Lilian Hollidge, a member of the Justice and Peace Group in the parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, Stainforth, recently spent some time in a camp for refugees and Asylum seekers and shared her experience with the Hallam News.
During the Advent season, donors from different churches in the Doncaster Deanery, especially St Paul’s, Cantley and Our Lady’s, Stainforth, made contributions towards buying sleeping bags for Asylum seekers and Refugees living in makeshift tents in freezing winter conditions at Moria Camp on Lesvos Island, Greece.
The collections raised £1274 to purchase sleeping bags. A total of 74 sleeping bags were bought and 30 second-hand bags were also donated by parishioners and pupils of the Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Stainforth.
The sleeping bags, accompanied by warm winter clothes and shoes, began their journey in Oldham together with essential foods and blankets. They travelled across Europe until they arrived in Athens and were loaded onto the Mytillini Ferry en route to the Island of Lesvos.
A week later I flew out to begin my volunteer work in the Sultana Women and Children’s Camp. The hope was that the donations from home would arrive while I was there and they could be distributed to people who needed them. My first job was to meet up with Muhammad and Shafique from Sultana Refugee Centre and to discuss the practicalities of getting to the Charity and what I would be doing to help.
On day one I met some of the volunteers and we began to prepare the foods for distribution at 2pm that day and every day. We peeled and sliced potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, leeks and other vegetables.
I had an opportunity to help with cooking the foods in the enormous pans whilst stirring the onions, garlic, tomatoes and oil to begin the various recipes of hot foods, Dahl, lentils, vegetable curries all served with rice or pasta to help to fill hungry stomachs.
Most days the queues for food would begin early at about 10.30-11am, waiting until the cooking was completed for each of 350-500 registered women to collect their own and their families’ portions.
There were piles and piles of cardboard boxes stacked in the warehouse filled with donations of clothes for men, women and children from different countries. The donations came with good-will messages for the people who would receive them.
The work was hard and the days were long, but meeting with and getting to know the volunteers from Moria Detention Camp was exciting and satisfying.
I met many fantastic, warm and hardworking people and I know I shall be returning, hopefully next year. I will have learned a little Arabic to be able to understand and to chat a little more with others.
And all because generous people in some Doncaster parishes shared what little monies they had and contributed towards buying sleeping bags to send to Refugees in the Greek Islands in a bitterly cold winter! A little love goes a long way.