Pikpa's Christmas Wish List
In December 2017 the IDo Community teamed up with Pikpa Family Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece to tick EVERYTHING off their christmas wish list!
We collected everything from toys and decorations to christmas hats and wrapping paper.. so that the residents and volunteers could have a proper good knees up on christmas day.. with ALL the trimmings.."
Back in August 2017 an opportunity came for me to travel with Deaf Kidz International over to Greece to visit four of their Refugee camps. Deaf Kidz were working with Save the Children conducting research about Deaf Refugees both in transit and seeking asylum.. and having seen my trip to Calais earlier in the year, Steve Crump, the Director had got in touch. We met, chatted and I was really interested in supporting their work in whatever capacity and for this trip I was invited to document the work.
We spent four days on the island of Lesvos and got to visit three very different refugee camps.. Kara Tepe, Moira and Pikpa. The refugees who stay at Pikpa are some of the most vulnerable: disabled, sick, pregnant and the families of victims of shipwrecks. The camp offers essential things such as food, clothes and medical assistance... but they also organise activities for children, yoga classes, cinema nights and a Friday night disco. We were given a tour of the camp speaking to volunteers and also children who currently live there.. and once I got home I kept thinking about this wonderful community..
With IDo we knew that we wanted to do some sort of campaign in the run up to Christmas so I emailed Erika (a volunteer at Pikpa) and we organised a brainstorming skype. Our initial idea was to do some sort of Christmas Shoe Box campaign but chatting to Erika the camp's needs didn't really fit that idea.. so we decided that we would set up an Amazon Gift list to give Pikpa 'Christmas'. Erika gave us a list of things that they needed and we set about adding them to the wish list.. we then created a page on the IDo website and posted it on facebook and instagram asking for people if they could share it..
The camp had around 40 children and their families and we were asking our wonderful IDo Community to help us give Pikpa CHRISTMAS
A montage of Instastories from Emma's visit giving you a little tour around Pikpa...
Instantly people started sharing it online and within a day parcels started arriving at our house.. people were buying stuff! And they were buying A LOT! We spoke to Erika squealing with excitement! At this point all we'd added to the list were things for the children so we asked Erika if it could be worth adding some wash bags and toiletries for all the parents. Erika agreed that was a great idea as the last time they had toiletries to give out they had to distribute them to the residents in plastic bags. On one hand this could feel totally irrelevant to the bigger picture. But it's wasn't. This was about everyone deserving something nice. This was about care and dignity. We added around 60 wash bags and dozens of toiletries and again.. one by one they were being snapped up.
Parcels kept arriving.. we kept adding to the list. Amazon drivers got cups of tea.. oh and we were getting the sweetest little messages from people tucked in with their items.. the love literally poured in. One night we actually missed the delivery and our neighbour (thinking we'd gone on a spending spree on Black Friday!) had to sign for two huge sacks full of parcels.. and each time we had a delivery we would have to hide all the parcels from our little boy Frank otherwise he'd shout 'Open it!!'..
I was checking the list literally every hour. I knew every item, how many etc and I'd watch and shout to Pete 'The lego has gone!' and 'Ohh all the toothbrushes have been bought!. Then on Sunday morning I opened my Amazon app on my phone expecting to see a whole list of items and the message 'There are no items on the list' flashed back at me. What?? Hang on.. refresh..
Nope. Nothing left. Every single item gone.
And I totally cried.
It was working.. better than we could have ever imagined. So we didn't want to stop there. I messaged Erika and didn't get a reply all day. The following morning we got a message from her to say that a ten year old boy from Afghanistan had died in an overcrowded boat and that Pikpa camp were hosting the family and doing all that they could to support them. Pikpa was in deep mourning.
We were devastated. We are parents and if I'm honest.. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like. It's so horrifically unimaginable. We were unsure whether to share what had happened but talking to Erika we felt that it was important that we all understood that this was.. this still is happening.
This wasn't just about a wish list.. it was about awareness and being the connection between us and them.. to bring it closer to home.. and for all of us to realise that this is not going away any time soon and we all really can (and must) keep doing something to help and bring about change.
And we were going to do the very best we could for these families. So we kept adding more..
Within seven days our community had bought 450 items worth a total of £3200.
That evening we put Frank to bed and spent most of the night weighing and packing everything up and the following day we shipped six enormous boxes full of toys, arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, toiletries and instax cameras.. over to Pikpa Camp in time for Christmas. One thing we didn't plan on was the shipping cost being so expensive. It cost just over £600 to ship everything and having the funds available because of our monthly subscription memberships was a vital part in making the whole thing possible.
We followed the courier tracking every single day and finally.. after two weeks it arrived in camp. The utter relief!
As part of the wish list we'd also asked if anyone would like to make any handmade Christmas Decorations for the camp and the lovely Action For Refugees gave us some wonderfully decorated paper plate baubles to hang.. it was just the loveliest thing to see them arrive and being hung on the walls by the children..
On Christmas Day we literally didn't stop thinking about the camp. We exchanged messages with Erika.. sending Merry Christmas Selfies and photos.. and just before we sat down to eat our roast dinner Erika sent this message..
Seeing these photos makes us so, so happy.
This was all because of you guys.
It worked better than we could have ever imagined so..
THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for every item bought.. every post shared. It couldn't have happened without you...