Over the last few days I've received many messages from people that want to help but don't know how. Some people read my post about how most of the money donated to charities goes into admin fees and are skeptical to donate to them. Me and Jack spent some time putting together a few ideas on how you can help by not being here. I hope it answers some questions.
We both think that the best way to help is by getting involved. Refugees need support more than they need physical things. Find out which organisations in your area are preparing for when refugees arrive and introduce yourself. Tell them what skills you have and how you want to help. Maybe you are involved in some activities you want to tell the refugees about. Football clubs, scouts, baking club... It will be good for them to join so they can settle in and feel welcome as well as practise language skills.
You may know that there's many people that don't agree with their arrival, so being a friendly face is the best you can do to help.
If you're the kind of person that prefers to donate money, or someone that is working and doesn't have time to volunteer:
- I can make sure that all the money you donate goes towards being spent on helping the refugees directly and 0% on admin fees (I am covering my own costs here). This is usually the best way to help as opposed to "send things". Usually the cost of sending is much bigger than donating the money and let the people in the area buy the supplies. There's a few volunteers here that do this. Their friends and family send them the money, the volunteers buy whatever the donor wants, they deliver it and send the receipt to the donor. If you want to do this please send a private message so we can sort it out. We can talk about how you want me to spend the money. Ideas: The organisation I volunteer for needs medical supplies at all times. I can ask them what they want and buy it for them with your donation. Refugees often need hygiene items. Tooth brushes, soap, tooth paste, sanitary pads for the women, diapers, rash cream for the babies, baby milk, etc. I can buy these and distribute in the port to those that need it. Socks are also a good option and blankets. It's so cold in the ferry at night. And they will need it during the rest of the trip as they enter cold countries. The advantage of letting me buy these items instead of donating them to the Doctors of the World is that I can take them directly to the port to people that may already have been to the camp but didn't receive these items or have already run out. You can also give me the freedom to ask the people what is it that they need and I get it for them with your money.
I do want to clarify regarding how organisations spend their money. I don't think it's bad to pay people to help. I just think it's not done in a transparent way. "Sending" a nurse or a doctors is sometimes more important than sending clothes. And some people are essential on these operations and they should be paid! How else would they be able to do this full time for months on end? But I do agree with the way the Doctors of the World are doing this here in Lesvos. Most of the volunteers are local doctors and nurses. To me that matters a lot. And when this organisation receives money for a specific goal, that's how they use it. So you can rest assured that if you donate money for medical supplies, it will be spend on medical supplies.
You can find more information on how charities spend their money online. Insert the name of the organisation on this website to see ther spending percentages by use:
This is the information on the organisation we are with: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=5908#.Vhl2jv9dac0
They spend over 92% of all the money in supplies and only 4% in admin fees.
On the other hand check the United Nations report: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=8166#.Vhl3xJ1dac0
Only 60% in supplies, 30%!!!! In fundraising and 8% in admin fees.
The organisation we volunteer for has a whole room with all these hygiene and clothing items mentioned above, in Moria refugee camp. But people sometimes overlook how hard it is to make the supplies reach the people that need it. Just because we have over 100 pairs of shoes it doesn't mean we can just put them outside and let people pick and choose. That would mean that people that really need them maybe wouldn't get them. We try and distribute to people we see that need these items. But maybe they didn't go though the medical office, maybe we didn't see them, maybe we didn't know their socks were wet inside the shoes. It's very hard to help EVERYONE and having the correct supplies of what they need at the right time on the right place. What I'm trying to highlight is the many logistical problems with donations. It's not as easy as "I have a box of clothes. Where do I send it to?" There's others, like the lack of space. The Doctors of the World have only a small room in the refugee camp were they keep the clothes , shoes, etc. We need to distribute all of it before we can receive other things. So when people contact me and ask "can I send a box?" I have to say "no" and it breaks my heart because I don't want to discourage them from getting involved.
So, to summarise, if you want to help and
A) you have free time: get involved in your local area.
B) you have money and want to donate it: get in touch. I can help.