Many know the island of Lesbos as a small, quiet vacation island. It embodies the quaint characteristics of Greece, with its freshly caught fish and rural roads through mountain ranges. But what many people do not know is that Lesbos also accepted nearly 60 percent of the migrants that entered Greece last year because of its location at the northern tip of the country.
The small town of around 100 residents became a familiar name for media centers around the world covering the refugee crisis, as most Middle Easterners seeking asylum, shelter and safety arrive in the town on a daily basis.
Already doomed by the government’s economic crisis, the island has been overwhelmed with balancing compassion and aid for refugees while having their tourist-dependent economy wane because of the arrival of the refugees. Along with the refugees, international organizations like the United Nations and other NGOs also began to arrive in an attempt to stabilize the region and help the refugees. One of the most notable of these organizations is Lighthouse Relief.
LightHouse Relief, a Swedish nonprofit organization, works to provide relief to refugees who arrive in the Katsikas and Ritsona camps in mainland Greece, in addition to providing ecological support of Lesvos. Skilled volunteers from around the world give their time to work with the organization on the ground to help people.
The organization was started in September 2015 by a group of volunteers working on the northeastern coast of Lesvos in Skala Sikamineas. There were no other organizations present at that time to help the Greeks who were attempting to aid the incoming refugees, so LightHouse Relief volunteers rented nearby land and prepared to have a long-term presence.
The organization’s main goal is to provide relief to children, women, and the elderly through their various programs and initial help of migrants when they arrive on shore. Since October 2015, LightHouse Relief has been able to provide a reception camp with electrically-heated tents and playgrounds for children.
One of their biggest projects is Lighthouse ECO Relief,which stands for Environmental Clean-Up Operation. So far, 600,000 lifejackets and 10,000 rubber dinghies have been discarded on the shores all around Lesvos, hurting the ecosystem of the area and making it a more dangerous destination for subsequent migrants. This project removes trash, lifejackets and broken boats.
All volunteers have to at least be 21 and committed to staying for a minimum of three weeks. Holidays are no exception, as multiple volunteers were standing on the shore waiting for migrants to arrive on Christmas morning, prepared to give warm clothes and a Christmas Dinner on the beach to help the refugees feel as though they were home as well.
Volunteers must also have some sort of a background in the resources that the organization tries to provide. From nutrition to being a midwife, to language skills, all of their volunteers are prepared to have lasting effects on all of the people they encounter.
– Ashley Morefield