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In October we go to the camp twice: in mid-October and at the end of the month. Since our last mission in August, we have worked tirelessly to the project of the water well for the camp. We have developed the project through many contacts, quotations, video calls and we have run a fundraising campaign.

The works started at the beginning of October and now me and Luca are there to monitor the improvements and deliver the funds collected.

We check the excavations and notice that they have already reached the water. We assist to the building of the internal coating and buy the extraction pump.

We spend few beautiful days at the camp and we are deeply fulfilled by the awareness that this project will change the life and health conditions of hundreds of people and children. The children’s happiness is immense after they see the water coming out of the well.

During this mission we also provide support to the most fragile people of the camp, as we always do, and we start to buy the materials needed to re-open the Rainbow Tent. Lastly, we organise the creation of a second school tent as we realise that we cannot fit all children just in one.

 

At the end of October we go back to the camp, together with the doctor (Anna), the teacher responsible for the tents (Elisabetta), and the photographer (Paolo).

The building of the well is finished in one part of the camp. The water comes out and people can take it manually, but our intention by the end of the year is to install the filters, the accumulation tank, and build other points of supply throughout the camp.

For two entire days doctor Anna visits and cures everyone who is in need. She examines the conditions of malnourished children we are used to follow, as well as the new cases.

Together with Elisabetta, we select 4 teachers for the two Rainbow Tents. She also organises the activities that will take place over the next months. The opening of the school activities is a touching moment of happiness.

Later we distribute the supplies of milk powder to the malnourished children and the vouchers to the orphans supported by Italian donors. Again we find new kids and families in need that will have to be associated to new donors.

We finally distribute food packs to all the families (following as usual the lists prepared from the two coordinators of the camp) and we take care of supporting the most fragile and unlucky people in the camp.

Me and Luca stay at the camp two more days in order to organise the widespread web of support that we really want to provide.

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The Covid19 pandemic caused the closure of all borders. As a result, four months have passed since we last visited the camp. During this time we have been able to keep up our projects (food packs, wood and coal supply, monthly vouchers for the orphans in the camp and the families in the urban area) thanks to a network of wonderful local partners. During the past years they have become devoted and fraternal friends.

Me and Luca finally get back to the camp in August. Moving across the country is more complicated than usual due to the safety measures, social distancing and masks, but we try to be respectful and responsible.

The situation in the camp is difficult too: misery and desperation are suffocating and often cause tears of helplessness.

The weather is so hot that the risk of feeling sick is tangible. There’s no water, food is scarce, kids are really thin and parents exhausted.

Families or alone children continue to flee from the bombings and come to populate this desperate place, that is very close to collapse. While counting the groups of orphans supported by our donors we notice that their number has severely increased. I start to panic thinking that we will have to find new donors willing to help these sons of nobody.

Under a merciless sun we distribute food packs, milk powder for malnourished children, and medicines (while talking on the phone with the doctor in Italy).

The Rainbow Tent is closed by police order due to the pandemic, but I’m happy to know that it’ll be able to open again in one month. Children keep on asking about the tent and I feel like I’m disappointing them.

We decide to rent a bus and take a good number of children to spend a day by the sea. It is a wonderful day where children that usually never laugh had the chance to play, splash and have fun. I have never felt so good and I’ve never seen more fragile, still bright, eyes. Luca, my husband, plays and swims next to us.

After the trip we go to visit some very vulnerable families that we have supported in the past years: Salema who is sick, two children who have thalassemia and few other very difficult situations, like young Youssef.

This time again we cannot go to the urban area because of Covid19 restrictions, so we have to leave the donations to our co-operator who will take care of distributing the vouchers to these families that leave in very rundown accommodations .

Going back home is always painful.

Arianna

 

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We leave at the end of February in a moment of deep uncertainty due to Covid19 world pandemic. It is me (Arianna) and Luca. We are not frightened by the situation, nevertheless before leaving we collect all the information necessary to ensure we have a safe journey and we don’t find ourselves unprepared.

Malpensa airport is strangely desert. We embark on the plane and our trip will end late at night.

When we arrive in the camp the weather is cold but we always have a very warm welcome, full of hugs and smiles from our kids as well as from many adults that have become a genuine family to us. We soon get ready to start our activities. There so much to do and we only have two days before we get back.

We realise that it is a very difficult moment because of bombings. Besides, moving around is dangerous and complicated because of the curfew. Still we manage to distribute food packs to all the families of the camp, milk to malnourished children and vouchers to the orphans supported from the Italian donors. We also assign the funds for the Rainbow Tent, that we supervise, and we find it full of children so much willing to learn and show us their improvements.

In addition, we leave medicines and sustenance to the most fragile families and we buy a tent for a family that has just lost theirs in a fire, while trying to keep warm.

We cannot go to the urban area, where we support 25 families, since the curfew doesn’t allow us to move across different regions. Therefore we leave the money destined to those families to our local co-operator, who will take care of distributing the vouchers and sending us the pictures of the distribution.

The last day of the mission we realise that we are stuck in Turkey, because the Turkish Government decided to cancel all flights to Italy due to the pandemic. We contact the Italian Embassy, that kindly tell us to try and find a way to go back on our own, but actually there are no flights to Italy available.

Fortunately we find our way back home after a long trip and many stopovers.

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In January and February the weather was cold and the children of the camp were all barefoot and had no jackets. Only me (Arianna) and Luca made it to the camp this time, but we managed to buy and distribute 2 tracks full of boots and jackets to more than 1000 children. The organisation of the distribution is never easy, but this time we have been able to hand out boots and clothes of the right size to every child, thanks to the support of many people in the camp.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford distributing food packs to the 800 families of the camp: money is never enough and we can only rely on the spontaneous contributions from the donors. Still we were able to give milk to malnourished children and vouchers to the orphans. These young children live in very harsh conditions, they are alone in the camp and the older ones already work in the fields nearby for a few euros per day.

The contributions from the generous donors help children to cover their basic needs, but we strongly believe in the importance of education as the most important instrument we can offer them to change their life. SSCH relies on the school tent (Rainbow Tent) since it is the only place where children can spend a few peaceful hours, learning how to write, read and count. The management of the tent activities is not easy because the kids don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to games and instruction, even though this should be their everyday life. Still they are really willing to learn and play and have a break from a life made of hard work and sacrifice. Life has deprived them of their childhood, but in the tent they can live a moment of peace and light, and we are very proud of that.

Just a few drops in an ocean of grief and indifference.

 

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In the last months of 2019 we were able to go to Turkey regularly every month.

In October the group was very cohesive: two doctors, one photographer and Elisabetta from Comitato Mahmud, responsible for the small school tent, the Rainbow Tent, where they organise recreational activities and the work of two local teachers.

The weather was mild, and our experienced routine allowed the doctors to visit all the children of the camp, the malnourished children and the adults in need. In particular, they could happily see that malnourished children are growing normally thanks to the treatments and the milk powder provided each month.

We distributed vouchers to the orphans, as well as food packs, and organised the activities of the Rainbow Tent for the coming months.

In November and December it was again Arianna and Luca. They took care of the most vulnerable in the camp, distributing the vouchers to the orphans and the malnourished children. They also continued to assist those in need, following the instructions from the doctors in Italy. They distributed covers and wood to all the residents of the camp in order to face the cold in the incoming winter.

Finally, they made it to Kilis where they gave vouchers and coal to the families who need to face the two coldest months of the year with no heat in their homes.

 

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In May 2019 we started supporting 21 families who live in Kilis, close to the Turkish/Syrian border. They have been selected amongst the most vulnerable and helpless. The families are usually made of orphans, invalid parents or disabled children, and they can barely survive.

The project is based on the support of Italian donors who give an amount of money every month. The money is then converted into a Voucher that we deliver directly to the families. This way we can develop an ongoing relationship between our organisation, the donors and the Syrian families.

We are very proud and thankful for the generosity and trust that many people give us.

 

 

 

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The Camp in Moria is the Hell on Earth. During our missions we have seen lots of camps but the atosphere in Moria is devastating. Nowere we have met the exasperation seen here. The families living there do not communicate, there is no mutual aid, and some people suffer because of mental disease. Maybe these people thought of Europe as the land of freedon butthey realized they were wrong, and now they think they haven’t the slightest prospect of future. They just realize that they are alive. In Moria it is almost impossible to . bring some help due to the many rules that an association must or should undergo. And, unfortunately, we are neither accustomed nor prepared to face them.

We left Italy with 2 vans loaded with clothes, blankets, jackets, shoes given by common and generous people.
The journey of Matteo, Marino and Jamal was long and tiring . They drove to Brindisi and then by ferries to Lesbos.They travelled at night and arrived early in the morning at the port of Metilene, on the island of Lesbos. Myself (Arianna) , Luca (my husband) and the Refugee4Refugees volunteers were waitng for us. The volunteers were there to give us support and logistics for the distribution of clothes.
Marino, the doctor, as always , will spend his time at the camp visiting all the people in need, mainly children, who show through their eyes tirederness and hopelessness.
With the logistic support of Refugee4Refugees we will ensure that the majority of families will receive the clothes they need. Families will go to the shop of the association, and get what they need, free, also after our departure, and this makes us very happy. Mothers go the the shop and get what they need for their families. Talking to people, in Moria, we face stories that leave deep signs in our heart. We met Parisa, an Afghani girl. She was asked by Holly (Holly and Andrea arrived a day after us) what was her name and she handed him 8 pages written in Persian containing her own story. There is also the story of a handsome k17 Syrian boy put by his parents on a rubber dinghy so that he could survive. The trauma of being left alone, the stress and deprivation he had to go through during the journey brought him to forget everything. He hardly remembers something either of the journey or of his past, mixes the days of the present and seems to suffer from dissociation. He listens to music and does nothing all day long. His eyes are the ones of a child: full of wonder.
We have met a young Syrian doctor who works in a small clinic outside the camp. Nearby it, some people are trying to do something that might give the idea of life: a school, a canteen, a makeshift gym .
There are other camps on the island, all inaccessible and fenced , to suggest that they do not need anything. But that is not true: when we hand out clothes, blankets etc. the people come near and crowd around in a bitter way to get something. The scene of misery and desperation is unforgettable.
.After 3 days some of us go back to Italy. Matteo and Jamal by vans and we must thank them because they are the ones who gave more in terms of time and difficulty.. Dr. Marino Andolina flew back, I (Arianna), Luca, Holly and Andrea stayed in Turkey for a couple of meetings with our local contacts. We are planning not only to distribute food and basic necessities, but to understand how and if, we can open a school in the camp we have been following since 2014. Then we move to Kilis to visit a family we support, and think about a stable project that involves the “citizen” refugees who have been living in garages and basements for years, without any help and without being able to work.
As we always do, we visit some families and, as always, our hearts are broken by the sight of children, sick people, elderly, disabled, orphans and widows who live in nonhuman and unacceptable condition
Our idea is to give birth to distance support, but also to set down a project that might allow the baking of bread to be handed out regularly. We might also think of setting up some job to foster single women to work. Our contact has submitted us some valid projects. We are ready to take them into consideration and set them up, if only we receive some donations, or would win some financial support from the government and/or foundations.

After 3 years I succeeded in crossing the border and returning to Syria; the situation is that of a humanitarian catastrophe : beyond any description!
There is nothing left: no houses, roads, lack of infrastructure. Syria is a vast sea of tents , refugees, surrounded by mud and debris. These people, mostly widows, elderly and children, receive almost no help and the children beg on the streets instead of going to school and play. They have been deprived of everything and it is unlikely for them to be able to go back to their homes. Their children will be the next generation of illiterate, angry and ready to be recruited by any sort of fanatics.

I came back home with a sense of anger and helplessness. I try to imagine what we would like and could do, but I know they are a lot, thousands and thousands and that our association SSCH can do just a little to help them. There are no funds, no energy, the international community does nothing to give birth to huge projects.

May these words be at least a spark for something important, I will go on telling what I observe when I go to meet the refugees and hope the world community will act.

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For the first time we won’t go to the refugee camp that we have supported during the past years.

We will meet two contact persons in Gaziantep camp, in order to give solid ground to our future activities. We will then move to Kilis, where we intend to run a project to support families facing extreme conditions.

The meeting in Gaziantep is very important and cannot be postponed.

The camp has no organization and no NGO is there to support, apart from few occasional activities. We are the only ones trying to provide a regular supply of food, medical care and essential goods, critically needed in winter time.

Within the camp we are supported, but outside we don’t have many connections.

We decide, together with the two contact persons, that we will start the following activities: we will bring food packages every other month with their support, we will start a school project and we will try to support more closely the orphans (more than 100) living in the camp.

During winter time we commit to provide what is needed to stay warm.

This is an extremely big challenge, in financial terms, since we are a small organization. I personally (Arianna) am really concerned, but we do want to give this project a try, since no one else is there to help. We will try to cover more than 1000 children and almost 500 families facing conditions of real deprivation and despair.

In order to achieve our goals, refugees will be divided into small groups and we will look for donors who will take charge of each group. We will also write down a project in order to increase financial support.

In Kilis we selected 22 vulnerable families and we will connect them with 22 Italian families who will provide them with food and school supplies for children. These are usually families where mothers, often widows, don’t know how to feed their children and have no solution rather than sending them to work. Some of them have to take care of disabled children and/or elderly relatives.

Fathers are often missing, or they are mutilated and disabled, so they have no opportunity to work.

Our goal is consequently to support these families by providing essential needs, so they can at least feed the children and send them to school. In Kilis, unlike Gaziantep camp, they do have schools and we want to give children the opportunity to attend them. This is the only way they can save their lives.

 

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The journey from Italy to Erbil (Iraq) is always very hard, due to the schedules and length.

We are three: myself, Arianna, Andrea Palmucci (the phhotographer), and Marino Andolini (the doctor).

All of us are prepared for little sleep and tiredness.

After weeks of never-ending contacts and visas that seemed never to come we are ready to leave.

We land at night. It is very cold. Three hours more by car to reach our final destination: Sulaymaniyya, the town in Iraq, capital of the governatorate bearing the same name.

We get there at dawn and find accommodation in a block of the Red Crecent. No heating, even 3 blankets cannot give us some warmth to rest for a few hours.

Then meetings and meetings with our referents of the Red Crecent who organized the logistics of distribution of food supplies backed and brought there by our Onlus organization.

We meet also some people from ONU, UNHCR, and UFPA who are present in the refugee camps we support and are going to visit.

As it always happens, we visit some families at death point. They escaped from Afrin bringing with them just the bare minimum to survive.

The day after we go to Camp Barika. In a heavy rain that soon becomes sleet, and with a temperature below zero, we start the distribution of 527 parcels of food supplies. A full truck.

Marino Andolina , vith no rest, works all day long. I am freezing and, I must admit, am unable to do something.

 

The most vulnerable families had been chosen: orphans, war widows, seriously ill people, very large families.Later on, after our leaving, other 337 parcels will be handed out.

The distribution takes place under a shelter, but the queue of people waiting is so long that most of them are in the rain.

It is cold, very cold, and myself, Arianna, despite being properly dressed, almost feel ill.

Bare foot children, wearing just a cotton sweatshirt, exausted mothers with dull eyes, old people sitting on the ground. Nobody is ready to help an old woman alone. You cannot call first the weakest.

The distribution goes on in the sleet, that bites you , till early afternoon.

The camp is a shantytown, soaked in mud. Even in the rain we meet chilly children

who wander about or work. Some of them play, many come near. A lot of mothers follow us to offer something to eat, they want to thank us for the help given to their children, and also for the shots taken by Andrea with great tact and smiles.

It  was a hard, very hard job! The cold gives no escape,  wet to the bones!

But we will be back in our hotel tonight, we will have a good dinner, a bed and many blankets. A cold shower and a heater for the night.

We leave children, mothers, fathers and old people in conditions where we wouldn’t even have dogs.

And this does not make you sleep.

 

Next day we ask, as agreed, to visit other camps just to understand how to help them.

What we meet at Hasty and Arbat Camps is no different from what we saw the day before. The only difference is that these camps give hospitality to internal evacuated people receiving a little help from the Government.

 

We realize that we can never help everyone, never and never!

It would take tens of thousands of euros just now that funds have been cut to UNHCR.

We will try to focus on just one camp, Barika camp, and on a number of vulnerable families.

Ambitious project for which we have no money but we must find it because we cannot look elsewhere.

The snow falls thicker and softer.

Due to the snow a lot of people and, above all, children will die and we can’t do anything.

The return trip to Erbil, at night under the snow, was critical.

I personally leave with the feeling that what we have done is never enough.

How to explain to my children that we have only alleviated a small part of suffering and indifference?

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A lot has been said about the Moira refugee camp in Lesbo Island (Greece). There are photoreports, reportages and not to forget some bitter disputes.
Here, we would like to give a human scale significance to what we have seen and what we have been able to do
during our visit there.

We are a small non-profit association with little financial resouces but very determined and, as we usually do, decided to go there personally to get aware of the issue.

The camp is up a hill, split into two parts: one organized and fenced in with barbed wire, the other outside the enclosure. When it rains both are just mud and cold.
In the fenced area people receive one meal a day but have to cue from morning to evening to get it.
There is also a camp for unaccompained minors, but it is impossible to meet them and therefore they cannot be helped.

The second part is situated outside the fenced one and, even if not officially, it is split in two parts, too: in the low area of the camp there are some old, ill-equipped tents donated by some great associations. The camp is operated by two non-profit associations. It is difficult to understand how things work, it seems that the refugees receive about two hours electriciry in the evening and health services but no food. The place is unsafe and dangerous, quite often violence occurs.
The upper part appears as a heap of junk, rags put together somehow to get shelter.For food all the refugees, who are starving, have to join the cue made up of 11.000 poor people. The kids are ill-fed, they are not educated and to get medical assistance all of them need to go outside the camp.
Many ethnic groups try, with difficulty, to coexsist but everybody knows they are sitting on a powder keg.
A great coloured poster welcomes the visitors. It says in various languages ” Welcome” that strongly fights with the desolation and sorrow that our eyes see.
People wander aimlessly, cold, alone , wearing slippers , worn-out shoes that sink into the mud. Their stare is at the same time empty and sour due to the length of their captivity.
We get into the camp and try to hand out the food baskets that Nawal and her team left for us in a tent, but the police and a local association that deals with electricity but not with dstrbution of food supplies, turn us out.
We are compelled to hand out the parcels outside the camp. The refugees live their tents and happily come to get
them.
When we succeed in walking up the hill in the dark, into mud and puddles Doctor Andolina visits the ones who need, tent after tent and in difficult condition.
There are the four of us: Arianna, , Andrea the photoreporter, Gianluca and Andolina ,the doctor. We decide to split up and while Andrea and the doctor end the visits, Gianluca and myself carry on with the distribution but a problem arises when we realize that the parcels are not enough for all the people. We had counted on that and tried to give first to the ones who looked more in need, but when a father or a mother ask for help for their children, you realize that you do not possess the empathy and understanding you should have to face such terrible situations. You are aware of having done the best, but that is not enough . You need to set yourself a goal:
do more!
We carry on giving out food and medical treatments till late in the evening . We try to get in touch with people, mainly children and we succeed and read in their eyes the same determination that pushes us to come back here to do more. That will be our mission.

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