The ‘Idomeni’ Refugee Project

Stage One 2016: The ‘Idomeni’ Refugee Project: We Get Involved

The story of how the Gene Keys community first became involved with refugees on the Greek-Macedonian border through a hastily organised fund-raising campaign and a mercy dash to a refugee camp on rail tracks has been told elsewhere. Go here to view videos that tell the story of what people fleeing from war faced when Europe closed its borders early in 2016 to a human flood of refugees.

Stage Two 2017: We Get More Involved

The tragedy of Idomeni broke open our hearts and the stories Richard brought back from the camp on the Greek/Macedonian border remained with many of us. At the end of 2016, our newly formed Gene Keys Society ran a brief Christmas campaign among our members, as a result of which we were able to send a further small donation to Luck of Birth, early in 2017.

Unable to remain comfortably in a prosperous country that was showing minimal response in the face of such human hardship, Sam and Theo had by now moved their family to Greece, so that they could offer more practical support on the ground. With the border camp now closed, the Nelsons headed for the coast, where their Luck of Birth organisation soon became a core element in a local refugee housing and social project called ‘Filoxenia’, in the city of Thessaloniki. 

Filoxenia means ‘friend to the stranger’ and it draws on an ancient virtue of hospitality in Greece and beyond: any friends of a friend arriving at your home must immediately be offered food, drink and a place to refresh and clean up, before being asked any questions. In this ancient honour system, such visitors are similarly bound to behave virtuously toward their host.

 

 

 

 

A number of severely-at-risk refugees with small children were now able to find relative independence and safe living conditions in Filoxenia’s 17 two-bedroom furnished apartments. And, as valuable, the families also received the warmth of human connection and companionship from loving strangers.

To provide full psycho-social and legal support for the refugees, Filoxenia formed partnerships with seven other humanitarian agencies, including Medecins du Monde, Save the Children and Care.

Stage Three 2017-18: We Partner With Volunteers Helping Asylum Seekers 

When Sam told us that Filoxenia had enough funding for their immediate needs with the refugees, we asked her advice on how we might best offer ongoing support. We wanted to give where our dollars might deliver practical and humane outcomes.

In April 2017, Sam introduced us to a small group of volunteers whom they had met in Idomeni. Like Theo and Sam, the dedicated trio who started a registered non-profit organisation called Mobile Info Team (MIT) – Michael from Germany, Mariana from Portugal and Fabian from the Netherlands – had found themselves unable to turn their backs on the refugees. They could not return to hitherto comfortable lifestyles in Western Europe now they knew at first hand the desperate conditions endured by 62,000 stateless people shut out of the prosperous west and stuck in a political no-man’s land.

MIT have worked ceaselessly ever since to develop and expand a volunteer body that works directly with the refugee families. They give detailed and up to the minute asylum advice and support families separated by national boundaries to complete the complicated application processes that can enable them to reconnect. 

Those of us who have stayed in regular communication and conversation with Michael and Fabian have been deeply touched and humbled by their dedication to the people they serve. They all testify to the importance of offering desperate and stateless people a sense that someone is willing to listen to them and, where necessary, advocate for them as they struggle to understand procedures and be understood by a faceless bureaucracy in a language that is not their own.

Michael, Mariana and Fabian say: ”We are deeply grateful for the support we have been receiving from The Gene Keys Society! And we would love to show you a little of what we do with your donations. That’s why we invite you to watch this video.

The Gene Keys Society’s donations to Luck of Birth and Mobile Info Team during 2017 totalled just over $7,000: that’s about $10 per member, if donations had been spread evenly across our membership. During 2018, we will continue to channel all refugee project donations we receive to MIT.

Here’s a recent report about refugees desperate enough to reach Western Europe to have put themselves in the hands of smugglers. Their unhappy story reinforces the value of Mobile Info Team’s work.

Within the Society, we would love to hear from anyone who has ideas for developing our refugee project. Are you ready to get involved? If so, do please complete and submit the form you’ll find on the bottom of our Volunteer page.

In the meantime you can keep up todate with Mobile Info Team news at www.mobileinfoteam.org/blog

Globally, one person in five currently lacks a home or lives in an inadequate shelter.  Never doubt that the synergy generated through sustained Gene Keys community action can make a difference to peoples’ lives. Together we can tap into collective miracles and magic.

If you are in a position to give and if this project speaks to you, do please use the donate link below and click on the ‘Idomeni’ option in the drop down menu. You will feed the Gene Keys Grail and help our friends at Mobile Info Team provide access to information for refugees that transforms their lives!

 

Do you have time, good health and a willingness to move beyond your comfort zone to serve others? If so, you may be interested to volunteer in Greece with Mariana, Michael, Fabian. Volunteers invariably report that they receive far more than they give!  To learn about opportunities with MIT or to support a volunteer, go to https://www.mobileinfoteam.org/join-us/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *