Good People Doing Good Things — Choose Love (and others)

t-shirt-2Perhaps my favourite Christmas gift this year was from my daughter to Miss Goose and I together.  When we first opened it, we were a bit puzzled, for there was a white t-shirt with the words “Choose Love” on it in black lettering, and a piece of paper that appeared to be an invoice for:

Hot Food x2 $8.00
Sleeping Bag x1 $26.00
Waterproof Tent x1 $26.00
Snug Pack x1 $10.00
Arrival Bundle x1 $30.00
Total   $100.00

My first reaction was, “You bought us a tent?  You want us to move out?”  But as she explained, as I understood what my wonderful daughter had done, tears came.  She donated this money in mine and Natasha’s names, to be spent on the above items for a refugee in need.  My daughter has a heart of pure gold.

So this evening, as I pondered my ‘good people’ post, I thought to do a bit of research into ‘Choose Love’.  From their website …

Choose Love. It’s a simple, but powerful message.

At a time when the world faces many challenges; when rhetoric of hate and division has found itself centre stage; we believe sharing this simple message has never been more vital.

We all have a choice. To be motivated by fear and animosity, to build walls and turn our backs on the world. Or to nurture the hopeful; to recognise our common future. To chooselove. The world can feel broken, but everywhere these cracks are letting in light.

We’re under no illusions. We know we face some huge challenges. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as charity, and as a community, it’s that we can all play a part in creating the world we want to see. And choosing love seems like a pretty good place to start.

Choose Love, the world’s first store where you can buy real gifts for refugees, contains practical items like tents, nappies and sleeping bags. But instead of taking them home, each purchase buys a similar item for someone who truly needs it.

In 2017, this new model of charitable giving raised nearly £1 million, it got the message out to over 200 million people, and it engaged celebrities, influencers and the public with a really positive message.

We believe funds should go straight to where they are needed most. So we make sure 100% of donations from the store go straight to supporting front line services.

Last year, the sale of life jackets from the Choose Love store raised £38,594, which enabled Refugee Rescue to assist 1,399 people braving the treacherous sea crossing from Turkey.

But Choose Love is only one part of the picture, for they are in partnership with another organization, Help Refugees, that goes even further.  Help Refugees is ranked one of the most efficient charities helping refugees with a myriad of things.  A bit about them …

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Help Refugees started as nothing more than a hashtag in August 2015. A group of friends wanted to raise $1,500 and fill a van full of donations to take down to Calais. Within a week, we had raised $86,000. We were soon receiving 7,000 items every day.

Fast forward three years, and we have helped over 722,500 people, managed over 25,000 volunteers, and we support more 80 projects across Europe and the Middle East. We have established a fieldwork first, networked approach to giving aid, establishing local networks and working with local partners to deliver projects.

Boosted by the support of high-profile musicians, filmmakers and actors who joined our ‘Choose Love’ campaign, we believe that together with our partners, volunteers, fundraisers, and supporters we have pioneered a new movement in humanitarian response – ordinary people to help other ordinary people in need in the most direct of ways.

We help where the need is greatest. Flexible and fast in our response to the genuine needs of refugees, we fill gaps and act where big NGOs and governments don’t.

94% of your donations go directly towards supporting refugees across Europe and the Middle East.

– We are among the most efficient refugee charities in Europe
– We’ve had thousands of volunteers
– We’re funded by people like you
– We don’t have any highly paid executives
– We provide vital aid to people fleeing war, persecution and poverty

Help refugees impact reportI checked out both Help Refugees and Choose Love, both are legitimate and rely almost exclusively on volunteers and donations.  So today, I honour many good people whose names I do not know, but whose accomplishments deserve kudos.  The 25,000+ volunteers, those who came up with the ideas for these two charities, and the thousands of people who have helped, either by giving donations or buying items for refugees.  And one more good person I would like to honour today … daughter Chris for having such a wonderful heart and for caring about people.

You can learn more about these two organizations from their websites, Choose Love and Help Refugees.

Yet another Greek tragedy…

Once again, I share a post by “From Greece with Love”, the Scottish girl living on the isle of Kos in Greece, and dedicating her life to helping refugees arriving on the island. Her post today brings tears, and reminds us that while we are sitting in our warm cozy homes, sipping our tea or coffee, people are fighting for their very lives. And it also reminds us, I think, of that old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. Please take a moment to read this first-hand story of the most recent tragedy … and to remember those who died while simply trying to stay alive. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for sharing this part of your life with us … stay strong and thank you for doing what you do.

From Greece With Love

It has been over two years now since I first came to Greece. Before I jumped on that flight on Sept 29th 2015, with no idea how that decision would utterly change the direction of my life, I had been following the unfolding crisis in Greece for many months.

I don’t know what I expected to happen over all this time, but I had hoped that history wouldn’t continually repeat itself over and over again with no lessons being learnt and no real change.

Yesterday morning I woke up to news of another shipwreck in the region of Greece I now call home. I saw the messages of friends in my new home, the anger of yet another tragedy upon our doorstep. I saw the frantic grief of the volunteers on the island of Kalymnos who have dealt with too much death upon their shores already. I saw the…

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Grounded

Those of you who have followed Filosofa’s Word for more than a year may remember a series of posts that I re-blogged by justascottishgirl, a young woman from Scotland who, in late 2015 to mid-2016 took time from her own life to volunteer helping refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos. Her tales were often heartbreaking, but I was so impressed with what she and others were doing – giving of themselves for the cause of humanity – that I shared her story a few times in March 2016. She eventually returned to Scotland, but has now moved to the Greek Isle of Kos. She has started a new blog, titled From Greece With Love, and shares her very astute thoughts on not just the refugee crisis, but the terrible inhumane incidents taking place around the globe. I am sharing, with her permission, the first post on her new blog where she starts with a question: How does one stay grounded with all the terrible things happening around the world? She concludes with: “Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.” Just A Scottish Girl is an excellent writer, thinker, and humanitarian extraordinaire, and this post is well worth the read. Please take a few moments to read her words, for they reflect what most of us are thinking in these troubled times. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for all you do, for your beautiful heart, and for permission to share your thoughts and words.

From Greece With Love

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over…

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Da Trump’s First G-7 Summit … Uh-Oh!!!

At the end of his trounce through the Middle East and Europe, which I wrote about last week, Donald Trump finished the week by attending the G-7 conference. As I said in my earlier post, Trump should never have been allowed out of the White House, let alone to attend such important meetings as NATO and the G-7.

A bit about the G-7:

The G-7, Group of Seven, is a group of leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and the United States. A very high net national wealth and a very high Human Development Index are the main requirements to be a member of this group. The G-7 countries also represent 46% of the global GDP. The organization was founded to facilitate shared macroeconomic initiatives by its members in response to the collapse of the exchange rate 1971, during the time of the Nixon Shock, the 1970s energy crisis and the ensuing recession. Its goal was fine tuning of short term economic policies among participant countries to monitor developments in the world economy and assess economic policies. They meet between two and four times a year, and since 2005 the G-7 countries have recognized the threat of climate change and the need for a global agreement to address the issue. More recently, they have also addressed the refugee/migrant crisis and food security issues.

This year’s G-7 was held in Sicily, and it was Trump’s first experience with this type of conference.  I can only hope it will be his last and that some other president will attend the next, as he made a shambles of what should have, could have, been an opportunity for the U.S. to reassure our allies of our cooperation.

Three major issues were on the agenda for the G-7 leaders this week:  trade, climate change, and the refugee crisis.

Climate change:

The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan all signed a pledge supporting the 195-nation Paris climate deal Saturday.  Donald Trump did not sign, stating instead that he would “make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”  While not a surprise, given the backward stance he has taken since his inauguration, it is unconscionable.  195 nations have placed their faith in science and in each other in a cooperative agreement to reduce carbon emissions, yet one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world refused.  Trump has previously called global warming a hoax, and came under concerted pressure from the other leaders to honor the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions.

His apparent reluctance to embrace the first-ever legally binding global climate deal that was signed by 195 countries clearly annoyed German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said, “The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying. There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”  France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, however, shoes to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, saying he was sure Trump, who he praised as “pragmatist”, would back the deal having listened to his G7 counterparts.  He’s the new kid, so I suppose he has to try to be nice.

Trade issues:

Trump was somewhat more cooperative on trade issues.  After his bluster on the campaign trail in which he threatened unilateral tariffs on Mexican and Chinese goods and said he would quit the North American Free Trade agreement unless it was renegotiated to his liking, expectations of cooperation were low. Earlier this week he called Germany “very bad” on trade because of its U.S. surplus. But he did agree at the G-7 to language in the final G7 communique that pledged “to fight all forms of protectionism” and committed to a rules-based international trade system. Of course whether he follows through with that pledge remains to be seen.

Refugee crisis and migration:

Italy had taken the lead on migration and the refugee crisis, and had prepared a comprehensive five-page statement that acknowledges migrants’ rights, the factors driving refugees and their positive contribution. It was hoped that the summit would end on Saturday with a bold statement that the world, and not just individual nations, had a responsibility for the refugee crisis. The Italian plans – one on human movement and another on food security – were set to be the centerpiece of its summit diplomacy.

However, Trump’s negotiators brought a new brief text of the final communique to a pre-meeting of the G7 on 26 April and said they were vetoing the Italian “human mobility” plan, which had been the subject of careful negotiation for months. I’m not quite sure who died and left Trump in charge, but he obviously assumed that his was the only opinion that counted.  The new text, offered by the US on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, acknowledges the human rights of migrants, but affirms “the sovereign rights of states to control their own borders and set clear limits on net migration levels as key elements of their national security”. It should be noted that more than 1.300 refugees have drowned already this year attempting to make the journey from north Africa.

refugees


German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned to Germany on Saturday night and said to her countrymen:

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over. This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

This comes as no surprise after the disastrous results of the NATO meeting where Trump refused to sign Article 5, the agreement for the member nations to come to the aid of each other if one is attacked.  And then to fail to agree to uphold the Paris climate accord, and severely restrict the migration plan during the G-7 summit, shows a complete lack of desire to cooperate with our friends and allies.  NATO and the other G-7 nations will do what they need to do, with or without Donald Trump.  They will ultimately become stronger and more self-sufficient.  They are not the losers in this … we are.

golf-cart.jpgIn addition to his lack of cooperation, he provided even more cause for embarrassment. All other leaders attending the G-7 summit walked 700 yards to take a group photo at a piazza in a hilltop town. The U.S. leader decided to wait until he could get a golf cart. For perspective, 700 yards is less than 4/10 of a mile.  Less than ½ mile, and he refused to walk with the others.  Look at the man … a bit of a walk certainly wouldn’t hurt him!  He arrived late, and the others had to wait for him to be included in the photo.

All in all, as I said in my post of May 26th, Trump’s trip abroad was a disaster from the standpoint of our allies, a success in the eyes of our adversaries, and Trump himself brags “I think we hit a home run no matter where we are.” Believe me, this was a strike out, not a home run.

Who The Heck Is TED?

Until recently, I had never heard of a TED conference.  TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, and is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading”. TED was founded in February 1984 as a conference, which has been held annually since 1990.  The main TED conference is held annually in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

This year’s TED conference was held on April 24 thru April 28, the theme of which was ‘The Future You’. Speakers included authors, actors, scientists, healthcare professionals, climate scientists, artists, and even Pope Francis.  I imagine that most of the speeches were relevant and worthy of consideration, but a couple stood out that I’d like to share with you.

popePope Francis, in a videotaped talk, called for a “revolution of tenderness”, urging that the conference’s tech leaders, investors, journalists and academics to consider “how wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear. The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”  A message that needs to be heard by many of today’s ‘powerful’ people, I think.

David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, spoke about the current global refugee crisis: “The world is more connected than ever before, yet the great danger is we’re consumed by our divisions — and there’s no better test of that than how we treat refugees. Now is not the time to be banning refugees — it’s the time to be embracing people who are victims of terror. It’s a test of our humanity. It’s a test of us in the Western world of who we are and what we stand for. It’s a test of our character.”

Then there were three speakers who presented some common sense ideas for those who want to live longer, enjoy life more and actually find that elusive happiness:

  • Psychologist, columnist and author Susan Pinker: Face-to-face social interaction leads to a longer life. Smoking, drinking, exercise and even heart problems are not predictors of a person’s longevity — a person’s close relationships and social integration are. Those with intimacy in their lives, those with support systems and frequent face-to-face interactions are not only physically and emotionally healthier, but they also live longer.

  • Adam Alter, professor of marketing and psychology: Knowing when to turn off your smartphone enriches your life. People who spend time on social networks, dating apps and even online news sites reported being less happy. Most things we do for pleasure, like reading a book or watching a movie, have an end. But scrolling on the phone is endless and we don’t know when to break away.

  • Author Emily Esfahani Smith: Chasing meaning, not happiness, is what really matters. The quest for happiness doesn’t make us happy. constantly evaluating our own happiness is actually contributing to feelings of hopelessness and depression. What’s really making us feel sad is not a lack of happiness, it’s lack of meaning. Meaning can be derived in four forms: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.

life-is-good

All simple, common-sense ideas, yet ones that I think we all forget or disregard, at least sometimes.  The conference brought together people from all walks of life to share and exchange ideas.  While I had not heard of it before, I think it is a great idea and will be following TED more closely in the future, though at $4,400 per ticket, it is not likely that I will ever attend one of these conferences!

A Tale Of One Good Man

Today I am in the mood to write about something good for a change. Downright heartwarming, in fact.

We generally think of corporate CEOs as money-grubbing, amoral, unethical ‘Daddy Warbucks’ types, and more often than not, we would be right.  But one Canadian CEO has risen above that image and proven that he has a big heart.

Jim Estill is the CEO of Danby, a multimillion-dollar appliance company in Guelph, a small city in Ontario, Canada.  Moved by the refugee crisis in the summer of 2015, Estill set out to do something positive.

Canada has a private sponsorship program, which allows private citizens to welcome and settle refugees as long as they commit to covering the expenses for the first year or so and helping the newcomers ease into their new lives. Australia and New Zealand have similar programs, and a few other countries allow a private citizen to sponsor a relative.  The U.S. has been working on implementing such a program, but I think, given the political climate, it is unlikely to happen.

Mr. Estill did the math and calculated that the cost to support a family of five for a year would be about $30,000. Based on that, he could, with some help from local religious and private aid organizations, support about 50 families!  Think about this … while so many are whining that their tax dollars are helping refugees, this man is willing to spend $1.5 million out of his own pocket to help other humans.

estill-2

The hardest part, according to Estill, was determining which families to help.  “Basically you’re playing God,” he said. “You’re choosing who lives and who dies and who comes and who doesn’t.”  Selection criteria would be determined by how well refugees do at getting jobs, becoming self-sufficient and assimilating into society. This would decide the success or failure of this venture. The first goal was to choose those who had family members already established in the area so they would have an additional layer of help.

“The part that was bad is that we wouldn’t take a single mother with eight kids, because we thought, ‘Your life is not going to be that good and how are you going to settle successfully?’ So that’s the way we chose. It’s terrible, but what can you do?” 

A number of volunteers are assisting Estill in his efforts, and as of today, they have brought 47 families to Canada, with another 11 scheduled to arrive within a few months. They offer the refugees a number of services from job-training to English language classes, and each family is paired with an Arabic-English speaking mentor who helps them with practical matters like riding buses, grocery shopping and more. Estill and his wife have frequently had refugee families living in their home while waiting for rental housing to become available, and he makes a habit of visiting the homes of the refugees he sponsors.

One refugee, known only as Youssef, expressed his gratitude for Estill’s help: “I still don’t believe it. He brought me to this country and he didn’t just stop there.” You can read more of his efforts here.

This is not the first time Jim Estill has made news.  In 2006, when he was CEO of Synnex Canada, Forbes magazine did an article about him.   Twenty years prior, he had founded his own computer distribution firm, which grew to a $350 million before he sold it to Synnex.  His humanitarian approach to business, training people properly for their jobs, and his overall down-to-earth methods of management earned him much respect.  He does not ‘manage’ people, he helps, inspires and motivates them.

Estill does not consider his humanitarian work with refugees to be done, however, as he plans to bring about another 225 people to his country, in groups of 50 at a time. What impresses me even more is his humility.  He is not tooting his own horn, not telling people how great he is, he just quietly goes about doing the right thing.  In a recent interview, he said, “I still don’t see what the big deal is. And I’m surprised more people don’t step up and do it. I didn’t want to grow old and say I stood by and did nothing. So I decided to do my small part.” I’m not sure I would call what he is doing “small” in any way, but I admire his sense of humility almost as much as I admire what he is doing. While some would rather build walls to keep from having to help their fellow humans, Jim Estill is doing the opposite and his community is helping him.  What a refreshing change of pace from what we have been seeing and hearing these days.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Jim Estill!

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Barefoot and Pregnant?


I suppose it was inevitable that I would be writing, yet again, about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water …

Why, I ask myself, am I so fascinated with the politics of Turkey and its president?  The answer, I think, is two-fold.  First, he is a western leader, a powerful figure on the global playing field, and a key player in the refugee crisis.  A leader who has shown the world his thirst for power and his intolerance for opposition — a very dangerous duo. But secondly, I believe that watching Erdogan’s behaviour can give us, here in the U.S., some idea of what we might expect in the unlikely event that Donald Trump were to be elected to the office of president in November.  Erdogan and Trump have many similarities, the most obvious being a narcissistic personality and a very thin skin when it comes to those who do not see eye-to-eye with them.  They both lash out and threaten those who they perceive as their ‘enemies’, whether real or imagined. So, think, as you read this, about our own albatross, da trumpeter, and see if you notice certain similarities.  What has Mr. Erdogan done now, you ask?

First, there is his stance on women.  In a speech on Sunday in Istanbul, he clarified his view of women.  Here, I think I will let his comments speak for themselves:

  • “You cannot bring women and men into equal positions; that is against nature.”
  • “Rejecting motherhood means giving up on humanity. I would recommend having at least three children.”
  • “A woman who rejects motherhood, who refrains from being around the house, however successful her working life is, is deficient, is incomplete.”
  • “In this country, for years, they [women] carried out the treason of birth control.”

In March, Erdogan declared the country should “develop its own unique values of gender equality”.  Well, based on the above quotes, I would certainly call it ‘unique’, though I am not sure where the word ‘equality’ fits into the picture.  It is reminiscent of a phrase coined in the early 20th century by Arthur E. Hertzler, a Kansas doctor who said “The only way to keep a woman happy is to keep her barefoot and pregnant.”  I understand that there are cultural differences between the ideas of the west and, say,  Asian, Middle Eastern, and African nations.  But, Turkey claims to be a western-style democracy, so I do not understand how Erdogan can rightfully have such misogynist ideas.


On 2 June, I published a post, Of Miss Turkey, Genocide and Divorce, about the German resolution which, if passed, would label the murder or displacement of nearly all Armenian subjects living in Turkey in 1915 as ‘genocide’.  Erdogan had warned that passage of the resolution would “ … damage future diplomatic, economic, business, political and military relations between the two countries.”  Well, Germany’s Parliament did, in fact, pass the resolution last week, and predictably, Erdogan is … well, perhaps ‘unhappy’ would be somewhat of an understatement.

Erdogan lashed out at the German Parliament, specifically at the 11 members who are of Turkish ancestry, saying, “What sort of Turks are they?”  He then called for each of those 11 to have a blood test to verify their Turkish ancestry!  WHAT???  I did not realize that a blood test could determine ancestral origins!  Now, as I said in the beginning, look for similarities between Erdogan’s rhetoric and that of da trumpeter, who has repeatedly questioned President Obama’s country of origin.  Need I say more?

Turkey also recalled its ambassador from Berlin … no surprise there, and I doubt that Angela Merkel is either surprised or overly-disturbed by that move.  However, what is disturbing is that Cem Ozdemir, one of the 11 Parliament members of Turkish descent, has received death threats since the resolution passed last Thursday.  This was apparently a result of a ‘tweet’ by the mayor of Ankara (Turkey) naming the 11 and saying they “stabbed us in the back”.  According to German media, it was retweeted by many Turkish nationalists, some of whom made death threats against Ozdemir, who was one of the initiators of the German resolution.  German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said he had also received many death threats from German far-right extremists.  Again, can you picture this type of a response from da trumpeter and his minions?  I can.

Further, Erdogan lashed out at Germany stating that Germany ” … should be the last country to vote on a so-called ‘genocide’ by Turkey.  First, you have to account for the Holocaust …”  The problem with his rant, of course, is that Germany does not deny the horror of the Nazi regime during World War II, and the Holocaust.  Germany has worked hard to overcome the legacy left to them by Hitler, and continues to do so.  Erdogan is trying to deny the Armenian Genocide.

Unfortunately for the world, Erdogan’s temperament and thin skin is almost certain to erode the EU-Turkey migrant agreement, and I cannot even begin to speculate at this time on what that will mean.  Well, actually I can, but I prefer not to just yet.

I think that for both Turkey and the U.S., this quote by Turkish author Elif Shafak says it all: “If we do not speak up now, tomorrow we might lose even the rights that we take for granted today.”

Why Did I Order a Starbucks?!?

Several times over the past few months, I have shared posts from the blog of a young volunteer working with refugees on the Greek island of Kos. Today I would like to share one by another young lady, a quite different woman, one that, like most of us, views the refugee crisis from a distance and through western eyes. Her sentiments echo my own … frustration that it is so easy to become immune to the news from Greece, Turkey, Syria and other countries where refugees are temporarily being sheltered. Frustration that so many of us fail to sit up and take notice of the crisis, as it is ‘over there’, and ‘them’ rather than ‘us’. And frustration that, despite a desire to ‘do something to help’, there is little, if anything, that we as individuals can really do. Ahmedi writes with feeling and compassion and I know you will be glad you read her post.

Ahmeli

“Grande, iced, soy, caramel macchiato,” I happily exclaimed as I ordered a drink this morning. I enjoyed every sip of that drink while walking my 7-month-old in his stroller.

Fast-forward 13 hours later. I am reading the daily news and I feel like I’m punched in the gut. This week I’ve read articles each day on the refugee crisis and the current death toll that’s reaching 1,000 people. Each night I think, what can I write about this? What could I say? Nothing will take away the pain these families are feeling (of those who even know by this point that their family members didn’t make it – I’m sure many do not yet know). Nothing I type will change the political environment surrounding this crisis. So, each night I went to bed and awoke the next morning. Then tonight’s article happened.

RT_German_Rescuer_Drowned_Baby_MEM_160531_4x3_992Credit & story found here

And now…

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They Say A Picture Can Paint A Thousand Words…

Here is another post from the heroic young lady who is still, despite enormous strife and heartbreaking conditions, doing what she can to help refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos.  Please take a minute to read.

fromscotlandwithloveblog

They say a picture paints a thousands words… Unfortunately I cannot take a picture of one of the worst examples of inhumanity I have witnessed so far in life so here is a thousand words to try and a paint a picture…

As you enter the police station of Kos, be sure your greeting will not be welcoming. You may even be lucky enough to bump into someone from Frontex, dressed like something from a sci fi film in tight black ops style uniform. You won’t get a smile but you will sure be intimidated by the weapons they are toting on their hip. The police station itself from outside looks like quite a grand old historical building but within it is run down with a feeling of a sleepy, small town local authority which in normal circumstances wouldn’t have huge amounts of crime to deal with.

As you walk…

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Meanwhile, Across the Big Pond …

While we here in the U.S. are intently focused on the drama and chicanery of the upcoming election, believe it or not, there are other important things going on in other parts of the world that may have even more dramatic, long-lasting global effects than the selection of our next president.  Nothing of importance will happen regarding the election circus until at least “Super Tuesday”, March 1st.  There will be another GOP debate tonight, which I will not even bother with because every single GOP debate thus far has covered the exact same ground, none of which was enlightening in the least, but rather a babble of bullying, arguing and mud-slinging.  Too bad, as Wolf Blitzer is one of the narrators on this one and I rather enjoy him.  At any rate, for now and probably the next several days, I turn my attention to what is happening in other parts of the world, starting with …

The European refugee crisis has escalated to the point that nobody seems quite sure what the answer is.  Here in the U.S., we claim to have a refugee crisis, but in fact ours is more of a manageable situation that has not begun to reach the crisis stage that is happening on the other side of the globe.  Picture, if you can, a long corridor similar to that of a high-rise hotel, with rooms every few yards on either side.  Now imagine what happens if thousands of people, seeking safety from a storm perhaps, enter the corridor and start filling the rooms.  A few of the smaller rooms fill rapidly and can no longer hold any more people, and some other rooms begin to slam the door, not wishing to be overwhelmed as the smaller rooms have been.  What happens next?  The corridor, obviously, cannot hold all these people who just keep coming.  Before long, the corridor is completely saturated, can hold no more people and yet … they keep coming.  That is the situation in Europe today.  Add to the mix, the politics of each separate nation, for Europe, despite the creation of the European Union (EU), is not one nation under a single political system, but a compilation of some 50 nations, only 28 belonging to the EU, each with its own political system, culture, and problems.  One of the best articles I have found that helps to explain the situation using visual aids is in the BBC News …   http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911.

The question of how the nations of Europe will handle the refugee crisis is of the utmost importance, as it is causing turmoil and conflict among those nations and threatening to damage the EU.  It boils down to whether the EU should assign each nation to accept a certain number of refugees based on proportional population, or should it be left up to each country to decide for itself how many to accept?  This is not an easy question with a single simple answer.  It could quite easily result in a breakup of the EU. Just as we play the petty politics game here, so do the European nations, only they have more playmates to share the joy.  Just a few of the disputes:

  • Viktor Orban, Hungary’s xenophobic, Trump-like Prime Minister wants to build a wall (an awful lot of wall-building going on … perhaps I should invest in concrete) and is garnering a great deal of support from several other European nations.
  • Orban told Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, that by accepting refugees she is directly responsible for those who have died along the way. To date, Germany has agreed to accept the highest number of refugee applications.
  • Yesterday, Austria and its southern neighbors along the route traversed by refugees coming north from Greece, held a meeting to decide how many refugees would be allowed to enter from Greece. Somehow, they “forgot” to include Greece in the meeting, so now Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, understandably piqued, says he will not agree to anything less than a proportional sharing of all incoming refugees directed by the EU.

Meanwhile, refugees who fled for their lives are risking their lives traveling mainly by sea, only to live in horrible conditions while waiting for the politics to play out, and are dying daily.  An estimated 41%-51% are children under the age of 18.

There are some 22 nations on the European continent that are not a part of the EU, Russia being the largest.  However, Russia has accepted a minimal number of refugees relative to their total population and, by their bombing raids in Syria in support of al Assad, they have actually contributed to the growing number of misplaced and homeless refugees seeking asylum.  To put it in perspective, Russia has taken in less than 0.3% of their total population in refugees, whereas Turkey has taken in 10.2%, and the U.S. has also accepted less than 0.3% (data source: UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).

This crisis is arguably the most significant and potentially disastrous for Europe since the end of WWII.  It is not only a matter of political squabbles between nations that should concern us all, but the economic toll caused by sheltering the refugees, border closings, and other issues that are much more complex than what I am able to address here.  What is the answer?  I certainly do not know, and I suspect that nobody does, but let us hope that some consensus can be reached among the powers that be in the EU.  Those of us who have been obsessed with the U.S. immigrant situation … make no mistake, Europe’s problems are, at least for now, far greater and the ripple effect of those problems will soon cross the big pond. The statistics are conflicting, depending on source, and again, it is well beyond the scope of this article to address the situation with any depth.  My point is merely to become more aware that the refugee crisis goes far beyond our own borders and will not likely be solved easily nor painlessly for any humanitarian nation.