Lesvos – where to volunteer

Team Health Point Project tent in Moria Camp.Team Health Point Project tent in Moria Camp.

I spent two weeks, end November 2015 on the island working with Team Positive Action as well as with Health Point Project with the clear impression that the vast majority of the frontline response was done by unpaid volunteers, as well as local people stepping up to the task.

Almost all volunteer organizations have their main online presence on facebook, where they often update on their acitivities. Several facebook groups are active as well. However, these facebook pages quickly become large and difficult to navigate, and the answers one gets varies in quality. The most widely used facebook groups for volunteers are Information Points for Volunteers, Volunteer´s Coordination Team (the name may be misleading since this group is actually an extenstion of a particular volunteer group, the Volunteer´s Coordination Agency, run by Fred Morlet, though general questions are often asked). For medical people the group Medics for Greece may be useful.

The Lesvos Volunteer Map is continuously updated and shows where various organizations work.

Want to Volunteer on Lesvos and Information for Short-Term Volunteers are very comprehensive and continuously updated pages and a must-read for all considering volounteering on Lesvos and providing a very thorough list of volounteer opportunities. Also check out the Excel sheet Short-Term Volunteers Spreadsheet.

Volounteers distributing clothes at The Afghan Hill in MoriaVolounteers distributing clothes at The Afghan Hill in Moria

Main areas of interest for volunteers:

The north coast (arrival of the majority of boats): Main city here is Molyvos, app. 1:15 h. drive (80 km) from Mytilini. From here one may access to the North Coast on paved road to Eftalou (5 km), continuing unpaved (app 15 km) to Skala Sykaminea. Read about the migrants journey arriving on the coast.

The camps: The two main camps Moria and Kara Tepe are both located app. 10 km north of Mytilini. A third, smaller camp, Pikpa is located by the airport and caters primarily to people with special needs. The camps are described in detail in a separate post

Below, I highlight a few of the most established organizations, which I personally met when I was on the Island. Medical volunteers may read about the overall medical organization in a separate post.

On the North Coast:

Starfish – an established organization, working in Oxy transit camp and not on the actual coast. Seems very organized, with about 100 young people of all ages and nationalities working for them, many in theis 20s.  Skills required: All are welcome. The work is non-medical, no particular skills needed to apply. Very structured.

A Drop in The Ocean – Norwegian organization, open to anyone. Working mainly out of Eftalou. Mainly non-medical and no particular skills needed to apply. Works with The Kempsons and founded by Trude Petersen, after a short visit previously this year. Their facebook group has an impressive 30.000 members. Skills required: All are welcome. In addition they specifically ask for medical personnel.

Lighthouse Relief – Scandinavian initiated organization, open to anyone. Works out of Platanos, close to Skala Sykaminea where they operate a transit camp with possibilities for overnight stays as well as a small emergency room. No particular skills needed to apply. Also check their facebook page.

The Kempsons – not an organization, but a British couple, Eric and Philippa working out of their house in Eftalou. Collaborates with several volunteer organizations such as A Drop in The Ocean and Positive Action and knows what is going on mainly on the North Coast. For donations, they have an Amazon wish-list. Also check out Eric Kempson´s YouTube page.

Team Positive Action: Not a fixed team on the ground, but collaborates with The Kempsons and send volounteers with all sorts of backgrounds. Originates from the Scottish organization Positive Action in Housing.

The Volounteer Cook – A Young Malaysian cooking on the beach in Platanos. There are several other volounteer cooking organizations needing help,  including VCA, Bristol Skipchen and others. Try enquiring on the general facebook pages.

Disaster Medics – Paramedics and other people with medical skills working where neede, as of now, as mobile response team on the coast. Check out their facebook page, frequently updated with news.

The organization of medical volunteers on the North Coast is described in detail in a separate post.

In the Camps

Lesvos Volounteer Agency– one of the oldest and most established as well as professionally run of the volunteers organizations.  As of now, they work in Kara Tepe. No particular skills needed to apply.

Health Point Project – seem to have established a presence at the Moria Camp in a tent at the bottom of the Afghan Hill. They need all sorts of people, both with or without medical skills.

The overall medical organization of the camps is described in detail in a separate post.

Finally, a brief note regarding donations: Always ask organizations on the ground what they need as this changes. Information on the various facebook groups may not be accurate unless it comes directly from the organizations.  Buy as much as possible locally, it avoids shipping/customs as well as supports the local economy. For those going to the island: If in doubt who to give to, bring your money with you and find out what is needed once you are there.

Finally, if you need to talk to someone about what you have experienced on Lesvos after you get home, try Psychologists across borders.

Further info:
Overview of all posts on Lesvos and Lesvos FAQ for volunteers.

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