NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — On Thanksgiving, Lisa Campbell was expected to arrive to the Grecian island of Lesbos, but a vacation will be far from her mind.
The Newport News resident will be spending a week on the island, assisting some of the 7,000 Middle Eastern refugees who are arriving on a daily basis.
“It’s overwhelmed — a tiny island in a country that is economically in tatters right now,” Campbell said.
Volunteering comes naturally to Campbell. As a child, she said, her parents stressed the importance of helping others.
That lesson has stayed with her.
She spent six months in the Gulf Coast helping post-Hurricane Katrina and organized a blanket and supplies drive with her husband, Ray, for residents in the New York area after Hurricane Sandy.
So as news spread about the conditions of refugees arriving in droves to Lesbos, she knew she had to do something.
“In circumstances like these, shipping items over there becomes extremely expensive,” Campbell said. “Money that can purchase things on the ground can buy supplies needed and stimulate the economy in Greece.”
Campbell will be going as a representative of the nonprofit Do Your Part, which she co-founded. She will be joining 12 others from the East End Cares (EEC), a volunteer group based on Long Island that she met while helping out post-Sandy.
“Lisa pulled an incredible amount of information and getting in contact with people on the ground,” said Melissa Berman, co-founder of EEC. “She has come in full-hearted and has been working around the clock.”
The trip has come together quickly. The idea of going to Greece didn’t come up officially until mid-October, and since then, it’s been like riding a wave, Berman said.
“If you have a disaster, you can’t sit there and wait,” Campbell said. “If it needs to be done, it needs to be done now.”
Campbell will arrive on Lesbos on Thursday, and she and EEC will be bringing an estimated $50,000 worth of medical supplies with them. Equipment will range from ultrasound machines and suction pumps to gauze and tubing.
According to The New York Times, more than 300,000 refugees have arrived on the island this year, greatly overwhelming its 86,000 residents.
This influx shouldn’t be surprising for European leaders, but they have not developed a plan to handle the number of refugees, said Andria Timmer, an anthropology professor at Christopher Newport University.
“What’s going on is that most of the work being done is by volunteers,” Timmer said. “It’s coming through individuals putting food in their car. These are the people on the ground doing aid.”
Campbell is planning on doing just that.
She will serve as medical lead for the group, having previously worked as an EMT. Campbell also knows Farsi, after living in Iran for three years in the 1970s, and will help translate for the group.
Despite the international locale, it’s just another way for Campbell and East End Cares to help those in need.
“The reality is they are human beings,” Campbell said. “They are just grateful to be alive and in a country to be in more freedom than what they’ve had. There’s a lot of joy in what you can do to help to balance the suffering that you see.”
If you would like to make a donation to Do Your Part, visit its website at DoYourPart.org. You can follow Campbell’s journey at Facebook.com/DoYourPartDisasters or Facebook.com/groups/EastEndCares/
Information from: Daily Press, http://www.dailypress.com/
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