Refugee4Refugee founder Omar Alshakal sought to create a non-political organisation that addresses the needs and concerns of refugees, while also encouraging fellow asylum seekers to get involved and take the lead in relief efforts.
Omar is a Syrian refugee and brings a unique perspective as someone who arrived in Europe in 2014, after swimming for 14 hours from Turkey to Greece. He has seen the weaknesses of the asylum process first hand. Omar started the charity to tackle these challenges head on. As a former lifeguard, he saw an opportunity to improve boat spotting and landing support. The orgnisation has now moved away from spotting and assisting with arrivals and has started to look at providing longer term support as the refugees stay on the island for longer periods of time.
R4R now focuses on providing essential items to refugees residing on both Lesvos and Samos, there is a large warehouse in both locations where items are sorted and then transported to the free shop; this is a space where refugees can come and pick what they want, adding a bit of dignity and choice back into their lives. R4R has also established child friendly spaces on both islands just next to the camps, here non-formal education, recreational activities and simple play is offered to the children as well as activites for adults.
I had a great experience with R4R. The organization focuses its efforts on providing food in a transitory camp in Skala Sikamineas, where boats arrive regularly. They have clean and comfortable accommodation for 10€ a night, which is cheap for northern Lesvos. Landings are well organized. Working with R4R means mostly to attend landings and help the people coming off boats, cooking and distributing food at the camp. I learned a lot from this experience and strongly recommend volunteering with them. It is a good work rhythm and experience. People in Skala are welcoming. You quickly become attached to this place and the passionate volunteers and coordinators of R4R. It is a small non-profit, so you feel you have a direct impact.