“Families camping on the beaches, sleeping on the streets … it makes us realise how very lucky we are in our lives”
RTE Reporter Valerie Cox on day one of her trip to the Greek island of Kos with her husband Brian where they will spend the next week providing practical support to some of the thousands of refugees arriving on the island each day.
Today we met the refugees, people from Syria, Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The only similarity between the different nationalities was the conditions under which they live, mostly in small tents around the walls of Kos Castle or on the beach itself, their earthly possessions in plastic bags at the back of their tent.
They are not begging or asking anyone for anything. The tourists pass by, walking, on bicycles and in taxis. It is a very difficult situation, you don’t want to scare the tourists off, the people of Kos are not rich and they depend on this brief five month season to keep going for the rest of the year.
The first woman I met, from Syria, had no shoes so we have a date tomorrow to fix her up with a pair. This woman and her husband and two children had travelled to Kos from Bodrum in Turkey on a tiny dinghy and because the trafficker (that’s what they are) had taken on extra passengers on this small inflatable, he threw their luggage overboard.
Another Syrian woman with a small baby was overjoyed when we gave her one of the wonderful Baby Slings we were given to bring out by Sinead O’Rourke and her Sling Collection Group. These were beautifully wrapped and each contained a sweet treat for the recipient.
Then we met a man from Pakistan who had recently had an eye operation. He was supposed to keep the sun off it but had broken his sunglasses. So I gave him mine, a bit girly, but he wasn’t bothered!
These refugees come from all sorts of backgrounds, we met a teacher, 26 year old Abdul from Pakistan who taught sociology until he received death threats and had to leave. His friend is an expert tailor and they both hope to use their skills in their final destination.
I will have some of these people on Today with Sean O’Rourke (RTE Radio 1) tomorrow (Monday) morning after 10 a.m.
Today we feel we’ve been run over and flattened by a steamroller. Seeing the reality of whole families camping on the beaches, sleeping on the streets and getting by with almost nothing makes us realise how very lucky we are in our lives, especially when many of these people formerly lived the life we lead still.
Earlier today we met with some of the volunteers from the Kos Refugee Group, two young Germans in particular, and they are the only people giving the refugees a hot meal, just rice and vegetables but much needed and much appreciated.
Again, I can assure all our friends in Wicklow, you have done a great job in providing Brian and I with the means to help these people whom we now know as Abdul, Juliet, Mohammed and Sofia and her new baby. God Bless!
For the next week, Valerie and Brian will be writing a daily update on their experience meeting with the displaced people on the Greek Island of Kos.