the most effective way to help refugees this Christmas. Instead, we are working closely with 3 amazing charities who are all working in refugee camps across Greece to provide medical care, supplies, food, shelter and even education. These 3 charities; Doctors of the World, Samos Volunteers and Kos Kindness work tirelessly to help as many refugees as possible and with so many stranded in refugee camps across Greece indefinitely this Christmas, we are aiming to raise £3,000 to help provide resources and supplies to help the crisis this Christmas. You can help by donating, sponsoring the project, participating in our auction or holding a fundraiser on our behalf! We want to get as many people in the community involved as we can to bring a bit of joy to refugees this Christmas time.