Starfish’s Journey in 2017
Updated: Mar 2
Starfish Foundation continues to work hard to support vulnerable individuals on Lesvos.
Here is a round-up of our activities in 2017.
Snapshot of refugee numbers Around 12,740 refugees arrived on Lesvos in 2017 which was approximately 44% of total arrivals in Greece. There were relatively few arrivals in the first half of the year, with numbers rising sharply from June onwards. Some people were transferred to the Mainland during the year, but at the end of the year there were still over 7,000 refugees here.
Starfish activities in refugee camps Throughout 2017 Starfish continued to help refugees in the Moria Camp, the PIKPA camp run by Lesvos Solidarity, and the Stage Two Transit Camp at Skala Sykamnia. Starfish regularly sourced and donated items such as clothing, sheets and towels, toiletries and baby strollers, which make a real difference to the lives of refugees.
Highlights of our other activities include:
In March Starfish established a women’s social kitchen in Section C in Moria, where women can cook food they have bought, and can warm up and season the food provided by the Greek Army.
During the first half of the year, Starfish delivered three truckloads of food supplies a month to PIKPA, which was made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. In December, funding from EO Metterdaad enabled Starfish to cover the cost of cooking oil, meat and medicines, and to buy shampoo, soap, wet-wipes, tissues and pampers for PIKPA. We also delivered a large quantity of baby milk, with support from the Halleria Trust.
Late in 2017 Starfish supplied 4 gas bottles to be used for heating the smaller tents in the Stage Two camp. The gas bottles were made possible by Advocates for Refugees, and their donation has allowed the gas bottles to be replaced while the cold weather continues.
Over Christmas, Starfish volunteers assisted the authorities at Moria with their Christmas party. Starfish donated chocolate and balloons, and spent a wonderful morning wrapping presents to give to the children in Section A. On the same day Starfish distributed 30 baby strollers to women in Moria, donated by the local NGO Agkalia.
Starfish support for Unaccompanied Minors Starfish continues to have a special interest in helping Unaccompanied Minors (young people under 18). Most of these young people live in Moria or in shelters in Mytilini run by the Greek organization Iliaktida. In 2017 we helped 50 unaccompanied minors to take part in IT training run by the Changemakers Lab, as well as supporting soccer training for them. Starfish regularly provides Iliaktida with mobile phones for unaccompanied minors, to enable them to stay in touch with their families back home.
Needs Hub A major innovation was the Starfish NeedsHub, launched in May 2017. This is an online platform that aims to improve the flow of refugee aid to where it is needed most on Lesvos and to improve communication, trust and collaboration between the many organizations working here to help refugees. NeedsHub enables NGOs working with refugees to list their needs. Donors can then see what is needed and offer support. Some donors have sourced and delivered items themselves, but most will give money with which Starfish can buy goods from local providers. Supporting local businesses in this way remains an important principle of Starfish.
Training and Capacity Building Starfish continually seeks to improve its performance and networking abilities, and in 2017 our team members attended several training sessions and seminars. This included 80 hours of intensive capacity building training delivered by HIGGS (Higher Incubator Giving Growth and Sustainability).
In November, Starfish took part in the Amsterdam-Athens Capacity Building Program for Initiatives Supporting Refugees, organized by the Bodossaki Foundation and delivered by experts from the Dutch Council for Refugees. This three-day intensive training was a great opportunity, and Starfish was subsequently chosen to take part in a follow-up study trip in Amsterdam in February 2018.
In March 2017 the founder of Starfish, Melinda McRostie, was invited to the international conference in Segovia, titled “Women who have transformed the World”. Her conference presentation “To act in the face of indifference: Improving the world of refugees on the island of Lesvos”, which took the form of an interview with Leila Nachawati, was very well received.
In June Starfish attended the 6th Annual Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Conference on Philanthropy with the theme of Creativity, Imagination and the Importance of Reactivating Public and Ethical Spaces in a Highly Polarized Society. The Foundation had previously provided significant financial support to Starfish’s food aid program.
Starfish was privileged to contribute to Arabella Dorman’s moving art installation “Suspended” which went on display at St James Church, Piccadilly, London in December. Starfish collected clothes discarded by refugees which Arabella used to create “Suspended”.
Looking forward to 2018 Starfish is looking forward to meeting the inevitable challenges that 2018 will bring. We will continue to provide help wherever it is needed, both to refugees and local communities.
To all of you who have supported and continue to support our work, we offer our heartfelt thanks. The refugees stranded on our island are most grateful to you. You can check out current needs on NeedsHub. Please donate as generously you can to the work of Starfish Foundation by bank transfer or by PayPal.