PCC4Refugees has been connecting volunteers to NGOs working with refugees in Greece for the past two years. However, there has been a dramatic change in the situation on the island, as explained in the following letter. As a result, we are temporarily ceasing to encourage volunteers to go to Greece. Instead we hope you will consider donating to support these NGOs and/or the NGOs on the US/Mexico border where we intend to shift our support efforts. for the foreseeable future.
We will update this information as the situation changes. In the meantime, if you remain interested in serving on Lesvos in the future, the informational materials found with these links may be helpful in your planning process: History of the refugee crisis on Lesvos, Planing ahead for volunteer service on Lesvos, NGO descriptions, and a map of Lesvos.
Volunteering with Refugees in Greece Paused - Options on Mexican Border Open
March 26, 2020
Dear Friends of Peace Corps Community for Refugees,
With the onset of this global pandemic, we would like to update you on the situation on Lesvos, and let you know that we are not recommending volunteers travel to Greece for the foreseeable future. Humanity Now, an NGO active with organizations on Lesvos reports the following:
There are three related emergencies unfolding on Lesvos at the same time. “Last week, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Lesvos Island was reported. There are currently some 20,000 displaced people packed inside Moria Camp. This camp was built to house 3,100 residents. As far as we know, the virus has not yet reached the camp, but the refugees and migrants who live there face extreme challenges in protecting themselves. According to Doctors Without Borders, up to 1,300 people share a single water tap and soap is not available. The distribution of basic supplies—food, medicine, diapers—requires waiting in long lines, which makes social distancing impossible. Many camp residents have underlying, untreated health issues and the medical system in the camp is already overwhelmed.
Second, the pandemic is taking place during a time of dramatic increases in Greece’s migrant and refugee population. Some 40,000 people arrived in Greece in the last three months of 2019 and their numbers continue to rise. Increasing tension between Turkey and the European Union, led Turkish President Erdogan to encourage migrants to cross into Greece, creating a situation in which thousands became pawns in a global standoff.
Finally, the situation on the islands has led to political upheaval and unrest. For years, local people have suffered the brunt of this crisis with limited support from the European Union. Recent protests indicate that they have reached their limit. At the same time, far-right anti-immigrant activists from Europe have descended on the islands to promote vigilante violence. Fire recently broke out at One Happy Family Community Center on Lesvos where RPCVs have worked in the past. There is speculation that this was caused by arson. In response to the violence, many aid teams have suspended service for safety reasons, evacuating their staffs just as their efforts are needed most.”
For these reasons, PCC4R is not encouraging new volunteers to go to Lesvos until the situation becomes more secure.
However, we would like to share other ways in which you can help support refugees during this period. The situation around the world is disastrous for refugees, particularly with the spread of Covid-19. The NGOs working to support refugees need our help to purchase basic supplies and to continue to provide support to the thousands of people living in camps on the island. Please consider donating to these organizations, their website’s donation page is listed for your convenience:
- Starfish Foundation:
- One Happy Family:
- Lighthouse Relief:
- Drop in the Ocean:
- Humanity Now: https://humanity-now.org/
For opportunities to support NGOs working on the US/Mexico border, click here. There are several NGOs that are seeking volunteers who can work remotely. Spanish speakers and/or individuals with some legal experience are needed urgently. This list will be updated on a regular basis to include other NGOs that request your assistance.
Thank you for your interest and support of asylum seekers and for considering volunteering and/or making a donation to assist them with their work.
With gratitude for all that you do to continue your service,
Chair of the Overseas & US Border Support Team
Peace Corps Community for Refugees
“PCCC4Refugees provides a vital link between organizations and volunteers by vetting them in just that way. Through PCCC4Refugees' association with Peace Corps, I trusted that any organization they vouched for would be reputable and concerned about their volunteers. PCCC4Refugees had first hand experience with working with the organizations they support. And I was not disappointed. The organization I worked with was effective, productive, concerned about their volunteers and enjoyable to work with.”
Cathy Lee Gierke | RPCV Jamaica, 1995-97
Cathy was a volunteer that served for 2 months with Starfish Foundation on Lesvos, Greece. She continued her work during the pandemic and after she was able to get a flight home she continued working with Starfish on the project she had begun on Lesvos.