Imagine a world without a home. Without access to basic sanitary needs. Imagine witnessing first-hand the terrible bloody conflict that has brought your nation to its knees. No-it’s not the result of an alien invasion straight out of a science fiction novel. Sadly, this is the cruel reality that many refugees arriving in Greece face every day.
Despite a continuous influx of refugees into Greece, the UK media only covered the crisis for a short while, but the problem remains as challenging as ever. Authorities are still struggling to provide basic accommodation and food for the thousands of people fleeing war zones in Syria. In the midst of the desperate plight of the refugees, a new charity was founded – The Aegean Solidarity Network.
Started by Joel Gage, who witnessed the crisis first hand whilst visiting Greece, the network-which is primarily based in West Sussex, aims to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees arriving on the Greek Island of Leros. Relying completely on donations, the network distributes everyday necessities including medical supplies, food vouchers, baby equipment and personal hygiene kits, in order to cater to the refugees’ simple needs. Indeed, in 2017 alone, the network raised a huge £21,000 through fundraising projects to directly support their cause. Founder Joel told me, “In 2015, two weeks changed my life. I witnessed the tragic and heart-breaking reality of the refugee crisis first hand on the small Greek island of Leros. Moved out of compassion for the people in such desperate situations, Aegean Solidarity Network UK was born. We now provide funding to support projects and give hope to refugees throughout Greece by helping to plug the many gaps in care. People are still arriving and our media doesn’t show us the horrific conditions they are enduring in camps on European shores. We remain committed to raising awareness and making a difference.
Although based locally in the UK, the network works in contact with various groups in Greece, therefore maintaining a constant source of information about the ever changing needs of the refugees. The network also works with Nea Kavala Art without Borders, which recognises the therapy of art and allows refugee children to draw, paint and generally express their feelings through the means of a paintbrush and a canvas. The Aegean Solidarity Network supports this project by funding the cost of food and refreshments, and selling the children’s art to raise money for the families of the children at various events in the South of England. Similar projects funded by the network include The Orange House which provides shelter for vulnerable women and children, and The Unmentionables which rely on donations to provide general sanitary and feminine products to the refugees.
In October this year, Joel brought the cause to a wider audience when he visited the London College of Communication to talk about the desperate situation facing Greece, resulting in the students now using his briefing as part of their final coursework. This is an excellent development in bringing the cause to a wider and younger audience.
Similarly, this October the team decided to partake in the Great South Run in Portsmouth, and by running 10 miles each, collectively managed to raise a total of more than £2000, which will go towards making a large difference in so many people’s lives.