Don’t just think. Act!

Thinking about going to Chios volunteering for the Norwegian NGO “A Drop in the Ocean”? Stop thinking and start acting!

All the time I hear the phrase: “I have been thinking about volunteering for refugee work with Drop in Ocean on Chios (or one of the other places in Greece where we operate”. My answer is: “Stop thinking and start acting!”. Just thinking about it is not going to do any good for the refugees… Further, you are loosing the possibility of a most important experience that you will never forget or regret!

A refugee couple hoping for a better future
A refugee couple hoping for a better future

During my stay on Chios volunteering as the coordinator of the activities of the “Drops” on this Greek Island, I have never heard a single volunteer expressing that he or she regrets going to Chios. On the contrary, many keep coming back…

It is not uncommon that volunteers describe the stay on Chios as “a once-in a lifetime experience” or “a turning point”, and that the stay “changed them (in a positive way)” and “broadened their minds”.

So what do the volunteers do on Chios (as of late May 2016)…? After having breakfast, we go to the Souda Refugee Camp (in Chios Town). By the way, you will need a rental car (for your own or sharing with 1-2 fellow volunteers).

We start handing out breakfast to approximately 1000 people in the Souda camp at 8:30. The breakfast consists of bread (sandwich, croissant etc.) and a boiled egg or a fruit (orange, banana). We try to vary the breakfast a bit from day to day.

Drop in the Ocean volunteer is playing with children in the Dipithe Camp
Drop in the Ocean volunteer is playing with children in the Dipithe Camp

At 9:30 we start serving breakfast for approximately 500 people in the nearby Dipithe Refugee Camp. During and after the meal we socialise with the refugees and make note of any special needs (such as baby milk, diapers, hygienic products, strollers for babys, clothes, shoes etc.) and play with the children.

A young mother and her two daughters in the breakfast line in Souda camp
A young mother and her two daughters in the breakfast line in Souda camp

We buy the food for the breakfast at a baker’s in Karfas. Georgio brings all the food himself to the camps in his van. Georgio shows his support for the refugees (and our work) by giving Drop in the Ocean a large discount.

Serving breakfast in the two camps is the sole responsibility of the Drop in the Ocean volunteers. If we don’t show up with food each morning, most of these poor people will have nothing to eat for breakfast.

People's Street Kitchen in Chios Town preparing soup for the refugees
People’s Street Kitchen in Chios Town preparing soup for the refugees
Our warehouse (provided by Kostas) fully stocked, including 80 baby strollers
Our warehouse (provided by Kostas) fully stocked, including 80 baby strollers

After serving breakfast the Drop in the Ocean volunteers assist as needed at the two street/soup kitchens on Chios Island, People’s Kitchen and Basque’s Kitchen, in preparing and serving lunch and dinner in the Souda and Dipithe camps. We also spend time in our warehouse (kindly provided by Kostas), collecting various items for the refugees and keeping it tidy and fully stocked.

 

7 thoughts on “Don’t just think. Act!”

  1. Hi, I have previously worked with Drapenihavet on lesvos as coordinator along with Marie Vodentis. Also twice on Kos last year.I would be available from end next week. Please let me know if you need me.

    1. Hi. I live in stavanger, worked as volunteer twice on Kos last year and two weeks with drapenihavet on lesvos this year, along with Marie Vodentis. Would be available end next week. Let me know.

  2. Volunteering is a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. Having volunteered numerous times, I can definitely relate. However, in this case I am hearing little about the end goal. Usually a volunteering experience has a concrete goal and end date. Serve food and help refugees until the government take charge and recognize the need to support the refugees. In this case, I have not heard of any effort to work with the government and train the refugees and show them how to sustain themselves. While more volunteered might help deliver food and clothes faster, it won’t help the refugees to integrate with society. Also, it seems like there is no effort to work closely with the government and to have an exit strategy consisting of the government providing the goods and the refugees making their own meals and forming groups to support the camps on their own until they get a fair trial. If there is an exit strategy that I am not aware of by reading this blog and various updates you made since January please let me know by replying to this post. Also, lets not forget that many volunteers have families who would miss them if they go away for a few months. One must have his/her family in mind when volunteering and not stay away too long. After all his/her family is his/her primary responsibility in life and they need him/her as much as the refugees do. Our kids need love, affection and guidance too. Volunteering in moderation is key and having an exit strategy is the only way to really help the refugees. Also, lets keep the 15 year olds away from the camps, from your previous blogs and pictures I saw various “kid volunteers” who were brought in by their parents to see the conditions in which the refugees live and to realize that they have a better life. This type of act is very demeaning to the refugees and their communities. Do we really think that a 15year old can provide comfort and “help” someone who just came from war? Someone who ran for weeks to save his life? Someone who looked death in the eyes at various occasions and still have the courage to not give up on life? I really appreciate the efforts and courage that the drops have and the countless people they help everyday. Good luck on your journey.

    1. As is clearly stated on our webpage, the lower age limit for volunteering with the Drop in the Ocean is 25 years. All volunteers have to register with our office in Norway before going. We do not accept volunteers just “showing up” in Greece…

      If you by your statement “kid volunteers who were brought in by their parents to see the conditions” are referring to my son, Endre, I would like to point out that he is 25 years old, has been trained by and served for 12 months in the Norwegian military, is a certified lifesaver and security guard, and has for the last two years worked in a kindergarten taking care of toddlers and pre-school children. He is using his own hard-earned money to finance volunteering for Drop in the Ocean.

  3. With things changing day by day, is Chios still an option?
    How do potential volunteers know where to go?
    Drop in the ocean is not posting need updates very regularly.
    I would like to help, but need to know where to go

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