Reflections from Lesvos
As many Ballyholme Dental Practice patients will know, I recently travelled to Lesvos in Greece to work in Moria (the main refugee camp) as part of the Health Point Foundation Dental Project.
The project is run in cooperation with a ground coordinator and volunteer dental professionals. We aim to deliver vital dental services to refugees, seeing around 20 patients a day on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. People queue from 8AM until the clinic opens shortly after 9AM and then register to be seen. If they are too far back in the queue, they start afresh the next day.
The facilities are basic but adequate and cross infection control is good. We work through an interpreter and treat the immediate needs of the refugees. The camp authorities are completely overrun trying to provide immediate health needs and sustenance to nearly 8,000 refugees in the camp. Sadly, they are now running out of space and tents as the camp was intended to hold only 1,100 people.
As other European countries are slow in their acceptance of refugees for resettlement, they are held here for a very long time. Yet more arrive daily, approximately 1,000 in April 2018 alone.
As we were leaving last June, the government was closing many camps around northern Greece, but it seems with recent events in Syria more unfortunate people are still arriving. There are also many Afghani, Iraqi, and Iranian families who have lost their homes or loved ones and made the decision to try to reach Europe for safety and hope of a better life.
Outside of the functional work carried out by the UN and the bigger NGO’s there are many smaller volunteer organisations trying to provide a little humanity and relief for these unfortunate people.
Home for a Day provides a safe haven and a meal for a small number of refugees daily where they can come away from the camp for a few hours and eat around a table with friends and family. This is impossible to do when sharing a tent with no cooking facilities for multiple families.
Shower Power is a small organisation that provides a facility for women to come and have a hot shower. Again, this simple idea can provide dignity and relief for many women who struggle to have any privacy within the overcrowded camp.
Although living conditions are horrendous and no one really knows how long they will be kept in the camp, I found most people to be polite and friendly. They were so glad that someone from the outside world had made the effort to come and see them and take time to listen to their stories. They are all trying to get on with life and live with as much dignity as possible under the most difficult circumstances.
I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who supported our fundraising efforts last year Without your generosity we would not be able to provide this vital service to our fellow human beings who are most in need.
Dr. Lisa Light.