A helping hand in a bleak refugee camp

Donations are taken by truck from Scotland to the island.
Donations are taken by truck from Scotland to the island.

Next month, a truck will arrive on the island of Samos, in Greece, delivering donations to refugees who have fled Syria.

It belongs to the charity Re-Act, Refugee Action Scotland, and the donations are from groups across the country.

Among the volunteers is Janet McCall (69) from Kirkcaldy, a member of Refuge Fife.

The delivery will be the fourth time she has been to the island since 2016.

She says she was “horrified” when she first arrived and recalled an eye-opening experience.

“The first time I went to the camp I was out at the distribution centre,” Janet said. “My first experience at the table, a young Syrian woman and her toddler.

“They were scarred – just horrific.

“She spoke a little English and was able to tell us her story – torture, mutilation, rape.

“Her husband had been murdered. She had also been the subject of a a failed beheading.

“I didn’t speak. I knew I’d end up in tears. I wasn’t prepared for that.”

As part of the group, Janet helps give out much-needed clothes, blankets, toys and much more.

She described the current situation as “appalling”, saying that there are currently around 3000 refugees in the camp.

“They think they are coming to a safe haven,” Janet said, “somewhere to stay, even if it’s just a brick shelter. It’s not – it’s pop up tents.”

With winter coming, Refuge Fife is in need of warmer clothing and shoes – items which could be hugely important to the refugees.

Janet said: “They had snow in Samos last year. It lasted quite a long time and there were deaths from the cold.”

Janet says she has got to know some of the refugees, with many having been on the island for some time.

So what is it that keeps her going back?

“My initial impression when I first met them was that they had hope,” Janet said.

“Many of them were fleeing the war. They believed when it settled they could return home and rebuild their country.

“I was lifted by that.

“But the last time I was out on the island there was this tangible air of depression.”

Refuge Fife is holding a winter appeal for Samos at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Saturday, between 10am-2pm.