I’m Maria, I’m from a small town near Valencia, Spain and I’m 30 years old. I am currently working as a long-term volunteer for Lesvos Solidarity ex Pikpa refugee camp (Pikpa) where I run the food distribution.
I first came to Lesvos in October 2016 and volunteered at Pikpa for 1 month. I was impacted by the desperate refugee situation on the island. And after having worked over the winter in Andorra, I was eager to return to Lesbos and stay for a longer period of time.
Without Volunteers for Lesvos I wouldn’t be able to stay on the island as a long-term volunteer. I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to join the team. It means I can provide support to some of the most vulnerable refugees on the island – whilst learning new skills myself.
To give you some background information about my working place: Since 2015 Pikpa has hosted some of the most vulnerable refugees on the island including new born babies, pregnant women, families with physical and mental disabilities and victims of torture and shipwreck. As a grass-roots, community-led camp Pikpa relies very heavily on its volunteers to function and operate. Long-term volunteers are fundamental to Pikpa, particularly in spaces like food distribution. Pikpa does not allow short-term volunteers to operate in food distribution for several reasons. One is that the food distribution team has to have a deep understanding of the individual needs of the residents, which relies, at times, on confidential information. Otherwise they cannot distribute the food fairly in a dignified way. The second reason is that trust and familiarity, which only develop when you volunteer at the same place for a long period of time, are crucial in helping to establish stability in the life of Pikpa´s residents, many of whom have lost everything. The third reason is that the volunteers who work here have to have a clear knowledge of the best methods how to distribute the food.
Pikpa’s capacity is 110 and we currently have 114 residents, including 44 children and two new families who arrived this week. There are hundreds of cases waiting to be referred to Pikpa. We’re very short of volunteers. So I only got 4 days of vacation to go to Thessaloniki. My first 4 free days in 4 months.
Now, the new chef, Penelopi and I are trying to change the system for food distribution. We adjust the budget because lots of NGOS have left the island, so funding became even more difficult.
We have so many new families on the camp so we try to make the system more clear and to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.
2 of our residents making the bread every day. We provide all families fresh bread 6 days per week.
 Pikpa refers to all refugees housed on camp as ¨residents¨. This is in line with the organisation´s ethos to provide more than just essentials to the island´s most vulnerable. All Pikpa´s work is based on principles of solidarity, respect for human life, non-discrimination, non-violence