“Its a crisis beyond our imagination” St Albans volunteer heads to Athens to help refugees

Sumita with Susan Sarandon

Sumita with Susan Sarandon - Credit: Archant

While much of the refugee support efforts have been focused around the Calais camp, one woman has documented her volunteering in Athens.

Sumita (left) has volunteered on numerous occasions

Sumita (left) has volunteered on numerous occasions - Credit: Archant

Sumita Shah, 48, of St Albans, has volunteered and run homeless shelters for some time but has been visiting Athens recently to help the increasing number of migrants seeking refuge there.

Well experienced in volunteering during a crisis, in a blog on her fundraising page Sumita said that those visits were particularly testing.

Speaking on day two of a volunteering week recently, she said: “I am usually a toughie but today proved hard on many levels and it’s only day two.

“Difficult to even describe, and that has to be a first as I am usually never lost for words. I think I may break down quicker than I do on a normal crisis week.”

Sumita (left) with other volunteers in Athens

Sumita (left) with other volunteers in Athens - Credit: Archant


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She brings over monetary donations, spending it where it is needed most.

On one of her trips she ventured away from the Elliniko camp where she spends most of her time to buy food and directly give it to families in need.

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She added: “Feeding hot lunches to the most vulnerable at a decent time of the day, letting them choose what they would like to eat and not making them beg felt like the right thing to do. It was satisfying and rewarding.”

Sumita is one of many experienced volunteers giving up her time to help, and they are often joined by celebrities.

Sumita (left) helping refugee children in Greece

Sumita (left) helping refugee children in Greece - Credit: Archant

On Christmas Day the volunteering team at the Elliniko Camp were joined by actress Susan Sarandon.

Sumita continued: “She was interested in why I had come over from the UK to volunteer here. She was interested in the organisation and set up.”

The situation in Greece has since deteriorated even further, with more than 8,000 refugees arriving at the port, and Sumita made an emergency trip last weekend to help.

She said: “Every single camp/shelter etc is full. Families with babies and children are currently on streets with no shelter. It’s independent volunteers trying to help them with food/water/blankets etc. Its a crisis beyond our imagination.”

Sumita is set to return to Athens over the Easter period.

If you would like to read more about Sumita’s journey or donate, visit her gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/SumitaGreeceCrisis

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