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Solidarity Symi: A Safe Haven for Syrian Refugees

The Syria Refugee crisis is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. With the picture of the young refugee boy whose body washed up on shore grabbing the attention of the world, more people than ever are paying attention to this humanitarian crisis.

With increased awareness of the Syrian Refugees, comes an increase in advocacy (as people in many countries are stepping up to tell their governments how they feel about accepting refugees into their countries) and an increase in activism.

Individuals like hotel owner Andrew Davies and lettings agent Wendy Wilcox on the Greek island of Symi, are stepping up to help these those who are fleeing violence and pain in hopes of finding a better life.

Together, the pair has launched a reception service on the tiny Greek island called Solidarity Symi, using an abandoned post office as their resource headquarters.

This organization is a not-for-profit that works to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment to destitute Syrians who have crossed over the Mediterranean into Europe.

These heroic individuals work at this project eight hours a day in addition to the jobs they work at to make a living.

There are 30 core volunteers that work to get the refugees taken care of while they are in Symi and to direct them to resources about how to continue their journey safely.

Though some Symi residents worry about the influx of refugees hurting their tourism-based economy, Davies’ thoughts on the matter are simple. “How could we lie on the beach reading books when people were suffering?” he asks.

Many cross the Mediterranean in dangerously overloaded boats, with smugglers who overcharge them or delay the trip. But, in a country torn apart by war, many Syrians are left with no other choice.

As Francine Uenuma of Save the Children emphasizes based on the refugees she has spoken to near Serbia, “They’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing persecution. And the risks they’re taking, I think, underscore that point.”

Right now, independent operations like Solidarity Symi are especially important in light of the strain on humanitarian aid agencies such as the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.N.’s World Food Program.

Solidarity Symi has raised over £26,000 through a Facebook site and donations from visitors. There are donation boxes set up around the island, and community members are working to raise awareness of the organization through on-site and online mediums so that it can continue to develop.

The Facebook page is also continually updated with items that the organization is in need of, so that those present on the island can make material donations such as soap, travel bags, specific foods, sleeping mats, and even toys for children.

The Solidarity Symi Facebook page is a very positive resource that updates supporters with pictures and posts about how their donations are helping and about refugees as individual people, not simply victims and members of a mass migration.

The people working tirelessly at organizations such as Solidarity Symi are a perfect testament to how each individual has the power to make a positive difference.

For more information about Solidarity Symi, or to donate to the organization, visit their website.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: Blogspot, Daily Mail, Facebook, NPR 1, NPR 2, Reuters
Photo: cooksailing