Ryan Smith, Nilah MacLean, Selena Herrera, Elizabeth Liechty, Emily Houp, and Sarah Houp are the team members. All of us attended Indiana Wesleyan University.
In March, Ryan and several others felt a burden on their heart for the Syrian refugees and the crisis they were facing. During the following two months of school, a small group of us with the same burden gathered and decided we wanted to help/contribute in some way. After months of researching and emailing different organizations, we got in contact with a man named Andreas through a Facebook page for volunteers in Greece. Ryan had emails and a Skype meeting with him over several weeks, and we finally decided to partner with him at Camp Elaya.
We will be going to Elaionas (Olive Grove), located right outside of Athens, to work at a newly established refugee center that has been approved by the Ministry of Migration. Currently, there are 2100 refugees at this location, and they are expecting hundreds more. About 50% are Syrian, but over 28 nationalities are represented in the camp. Doctors without Borders, Red Cross, and Greek medical services are already in this location, but there were no groups providing nonmedical support, so the new center will be a huge help. Their plan for the center is to have a variety of resources available for the refugees. This includes food distribution, non-food item distribution (clothes, toiletries, shoes, etc.), sports/arts/activities for kids, and a culture center with skills-sharing and English workshops for adults. People are now realizing that the refugees in Greece will be there for a while, so this project is trying to provide more long-term focused relief/support efforts.
When our team arrives to Elaionas at the end of June, there will be 15 other volunteers there to help jumpstart this new center. Although it is a small group to start with, Andreas is hoping to have 50 by July 15 and for more to be added weekly. The six of us will begin our time there by setting up the non-food-item distribution center, because the refugees there have not received new clothes in 3 months, and are currently wearing winter clothes in extremely hot weather.
- Lift up the hearts of our team as we prepare
- Pray for unity and favor amongst our team as it is a self-organized group and we will be living/working together for almost a month.
- Pray for God to give us opportunities to share the gospel and His love through our words as it is seen in our actions. The core purpose of our trip is to serve those in need but we are expectant for the Lord to give us opportunities and want to be sensitive and wise with them.
- Pray for the organizations that are currently on the ground serving as the need is great and workers are few.
- Pray for health, safety, receptiveness, provision, and hope in the refugees currently in Greece and other hotspot countries like Turkey and Lebanon. They have been through a lot and are still seeing suffering. Hope in their situation is hard to maintain, especially for a non-Christian.
- Pray for refugees who are still traveling to Greece and Italy. It is a dangerous and expensive voyage to be smuggled into Greece. Just recently, boats when down and 880 drowned around European seas.
- Pray for the Greece government (as well as Turkey, Lebanon, Etc.) as the nation has gone bankrupt and has to process this difficult situation. Pray they have continued wisdom and compassion even at their own expense nationally.
- Pray for other countries, including the US, to renegotiate their quota for refugees and to quicken the process. Those stuck in camps are waiting to be relocated but the process can take years. Pray for political shifts in the minds of governments.
- Lastly, remember that the reason these refugee camps are overflowing is because of trauma in foreign countries. The refugees and asylum seekers who fled need prayer, but those who stayed need it just as much if not more. Lift up Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq, and Sudan among others. Pray against the oppressions, dictatorships, killing groups, corruption, and wars.