A Glaswegian grandmother was chosen with three other Oxfam shop volunteers, with nearly sixty years of service between them, to visit Oxfam’s work helping refugees and migrants in Greece ahead of Oxfam’s 75th anniversary which takes place today.
The group were selected from around the UK to see for themselves the impact of donations to Oxfam’s Refugee Crisis Appeal, which also helps people in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Amelia Egan, 75, has been volunteering at Oxfam’s Newton Mearns shop for over 10 years. She joined Margot Edwards, 83 from Kent, Tom Kelly 66, from Liverpool and Beth Havard, 56 from Swansea to travel to camps and a community centre in the north-west of Greece to see the impact of Oxfam’s work and meet people Oxfam is supporting.
Since October 2015, Oxfam has helped over 100,000 people stuck in limbo on Greece’s mainland and on the island of Lesvos with clean water, sanitation, shelter, communal kitchens, food, hygiene kits and safe spaces for vulnerable women and children.
Amelia said: “This is the first time I have visited Oxfam’s work and it was inspiring to see how some of the money from the Refugee Crisis Appeal has been spent. Amongst the many people we met it was upsetting to find young people who have been separated from their parents and have no idea when, if ever, they are going to be reunited.”
Amelia met one family at the Doliana refugee and migrant camp who’d fled to Greece from Syria. *Ahmad 31 and *Fatima 25 were living with their two-year-old son *Muhammad.
*Ahmad said: “Every day we could hear missiles flying above our heads. Last year my brother, who was already in Lebanon, sent us some money to flee the country. He begged us ‘Please save your lives, before it is too late’.”
*Ahmad was a tailor and had his own business. He and his family left everything behind. They tried to reach Greece five times; after the last attempt, which was successful, *Fatima, who was pregnant, had a miscarriage. She is still unwell. The family does not have any savings left. She said: “Today is *Muhammad’s birthday. We would like to give him a proper birthday party. But we cannot give him even that”.
Amelia described her meeting with the family as extremely upsetting. She said: “You can see that Oxfam’s work in these camps is extremely important. People are having great difficulties and they just want to get back to normal; get back to work and support their families and just live a normal life, the same as we’re all fortunate enough to do.”
Oxfam was set up as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief on 5 October 1942, and its first campaign called for the Allied blockade in World War II to be relaxed to allow vital food and aid to reach hungry people in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. Since then it has grown into a global confederation working in 90 countries to end poverty and suffering. Last year Oxfam helped more than 22 million people worldwide.
Andrew Horton, director of Oxfam Trading said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of our shops. Last year alone the shops raised over £17m to help fight poverty and injustice around the world. We want to recognize the critical contributions volunteers make on a daily basis. The visit to Greece has enabled four wonderful volunteers to see for themselves the impact of their support and for us to highlight the important role that volunteers have had in making Oxfam
what it is today.”
Tens of thousands of families fleeing violence, persecution and poverty are currently stuck in limbo in Greece in makeshift accommodation. People are often split up from their loved ones and have little information on whether they will be deported or reunited with their families. Oxfam is campaigning for refugee families who have been torn apart to be reunited.
To donate to Oxfam’s work in Greece visit oxfam.org.uk/Greece.
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For more information please contact Rebecca Lozza, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam Scotland, on 0141 285 8875 / 07880785159 or RLozza1@Oxfam.org.uk
Notes to Editors:
- Photos and footage of the trip available on request.
- Amelia is a retired chemistry teacher and a widow with three children. She has one grandchild. She has volunteered at Oxfam’s shop in Newton Mearns for over 10 years.
- Before travelling to Greece, the group visited the Oxfam archives at the Bodleian Library in Oxford to see photos and documents from Oxfam’s history. They met Professor Kalypso Nicolaidis whose grandparents were Greek refugees in 1922 and spoke to her father about his memories of the famine.
- Oxfam in Greece also supports people to know and understand their rights, have access to free legal aid, and fair and efficient asylum procedures.