All figures are considered accurate as of May 15, 2016 and are based off of records from the following official sources:
UNHCR, United Nations, Amnesty International, Frontex, Eurostat, Washington Post, International Organization on Migration, Medecins Sans Frontieres
HOW DID OUR VOLUNTEER GROUP COME TOGETHER?
In January of 2016, El Camino organized a volunteer trip to aid in the refugee relief effort in Greece. We decided as a company we could no longer watch passively as one of the world’s worst international humanitarian crises unfolded in front of us. Millions of individuals were fleeing the Middle East, trying to escape the violent wrath of ISIS, persecution by their own governments, and other terrorist organizations. We knew our community is savvy in international happenings and one that cares about having a positive impact in the world. When we put out the call for volunteers we received over 150 passionately written emails in just a few short days. We were blown away.
It was inspiring to read all the letters from our community and a proud moment to see the type of community we had cultivated as a brand. Ten of us ended up going in March for two weeks to work in refugee camps on the island of Lesvos, and later in Piraeus Port outside of Athens. We've repeatedly been asked by friends, family, and supporters to share more with regards to what is happening on the ground, so we created this website to paint as accurate a picture of the refugee story as possible, share what we learned, and offer suggestions on how others can best contribute.
STORIES WE COLLECTED ALONG THE WAY
NOT THE REFUGEE STORY....
WHEN YOU REALIZE THE REFUGEE CRISIS IS MUCH BIGGER THAN SYRIA
THE FEMALE REFUGEE EXPERIENCE
WHEN YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT COMES NEXT
THE ENTREPRENEUR WHO LOST EVERYTHING AT THE HANDS OF ISIS
COMMUNICATING WITH REFUGEES THROUGH WHATSAPP AND SOCIAL MEDIA
WHEN YOU ARE AN "ECONOMIC MIGRANT."
THE REFUGEES WHO VOLUNTEERED ALONGSIDE US
A visual journey of some of the largest demographics of currently displaced refugees within the Middle East and Europe.
WANT TO VOLUNTEER?
Volunteering in environments like refugee camps is not easy. Here are some tips from our group to keep in mind that will aid you and those you are intending to help when doing this type of work.
HOW CAN YOU HELP NOW?
Since returning from Greece, needs have only increased. Over 50,000 refugees are still living in legal limbo and in dire conditions. We have heard that many refugees will not even begin the legal processes to learn if they can earn refugee status for another 12 months. This process can then take another year. This is a harrowing amount of time for families to live in dirty, rat-infested warehouses and on concrete lots in the rain.
Our team has decided to raise $10,000USD for an organization that we initially volunteered with, Together For Better Days. We were all blown away by the dedication of the volunteers, and the organization of the camp infrastructure during our time spent there. We have full confidence in their capability and know that any funds being sent to them will be utilized in the best possible ways as they move their operations from Lesvos to the mainland of Greece where a large portion of the refugee population is concentrated. They will need your support to do this, and you can contribute here or by clicking the button below.
THE BEGINNING (BACKGROUND ON WHY REFUGEE CRISIS IS HAPPENING)
Inside ‘Islamic State’: A Raqqa diary – BBC News
An animated visual diary of what life is like in Raqqa, Syria – the capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate. Watch this to understand how commonplace violence is and how a simple walk to the local shops can be life-threatening.
How ISIS Spread in the Middle East – The Atlantic
Heads up, this one is a long read, but worth it to get a better understanding of the many factors, consequential events, and decisions that have played into ISIS’ rise to power.
THE JOURNEY (WHAT’S HAPPENING IN EUROPE)
The Waypoint: A visual journey through Lesbos, the gateway to Europe - The Washington Post
A stunning written, audio, and visual experience that gives an overview of the refugee journey – from smuggling boats, arriving at the shore, to the official registration process overflowing camps in Greece. This is a good place to start.
Greece: Humanitarian Crisis at Athens Port – Human Rights Watch
A very truthful account of what the conditions are like in a refugee camp – specifically at Athens’ makeshift camp at the port of Piraeus.
THE FUTURE (WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?)
EU’s reckless refugee returns to Turkey illegal – Amnesty International
This article explains a number of reasons why Turkey can’t be considered a ‘safe third country’ following the EU-Turkey deal signed March 18th that sends migrants entering Lesbos back to Turkey for processing.
TEDx Talks: What if we helped refugees to help themselves? – Alexander Betts
Challenging common perceptions of refugees and their ‘drain’ on the nations that receive them with real examples and data that show refugees contribute in incredibly meaningful ways to their local environment and economy.
ORGANIZATIONS TO VOLUNTEER WITH
This was the incredible organization that we worked with in Lesbos. While they’ve since moved to mainland Greece, they still need volunteers! Check out their page to see what skills/time commitments they need from volunteers
Another organization that was operating in Lesbos – we had the opportunity to work with a number of their volunteers as well!
This crew was operating inside the official Moria camp in Lesbos before it became a closed detention center. They’ve since moved to camps in mainland Greece.