A very special International Volunteer Day: Scouts from mainland Greece join local Scouts on Chios to help refugees and migrants

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Scouts and Guides contributing to refugee support activities in their local communities in Europe (35): A story from Chios (GR) – Let’s take some paint and a brush and decorate this ugly hall!

(WSBERO/Chios) – “The scale of the refugee tragedy is incredible. Hundreds if not thousands of people – a third of them children – arrive daily on this small but beautiful Greek island having fled atrocities of war hoping for a better future somewhere in Europe”, says Sebastian Meitz, from the World Scout Bureau Global Support Centre in Kuala Lumpur, who had joined the Greek Scouts’ support mission to Chios, together with Thomas Ertlthaler, from the European Scout Region’s Messengers of Peace Decision Committee.

Here, take the pencils and draw a picture: we want to decorate this hall!

Here, take the pencils and draw a picture: we want to decorate this hall!

“When the refugees and migrants arrive on Chios after a more than hazardous crossing in shaky rubber dinghies, they have already gone through a true nightmare. They then stay one or two days in a refugee camp before being able to move on.” UNHCR, the International Red Cross, the Norwegian Refugee Council and many other non-governmental organisations work hand in hand to provide refugees with clothing, blankets and medical assistance.

“But the truly amazing work is done by Scouts!”, says Sebastian. In fact, members of Χιώτες Πρόσκοποι / Scouts of Chios, the local Scout Group on Chios have been involved in support activities since the summer.

Do you know this game? Let's try!

Do you know this game? Let’s try!

And this weekend, Sebastian, Thomas and a group of Scout Leaders form mainland Greece joined them for two days. “It took us eight hours on a ferry to get to Chios. We were welcomed by local Scouts and immediately joined them in a series of different activities: running games with children, sorting piles of clothes, helping with the registration of new arrivals, cleaning beaches and the camp facility, and providing help wherever else it was needed help.”

Here, have some paint and add a butterfly over there!

Here, have some paint and add a butterfly over there!

“What we have seen here on Chios,” says Thomas, “is really incredible, in the very positive sense of this word: it does not take a lot of tools to start playing games and singing and dancing with the many children or help them decorate the walls of the makeshift refugee centre. After all, this is the core business of our Movement. And what more reward would you expect than dozens of happy children and young people who can once again laugh and forget the hardship of the difficult situation they and their families find themselves in.”

“It is humanity pure, it is duty to others, it is true Scouting spirit, that has been manifested by many Scouts on Chios!” adds Sebastian, “And being there, helping them and learning from their experience and their challenges is something truly unbelievable. Something I am grateful for!”

The Scouts of Chios are recognised for their valuable work by the community.

The Scouts of Chios are recognised for their valuable work by the community.

“Members of Ελληνικός Προσκοπισμός (the Scouts of Greece) have been involved in refugee support activities all over the country ever since the refugees and migrants started to use the route through Greece on their way to a better future”, comments Mariana Fragkou, who coordinates the different activities from the headquarters of the National Scout Organisation. “And today, on the International Volunteering Day, we are very proud to see the Scouts of Chios being offered a special award from UNHCR here on Chios in a ceremony celebrating individuals and organisations engaged in refugee and migrant support activities on the island, recognising the valuable service they provide!”

“To be honest”, agree Sebastian and Thomas, “and without being pathetic: without the many volunteers from the Scouts of Chios, without their enthusiasm, creativity and organisational and management skills, this would be a total chaos and disorganised mess. We are glad that this has been publicly recognised today!”

And because a short video clip says more than 100 pictures or 1000 words: watch this short feature broadcast by a local TV Station in Greece.

This activity received support from the World Scout Foundation through the Messengers of Peace Initiative of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM).