We face losing a generation of innocent people at the edges of Europe says Borderer April Humble, when asked why she is going to the island of Kos.
The 29-year-old, who grew up in Lilliesleaf, attended the village school and then Selkirk High School, has been so moved by the plight of refugees fleeing war-ravaged homelands for the safer shores of southern Europe that she is getting personally involved.
April spent time working and travelling after leaving school, before heading to Leeds University, where she gained a degree in conflict resolution and international relations.
For the past three years she has lived in Berlin, but this month flies out to Kos. On the Greek island five kilometres across the Mediterrranean from Turkey, Syrian refugees are arriving in their hundreds every day, desperately fleeing the brutal war at home to seek safety and a new life in Europe.
Thousands have already drowned. After images of the unfolding tragedy started to emerge, April, whose dad still lives in Lilliesleaf, decided to travel to Kos to do what she could to help.
“Mothers, fathers, children and grandparents are living in desperate situations there, after arriving with the hope of refuge,” she told us from her home in Berlin. “The people arriving there don’t have water, food, anywhere to sleep; and these people are refugees, who are already incredibly vulnerable.
“Many have collapsed from dehydration, and many are severely malnourished.
“And we, the richest continent in the world, are not helping them. When I see this happening on the shores of Europe, our shores, and the scale of neglect, I realise someone had to step up.
“So in such immediate critical situations, what is left to do but for the people to step in? If nobody steps in, we face losing a generation of innocent people at the edges of Europe. And through our actions, we can also show governments how we want refugees treated.”
April’s plan is to support the local aid effort in Kos by providing much-needed supplies. These range from water and food to sleeping bags. April has already raised thousands of euros after a fund-raising campaign.
“People want to give, and the needs out there are endless, with around 600 people arriving every day. So, I am going to keep campaigning to raise as much as possible.”
Amateur aid workers are often criticised when they travel to disaster zones or refugee crisis areas for just getting in the way or worse, into danger. However, April says while she understands that view, there are no professional relief agencies in Kos providing basic life necessities.
She explained: “Currently on the ground, volunteers are trying to do their best to ease the situation a little. Using their own initiative, and in constant dialogue with the refugees in terms of what they need, they are distributing basics like water and food, as well as clothing.
“They are, however, incredibly overburdened and under-resourced and are very encouraging of more help – particularly funds to buy supplies and resources.
“I am in contact with these local Greek volunteers and will meet with them as soon as I arrive. I will only buy items, and volunteer, under their guidance.
“I really hope what I and the rest of the volunteers are doing is simply a stopgap. And the more coverage the better on the issue to raise awareness for different charities to help too.”
April chose Kos because Greece is receiving the largest influx of refugees and was able to make use of her personal connections to make contact with people helping on the ground. Some people have hinted it would be more constructive if she spent her time and energy raising funds to be donated, instead of travelling to Greece herself.
But April told us: “I personally strongly reckoned from the beginning that if I had a campaign of gathering money for people on Kos, some people would have donated.
“However, if I go out there myself, far more people are likely to give. People like to give to people they know, rather than to a removed face on the TV: they like to connect and relate.
“I really don’t think I could have raised so much otherwise. So, yes, a pair of hands on the ground isn’t necessarily the most useful of work in itself, but the act of me personally going there is able to raise a lot more much-needed funds.”
April has worked with refugees before, including with the Refugee Council in the UK. And she is also well travelled. She was in Syria at the beginning of the uprising.
And her suggestion for the crisis to be resolved? “Countries need to let refugees in. The right to leave one’s country and to seek asylum is part of the UN Universal Declaration for Human Rights. However, there is no safe way for people to enter Europe.
“If we did let everyone that tried to get in, and to claim asylum, they would only account for 0.027% of the entire population of Europe – that is 200,000 of 740 million. There would be no crisis if the situation was managed.”
○April’s fundraising page is at: http://gogetfunding.com/essential-supplies-for-refugees-in-kos