Luzern for the Refugees: on the right side of History

Luzern is at its best this time of the year! The fifth season is upon us and what an upbeat Fasnacht it has been so far! Not long ago, as we were celebrating Christmas together, we made a plea to you: Lets take a moment to appreciate what we are privileged to enjoy in this part of the world and reach out to the ones less fortunate. 

And reach out you did! 

Your contributions have been amazing: donations, calls to volunteer, talking to raise awareness! And through you, Luzern is showing once more its solidarity!

Thank you! Thank you!

It has been already a year since the first of the 924,136 refugees set a wet foot on a Greek island. It has been huge, it has been both devastating and motivating to bear witness, to this time in history.

What’s been happening…

Everyone was hoping for a winter hull.  A time to reflect, decompress and get ready for the next wave. This never came. Under the harsh winter (yes, Greece gets those too), strong winds and rough seas, half of those who cross are children and women. And new challenges knocked on our door: hypothermia, frostbites, exhausted, vulnerable people.  The death toll is unbearable. The 31st of January 2016 marked the deadliest month in the crisis: 285 people were lost in the cold water of the Aegean Sea. But for as long as the bleeding wound of Syria is still open, it’s only reasonable that people will keep coming.

On the first days of last November we found ourselves once again on the island of Lesvos, joining forces with the local volunteering teams. Once there, you realize that absolutely nothing prepares you for what you have to deal with. What happened during the months of October and November was just huge. The entire planet was there, and it felt like that tiny place was the beating heart of the world.

The contribution of a volunteer is not as heroic as one might think. As a volunteer you make sandwiches, carry boxes with supplies, sort out clothes, load up the car with walking refugees from the beaches to the hot spots and put people on buses. Not to forget taking care of the queues and many queues there are: for the water, for the ticket, for the blanket, for the stamp.

We even attempted to learn a couple of words in Arabic. Apart from the absolutely necessary, someone suggested to teach us how to say “I want to do to you what the spring does to the cherry tree”, but we left it for a little later… The most important word is inshallah which means “God willing”.

Inshallah, but the strengths of a volunteer are really measured, on the beaches. You are filled with emotions from the moment you discern a boat in the horizon through the binoculars. It makes you want to talk to the sea, convince the waters to be gentle and kind, you whisper to the wind “please go away, please go away …”. You give orders to the boat as if it were a living thing that can hear you “keep it straight, not that way, for god’s sake not that way!”.

And once people make it on shore, once they feel that they are safe, the emotions are heightened even for the most composed amongst us. You see in their eyes days, weeks even months of agony and anticipation turn into a deep exhale: “we are safe!”. And you realize that for some of the children this is the first time in their lives. You can now give, you can now offer, you can now be helpful to someone in need, and there is no other feeling in the world so complete, so substantial, so fulfilling than using your body and life to serve another human being. As for the children, the question is whether they will ever be able to forget and as things are now, the answer is no. Maybe if we are lucky enough, they will one day be able to forgive us…

The situation on the islands is always fluid. Although Lesvos continues to receive the majority of the arrivals, other smaller islands, like Chios, Kos, Samos and the small complex of Oinousses, that have scarce resources, are now also receiving thousands of people a day.

What we are doing…

No More Walking follows the situation closely – aiming to respond immediately to the people and places that need us most.  With your kind donations and help coming from all over the world, we are providing emergency relief items and support to local groups to do what they do best: save lives.  

Currently we are active on the islands of Chios and Lesvos on a regular basis and meet ad hoc needs on smaller islands like Agathonisi and Oinousses.  Our agenda is full with actions that are already rolling or others that are waiting to turn from plans into reality.

We have sent almost 10’000 pairs of socks, as well as more than 2’000 emergency blankets to help these people beat hypothermia, we have provided thousands of portions of food and support local rescue teams with fundraising and administration so they can focus on saving lives on the ground.

Next Steps…

February will now find us in Chios, Lesvos and Oinousses, where we will provide relief, clean beaches and support the groups keeping unaccompanied minors safe. We will personally bring your donations to cover immediate needs on the ground. Check our Facebook page to read our experiences and regular updates on how your donations are making a difference! 

Life does not stop and we enjoy more than ever the blessings that each day brings with it. But deep in our hearts and well in our minds are those less fortunate among us. The worst is unfortunately yet to be seen and we are heading towards a hellish spring and a “we-cannot-imagine” summer. We keep ourselves informed, involved and inspired. We put in time, energy, brains and people.

Providing shelter, food, safety and a smile is restoring for those people who have lost their dignity as well as allowing us, once all this is over, to at least know that we stood on the right side of history.

For those running for their lives.

 For the noble people of the Greek islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and the others who unwaveringly stand by those who need them most. 

For us calling ourselves Europeans and citizens of the World.

We are not saving the world.

We are just being part of it.

And as Don Quixote said to his friend Sancho Panza “Good actions ennoble us, and we are the sons of our deeds.”

The NoMoreWalking Team

If you would like to volunteer with us at home or on the ground, contact us, we would love to find a way together that suits you most!

If you would like to support one of our projects, please visit our page.

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