An update on Together Rising’s work with refugees, written by Glennon Doyle Melton and originally posted on Momastery.com:
Friends, it’s time to update you on The Compassion Collective and our work to care for refugees in Europe. All the stories you are about to read — stories about the lives saved, the people fed, the shelter given—they can only be told because of you. You are the ones doing this. The gratitude that everyone connected with this work has for you is without measure.
The situation for our refugees is worse now than it was in the fall. Borders have closed. Food is running out. Babies are dying. Parents are desperate. The evil the refugees are running from is real and it remains. When you look at the videos and the pictures you are about to see, please remember that these are people like us who once had homes and jobs, whose children went to school, who had dreams of the future and who desperately want to go home. This is what the refugees are saying—The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was leave my country. I wish more than anything I had a home to bring my children back to.
We are strong enough to handle this. Let us remember what we know: We Can Do Hard Things and There is No Such Thing as Other People’s Children. We can look straight at this crisis and not look away, because bringing light into darkness is what we were made to do. We were born for this.
Ok, here we go. Here is your report about what you are doing:
A few weeks ago, we received the second proposal for funding from Help Refugees. Along with the detailed proposal was a note from Dani saying she knew the amount requested was incredibly high and we wouldn’t have the whole amount. Regardless, this is what was needed to save lives for the next few months. Amy and I read the proposal and then forwarded it on to the Together Rising team, along with a link the video below.
Sister watched the video, looked into the faces of the little ones, saw herself reflected in the eyes of these parents, and, within minutes, wrote back to the team with this prayer:
Oh lord God, be with those families and babies being beaten back in the rain like cattle. Give them strength and peace and relief and please work a miracle to let them find compassion and mercy. Thank you for giving us a way to serve them. Magnify in us the fire and resolve to not forget them and the connections we need to help them in bigger and bigger ways. Bless Dani and her team and give them courage and resolve and protect the tenderness of their hearts while they walk through this evil.
Liz Book, brilliant board member and a lawyer with a keen eye for details and a constant carefulness about numbers, also responded within the hour. “Nothing in this proposal is optional. This is about saving lives. We need to fund all of it.”
We sent this information on to the team that makes up The Compassion Collective—Brené Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Rob Bell and Elizabeth Gilbert. Every single one of them—every single one of this blindingly brilliant crew—stopped what they were doing to respond within hours. It wasn’t even a question. Yes. We will send this money. Of course this is what we must do.
Then Allison, our steady, strong treasurer, a woman with a heart two miles deep who keeps everything running, sent us this message:
Help Refugees wrote to us that they needed $714,108.00 for their most pressing needs and additional projects. By the end of yesterday, the exact amount The Compassion Collective had available was $713,002.98. Just shy of exactly what is needed at this time. By the end of the week, we’ll be right there. We will have enough. EXACTLY enough.
We funded all of it. YOU funded all of it. It is loaves and fishes up in here.
When we called Dani to tell her that we wanted to fully fund their proposal, we asked her— How did you know what to ask for? Did you know how much we had in the account? Dani just started to cry. No, she said, of course not. We know how much you’re doing…we never dreamed you would have the funds for all of this. You don’t understand, you just don’t understand what this means. You’ll never know how many lives you will save, how many people you are keeping alive.
Our little offerings are being turned into enough. We had a hunch that small things with great love could save lives. We were right.
Here is your proof:
Small Things With Great Love Are Feeding The Hungry
This is a moving crisis, and we are moving with it. In France and on the Greek islands and in Athens and Idomeni, we are keeping people alive. There are thousands of people trapped on the closed border of Macedonia. The Greek Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroublis said conditions in Idomeni, where more than 12,000 refugees currently live, are comparable to Nazi concentration camps. (Source) Greece is trying to help by opening more camps and asking grassroots organizations like the ones we’re funding to step in and provide life-saving care.
Our contacts on the ground tell us that as you walk around the camps in Greece, you can’t help but be struck by two things: One, the number of refugees with limbs missing or in wheelchairs—evidence that people are running from the atrocities of war. And two, the sheer number of women and children. They report kids running everywhere, using sticks or rocks as toys because that’s all they have.
In these hard to reach areas, we, through Help Refugees, are providing life-saving, critical assistance. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says this, “Help Refugees is on the ground in Europe providing much needed support for refugees…In a time when the need is stark UNHCR commends their great efforts.” The Compassion Collective (YOU) have become a crucial part of this worldwide web of love warriors responding to one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has ever seen. The world is changed and healed not by the wise or the rich or the righteous – but by those who SHOW UP.
Skipchen, the mobile food kitchen we’ve been supporting, sent a team to Idomeni to set up a food program there, and the amazing team at Hot Food Idomeni are continuing this operation. WE ARE CURRENTLY FEEDING 6,500 PEOPLE A DAY. We’re providing people with meals, hot tea, fresh fruit, and soon, monthly family food parcels.
There are no materials for cooking in the camps — people are using plastic bottles to heat water over a fire. Through another partner, Lighthouse, we’ll be distributing Kitchen Kits so that people can cook safely at their tents.
Photo: Hot Food Idomeni
Photo: Help Refugees
Small Things With Great Love Are Sheltering The Homeless
There are approximately 10,000 missing children in Europe right now, and 26,000 unaccompanied refugee minors — these are young children and teens who have been orphaned or separated from their parents. We’re continuing to support the organization called Skipchen as they expand into Athens and work to house these lost, afraid, parentless babies of ours.
In Indomeni, 65% of the refugee population are women and children. Our teams are reporting their utter shock at the number of pregnant women, babies and teenage girls. There, we’re supporting a man named Aslam Obaid. Help Refugees tells us that Aslam is one of the most awe-inspiring people they’ve ever met. A former aid worker with the Red Crescent (the Red Cross), he arrived in Lesvos as a Syrian refugee himself last September. Rather than get to safety, he decided to stay and assist his fellow refugees. In Greece, he assessed the situation and saw that the border would be the place most likely to have the greatest needs, so he traveled there and begin to set up operations. Now living and working out of a run-down hotel lobby, he coordinates the entire independent volunteer movement across Idomeni. We’re providing Aslam and his volunteers with tents and blankets, pallets to raise tents out of the mud, hygiene kits, diapers, and baby carriers.
A field of tents in Idomeni:
Photo: Aslam Obaid
A shelter team, working with children to put up tents:
Photo: Martin Trabalik
A raised tent platform, built to keep this little family off the ground:
Small Things With Great Love Are Caring For The Sick And In Danger
Greece’s Ministry of Migration has asked the medical organization Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) to be the medical provider in the newly opened camps. Médecins du Monde has asked us to partner with them to make this happen. They requested a highly specified mobile clinic, so that is exactly what we have provided for them.
Our official mobile clinic – you did this.
A team of 10 clinicians is now driving between camps to care for people. In additional to caring for the sick, we’re also providing care for pregnant women and new moms. This mobile clinic will move across the camps and serve more than half of the refugees there with essential and vital services. Women are giving birth in tents, and right now we are the only ones there providing reproductive health services and prenatal care.
Here’s a picture of a little one they delivered, the first baby known to be born in Idomeni.
That’s our baby. Wrapped up, warm, safe. This is what hope looks like.
Photo: Medecin du Monde
In addition to Médecins du Monde, Lighthouse’s trained volunteers are providing care for the sick and injured in camps in Idomeni. In January we purchase a portable medical tent for them, one they could set up exactly where they needed it most and they have moved it to the border.
On Sunday, April 10, we got an emergency text from Dani. Refugees at the border were being tear-gassed. Families couldn’t escape the gas and babies couldn’t breathe. Contacts on the ground were sending Help Refugees minute-by-minute reports as Lighthouse treated children for tear gas related injuries.
Photo: Associated Foreign Press
I know. But let us not say: I can’t look at this. It’s just too much. That is not true. It is not too much for us. It is too much to be them, but it is not too much to look at them. Please look and remember that if that was our little girl (and it is) we would want good-hearted people to draw close and help—not to look away. We will not look away. We will not protect our own hearts: we will work to protect our human family. And we will remember that we were there with them that day, just as we are there with them now. We are helping those babies breathe.
You may remember that our last round of funding focused on Lesvos, and the people coming in on the boats. As the situation worsens, people are still attempting to cross the water and the arriving refugees are more desperate. Their boats are flimsy and overfilled. In a three-day period, our partners assisted 25 boats and helped get 1200 people safely to land. We are continuing to work in Lesvos. We will continue to support Starfish by funding their volunteer program, and we are providing the funds to operate a rescue boat run by Refugee Rescue.
Photo: Refugee Rescue
Small Things With Great Love Bring The Light
“This is a group of children that Lighthouse assisted at the informal camp at BP station, a few kilometers away from Idomeni. The small camp is relatively forgotten, and Lighthouse Relief partnered with two doctors who specialise in infant feeding and psychology to support them in feeding and caring for their babies in this emergency context. We went tent by tent to individually consult with each mother, and provide her with feminine hygiene products, breastfeeding support, baby products and cups safe for feeding their little ones. In addition to this initial support, we followed up on each child to ensure that they had all the care that they needed.” —Lighthouse Relief
Through Lighthouse, we’re funding a Mother and Baby Space. We’re providing midwifery care, nutrition counseling and family planning. We’re also funding their Child Friendly Spaces and Safety Committees—places where children can play and do educational activities. This is similar to the Youth Center and Women’s and Children’s Center we continue to fund in Calais—places for children to go to play and be children again, for women to go to rest and receive care and treatment in a restful, loving environment.
Remember Ahmed, our little friend from the Women and Children’s Center who used his smart brain and small phone save himself and his companions in a container truck?
“I need help driver no stop car no oxygen in the car…I am not joking.”
Without your funds: Ahmed would not have had that little phone. Without that phone, Ahmed and the rest of the people in that truck with have died. He would never have been reunited with his Mama Liz. YOU DID THAT. That 7-year-old little boy is alive because of you.
Finally — and I think this may be my favorite project — we’re supporting a volunteer named Alison Thompson and her campaign called #IGIVELIGHT. Alison runs a network called Third Wave Volunteers, and she is working to bringing solar lights to refugees living in tents. This project is incredibly important, especially for the vulnerable women and children who are in complete darkness in the nighttime. She tells us that with the lights the children do not feel so scared anymore.
We’ve provided them with 1000 lights, and this is what Alison has to tell us:
“The camp has over 20,000 people in it and is pitch black at night so these solar lights have been a number one need. I wish I could transport you there to show you the refugees faces lighting up in hope as we pass them out along with a big hug of love. The 1000 solar lights were given to one per a family of 5 and over 5000 refugees were helped. Your donation directly brought light and love to our fellow humans.”
This is a time lapse video of our lights being given out in the camp. Here we are.
We are light bearers, my friends. It is so very dark, but we are showing up, and
we are bringing the light for our sisters and brothers and babies. What else are we here for, but to bring each other light?
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all the lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”