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A Local Response to a Global Problem

Aide et Espoir aux Réfugiés - Help and Hope

The title sums up the aims of our association, newly created in October 2015, by our president, Jacky Malotaux, as a response to the overwhelming situation which had arisen in Greece.

In September 2015 alone, 153,000 men, women and children had arrived on the Greek islands next to Turkey, all with the hope of travelling on to northern Europe.  Subsequent retaliative actions by bordering countries resulted in a bottle neck situation from which there is still no escape. Jacky has seen the reality of the situation, witnessing the arrival of the overcrowded fragile inflatables, and helping those that survived the crossing find desperately needed dry clothes and a blanket. Then, as now, nearly all help and hope is provided by volunteers and the kind donations from caring people in Europe and afar.

The total closing of the Greek borders in March means that those people, who had no option but to flee for their lives to escape war and persecution, are now faced with another problem of survival, in camps if they are lucky, or on the streets if not, while they wait for asylum status to be granted.

There are many makeshift camps all over the Greek mainland, both set up and run by the Greek army.  One of these Ritsona, north of Athens, was visited by Jacky in May. Drinking water was the outstanding need as there were no standpipes and Jacky arrived with over 1000€ to spend on bottled water, money provided by Help and Hope/Aide et Espoir aux Réfugiés.  The situation in all of these camps is dire.  Certainly, the residents are luckier than the people sleeping on the streets in that they have a tent over their heads and three insufficient and often unpalatable meals a day provided by the army and handed out by the volunteers. However, the soaring temperatures of the Greek summer, the lack of anything to do, coupled with the slowness of the registration process (over 2 months before it even started) contribute to increasingly frayed tempers, desperation and lack of hope. Now, the volunteers not only provide for the residents physical needs but have also to provide psychological help, listening and talking, lessons and activities for the young.

Our association started off with six and now we are about forty strong. Our fundraising started with a dinner party of twenty last January and since then, we have kept up the impetus, a Greek evening with music, a plant sale, an English tea party all of which raised essential funds.  Money that Jacky was both able to spend directly on essential items for the refugees whilst in Greece, and also to send to reliable contacts she had made during her various trips in the past year.  We have also sent well over 150 boxes of donations, clothes, shoes, medical equipment and first aid both to Greece and to Syria.

Our new project is to support a recently restored house in Athens for young mothers with children and orphans. There are very many extremely vulnerable people sleeping on the streets of Athens and this house will give shelter to about 20.  The first residents arrived last week. There is also a school room where lessons are already being given.  A printer greatly needed to be able to print documents off the internet and we were very happy to be able to provide a good laser printer, bought on line from a Greek shop. Our hope is to be able to follow this lovely project and continue to supply the needs of the school over the long term. We will be visiting the house in September when we return to Greece.

Please help us in our efforts, come and join us.  Everyone can help someone, it’s little by little that help is given and these people in desperate need realise they are not alone.

Be sure not to miss the concert by the pianist Alexandre Bodak on 7 October, in St Bartholemy church, Lauzerte!  All profits will go to our association to help refugees. Details will be circulated later.

You can find out much more about our activities on our website:

http://aideespoirrefugies.wix.com/association

email aideetespoir82@gmail.com

AIDER-HELP AND HOPE, 1 rue du Millial, LAUZERTE 82110  Tel: 0679636201

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