A Day in the Life of a CESRT Offene Arme Volunteer

ABOUT CESRT

CESRT is a locally organised team of international volunteers dedicated to providing support for both refugees and for local people on Chios (Greece). It was founded by an amazing Greek lady, Toula Kitromilidi, in 2015 on a small Greek island off the coast of Turkey. Since then the team has grown exponentially and thousands of volunteers from around the world have joined to support and stand in solidarity. CESRT is the only team that has been present at landings for all five years of this crisis – note Chios has been the second busiest landing site on the Aegean islands. 

Our main focus is to provide support and aid to boats landing into the port and across the coastline. The landing journey looks a little like this:

We provide each refugee with a bag of clothes, a coat, food, water and blankets where possible. We also have specific packs for children, babies and pregnant women.

Landings can vary in frequency (in 2016 there were as many as 20 boats a night). At the moment there we haven’t had a landing in 2 and a half weeks. There have been lots of guesses as to why this is the case: 

  • It is more expensive to cross here then to other places such as to Lesvos (speculation); 

NB: just as I finished writing this post, we had our first landing. The waves were incredibly low and from our understanding we had 1 boat of 48 people. The first in 3 weeks. Landings can come at any time of the day or night, and we work in cooperation with local and EU authorities, as well as the medical volunteer team to ensure everyone is safe. Once we are given the go-ahead from the afore mentioned organisations, we begin our distributions.

Every morning we meet to divide out tasks, decide who is on call as well as discussing any updates on the island. 6 people are then on call for 24 hours and will attend to any landings.

We also help local communities and in camp projects throughout the week. Currently projects include: 

VIAL GAMES: 

3 times a week, a team of volunteers leads games, football and singing for the kids under 12.

WAREHOUSE SORTING:

We are lucky enough to have regular donations arriving to support the island so a big part of our daily tasks involve sorting these into size, gender, quality checking and also assessing if they are appropriate for our landing packs (see picture below).

Any clothes that are not landing appropriate are given to other NGOs on the island for distribution or given to our local shop which helps support local Greek people.

VIAL CAMP CLEANING:

3 times a week we head into the camp overspill (The Jungle) and work with the refugee community members to help tidy the camp. The community team do this daily so they take the lead and between us we move all the rubbish we can into the municipality collection point.

APPARTMENT DISTRIBUTION:

Some of the most vulnerable refugees are moved into apartments rather than being in camp. Whilst this is fantastic as it gives secure shelter, it does ostracize them from any (albeit limited) support in camp. We take donations round to these communities to provide additional assistance. 

LANGUAGE CENTRE:

Our language centre is currently in transition, so in the meantime the amazing teachers have organised field trips to keep the connections and trust with the students as well as providing an awesome opportunity to learn about the culture on the island and build relations with the local people. 

EMERGENCY PROJECTS:

As the name suggests, these are projects that come up in camp where we can provide extra support. Previous projects have included building steps to make tents accessible, tent repairs after bad weather and covering old wells around camp to stop people falling in during the night. 

Chios is a small island which means all NGOs work cohesively to effectively manage resources and our humanitarian response. This fantastic network allows us to support virtually every user profile who arrives on Chios shores. I’ve been here just over two weeks now and I am incredibly proud to be part of this team. 

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