Andrew Parkes Handy Man in Samos.

Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 13, 2016

" I am very humbled and honored that friends and colleagues sponsored money for me to spend on this trip into the unknown. I wanted to go with a plan to help the helpers, do what I could to help those who have just come to Samos to help the refugees and those lovely locals who have to deal with the problems on a daily basis." .....Day 4/5 from 'Handy Andy' Andrew Parkes.

This morning the rain was heavy. The team had been handing out hundreds of ponchos.

There was a ferry leaving today so many people were looking for bags and backpacks to move on. It’s difficult to try and help families carry their belongings while trying to manage their families.

We went to the warehouse to look for backpacks, there were none so we decided to set off for town to buy some. Paulo has been there a couple of weeks and suggested it was a good way to spend some money to help them on their way, so 120e later we had done a deal at the store in town for 10 45l backpacks.

Within an hour they would be on someone's back heading across Europe.

If you are thinking of sending stuff it is much better to purchase stuff within the Greek Islands when you cab see exactly what they have and what's needed & respond to that need.

You would not believe the volume of donated clothing! That said shoes size 41 is always running out, or ladies underwear is not available for a couple of days. So a purchase of the correct sort/size from a local shop is a really good idea.

Anyway back packs gone I went to collect the wood I had ordered cut from the 'Travis' in Samos. On the way I called in with MSF and with the help of head of logistics I was given an extra sheet of ply and some off cuts.

To say I blagged them is incorrect, they are amazing but a large NGO and the supplies are counted in and out. They are really happy to help but have processes to follow. They are getting 4 fan heaters and 15 shelving racks for the warehouse but they will take 2 weeks to arrive. They have been loaning their staff to the volunteer team to sort clothes at the warehouse. Most days a squad of 6 would turn up and help. One of the guys - Bill was built like a brick shithouse and used to be in construction on the island before the financial problems. I used his muscles on a few occasions to help me move the table carcasses into position and do a few jobs to help.

So now with a van full of timber I got to the warehouse at midday & started the summer clothes sorting room tables. With the extra sheet I was able to add another table. The other volunteers at the warehouse (Vicky from Brighton, Melinda from Indiana, Nalin from Switzerland and Caroline from Cornwall) were all sorting clothes and washing shoes. I banged, screwed and indulged my practical self and 3 hours later had finished the room.

Before I could sit & take stock a couple of young German guys arrived in a car with three boxes in it. They asked if I could assist with the van to speed up the process of moving boxes of summer clothes from two other storage locations in town. Sure thing off we went.

So in a shop in town (it was just a mass of boxes, crutches, toys, medicines etc) was Elena sorting shoving and preparing. Elena is the person who started caring for the refugees about 8 months ago and organising the whole islands reaction. I cannot begin to describe what she has managed to achieve, a true force of nature and incredible spirit.

We fill the van, go to warehouse unload the van, and repeat twice, about 100 or so boxes of toys and clothes. Then we need to go and move more summer clothes from another sorting warehouse (where the local volunteers have been doing this from the start). Another 3 loads of boxes and one load left in the van for the morning. It's 9pm and the summer room at the warehouse is full of boxes, just hours after it was finished!

So we all went for some food to have some laughs, and de stress time, learn more about each other’s lives at home and reasons for coming to help.

I delivered Elena home at 2am after a wonderful local tapas meal, and some wine....

This morning I delivered my final load to the warehouse, took stuff to the cabin at the port, saw most of the guys from the night before and said goodbyes.

Then went to the hostel to meet with Valentina, and wonderful Sicilian born girl from Hackney. She is a volunteer who has stayed heads up the volunteers.

She is helping Elena create the systems, and keep the peace among volunteers the police, NGOs, rescue services, port authorities. One of frankest, funniest, loveliest little Italians I have met.

To end my trip I set off with another volunteer for a few hours to go on a little sightseeing trip. We went to see a lagoon very near the sea where beautiful pink flamingos live! They were amazing to see. Then across the road is a beach and beyond that about 2 miles across the water is Turkey. It is seriously close and looks swimmable, but both sides are military lookouts & therefore prevents refuges from crossing.

Scattered along the white stoney beach is the odd life vest dotted. With ‘Yamaha’ on the back. They look ‘official’ and ‘sea worthy’ but on closer inspection when spilt open they are full of plastic sh*t that would never keep you afloat, they are fakes - all of them. Just another terrible thing the refugees have no idea about when they pay 4000 euros to cross a tiny bit of sea guaranteed ‘safe’ passage.

Then lunch in the beautiful port of Pythagoris (yes! - where Pythagoris comes from).

Then home, via a plane, lucky me...

I am very humbled and honored that friends and colleagues sponsored money for me to spend on this trip into to the unknown. I wanted to go with a plan to help the helpers, do what I could to help those who have just come to Samos to help the refugees and those lovely locals who have to deal with the problems on a daily basis.

I feel I should give an account of what I used it for.

I paid for my flights and accommodation.

4 days van hire
2 fan heaters
Assorted tools,
Food for the volunteers
20 backpacks, for refugees with families
Petty cash for the hostel to help with the cost of bunk beds.

With my hands… I left

* A new shoe drying room,
* A summer clothes sorting room,
* A wheeled trolley made out of a borrowed bin,
* Some full stomachs for volunteers
* A full stocked toolbox for the next volunteer to rock up wanting to help.
* And of course some refugees with a backpack to carry their possessions in.

There maybe some money left that you kind folks have donated.

This being the case I would recommend that this be given to Calais Action, a charity which helps volunteers in the areas where they are needed.

If you want to help, a great way is to give the gift of your time and caring hands. It is massively rewarding.

You won't be plucking people from ultimate peril at sea, but you will be lending a hand in the process of helping desperate people in their journey and the Islanders who can't just up and leave their daily lives to assist with the refugee crisis on their doorstep.

Sponsoring a volunteer to go is a great idea. So thank you everyone for giving me the opportunity to give and lend practical help at a time when it is sorely needed.

Thanks again for the support, the refugee problems are not over they have only just begun....

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Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 10, 2016

The Shoe & boot drying room is coming together! Tomorrow's job? ...helping to wash 500 pairs of sea soaked shoes ready to be re-cycled & re-distributed. Day 3 in Samos with 'handy-Andy'

"Samos is a beautiful Island. As I write I am enjoying the local food after a satisfying day.

To give you an indicator it has a population of 32K (twice the size of my hometown Ricky). Each day 50-150 people arrive and the system evolves daily to manage them all.

Four months ago there were 100s milling on the Streets by the Port. Now the teams have bought a little order to the system of receiving and helping the refugees. Msf (doctors without Borders), Unicef, Samaritans, a local doctor, and Ikea (who donated solid pop up tents), have all pulled together alongside a very courageous lady who is the only locally elected government ombudswoman in Greece to have set up a system to receive the people.

At sea it is the pros at work - the coastguard, rescue folks from different countries, the police and army.

Here in in the Port where the refugees are bused to, is where the volunteers and the NGOs help out work alongside Elenor & the local council. Together they look after the distribution of warm dry clothes and shoes.

No matter what time the buses arrive we (the volunteers) are there to give emergency clothing. They’re then helped medically, fed and given shelter. The shelter is basic & brutal but it’s dry.

Warehouse sorting is a daily duty for volunteers here. It is incredible, imagine TK Maxx mixed and muddled, where everything needs sorting, baby clothes to toothbrushes. The goal for the volunteer is to help get this out the door to those that need it as quickly and as appropriately as possible. It's neither glamorous or dangerous - but it's necessary.

To help with this process I have focused my attention on building a shoe drying room. Tomorrow I will be washing shoes, we have about 500 pairs that are wet from the sea, a fantastic German couple created a

washing system, but drying was left up to the elements. Today, out of some recycled metal fences and some wood, I have created a room with some racks and I am hoping some fan heaters and convection can speed up the process of drying. Fingers crossed…we find out tomorrow!

I will also complete some sorting tables for the summer clothing to be sorted.

I have spent some money on the van & petrol, materials and tools (to be left for the next volunteer who can help fix stuff) food and coffee for the other volunteers and feeding myself.

Additionally two young German lads who have been helping at the main camp came to the warehouse looking for donated backpacks for the departing refugees (the ferry leaves for Athens every other day). We had none so they were going to buy some from the town, I gave them 100 euros as they were otherwise going to use their personal funds.

I want to say to anyone who may be reading this that they really do need hands on the ground here to do this simple job of sorting clothes and distributing them to those in need. It is safe and yes it is crazy at times.

The rewarding bit is knowing you are helping fellow people and families on their way having survived a crossing that many don't.

It is always difficult to balance your home life and all its stresses, but if the feeling takes you and you have some spare time and desire to help Elenor, the Island of Samos would love your helping hands. Form an orderly queue and check out Calais Action, or Samos municipality for details or just come, check into a hotel and offer your help.

Going to retire now to my bed. Hope the weather is nice and your day good tomorrow :-)"


Well done Andrew. You are really inspiring me. My first job was working on ’Simply Greece’ at Thomson Holidays... so I got to know the Greek people well and how down to earth / friendly / hospitable they are. You are all doing a great job and have set many of us thinking, I am sure... Kep the updates coming.

Helen Webb

Update posted by Feb 12

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Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 10, 2016

We achieved a whole load today culminating in helping some poor people who got stranded on the rocks and we're not found for 3 days. They were freezing, kids were unwell, feet were wet.

So DAY 2 started with a trip in the van this morning to buy and transport tools & wood. Then onto the warehouse where we further loaded it up ready to take everything to the port reception cabins where the immediate emergency dry clothes get distributed. For most it’s socks and trousers, but often the kids and women need a complete change as they are soaked from head to toe.

Onto helping Paulo in the staging container sorting clothes. He’d also heard I could fix stuff, so gave me the job of putting up a dressing room screen in the cabin for the men to change behind and securing and moving some shelving that was threatening to collapse on the volunteers when they tried to get to anything.

Next was a trip to the hardware shop to buy a kettle, screws and wall shelf brackets. The store owners are supremely helpful people and happy for us to buy stuff from them. The dip in tourism & the economy has meant that the £’s we spend here helping the refugees also help them too.

With my loaded tool box I was poised to build!

The van was filled up again destined for refugee camp which is the major distrubution point for other clothing and hygiene stuff.

When handing out the clothes the difficult bit is keeping the distribution calm and not allowing people to be too picky or greedy. Tough when you can't speak their language & explain the system & tough when people are tired and desperate.

As we were about to leave we were informed that 3 bus loads of wet people were being dropped at the port so 8 of us to headed directly down to the port to assist.

Just when we had sorted all them out and half the volunteers (who had been there all day) had gone back to the hostel, another bus arrived and these were the guys that had been stuck out in the open for 3 days and nights until they were eventually found.

A fellow Turkish volunteer Al and I helped the men change in the mens cabin. Mainly socks and shoes but some with jackets and jumpers. I even changed the shoes and trousers for a guy with two prosthetic feet! He didn't worry about his socks being wet.

Now got to pop along to a quick briefing by Val (our volunteer co-ordinator) and grab some food and some sleep.

Tomorrow is another day.

Thanks for your support folks.

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Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 08, 2016

End of Day 1 for Andrew in Samos.

After trying to have a nap this morning & failing miserably I caught up with the volunteer co-ordinator Val. Then off on a whirlwind tour of Samos:-

* The port where a massive ferry was leaving from.
* The cabin where the clothes are handed out.
* The hostel where volunteers can stay.
* The camp where the refugees stay while being processed.
* The warehouse which shares a compound with the local council situated up a really windy road above the camp.

As we drove round I was told that the refugees are often stranded for hours on the rocks because they land in difficult to access coves. When awaiting rescue on the rocks and the mountainside (for as long as 8 hours), they remove and leave their life vests. Once rescued, the next boat is attracted by the sight of these discarded vests and lands there again – and so the cycle continues.

The clothes system acts a little like a giant laundry service. People arrive soaked, are given clothes and shoes, whilst the discarded wet ones are cleaned dried and sorted ready for the next boat’s arrival.

Right now all the rescue craft are in the harbour prepared and ready. Val informed me it has been very quiet for days but they are expecting many to come across now the sea has calmed.

Anywhere between 600-800 refugees a day are anticipated. That’s a lot of people to clothe, feed and be MSF (doctors without borders) health checked and processed. They reckon it will peak in the summer at 3000 a day! This place is barely set up to handle 200 a day at the moment.

So we started building & sorting tables and shelving for the summer and winter clothing to be sorted and stocked. The stuff all needs bringing in by car or van which means lots of runs up a super windy road. Then it’s a case of sorting and distributing back to the various points at the port and at the big refugee camp in the middle.

I managed to find an angle grinder, a hammer, some nails and mdf and made a start on constructing some more sorting tables. With the van I’ve rented through donations I’m going to drive and buy more wood and complete a drying room for boots and shoes. Then it’s a case of ‘shelving the sh*t out of’ the warehouse (that’s a technical DIY term!)

You can see in the pictures what a massive task it is to sort all the boxes of clothes, I have never seen so many! We have to use the van to collect even more clothes for the summer from a container sent to the other side of the island.

I’m going to be busy tomorrow.

Oh and lots of new and old volunteers for Val to meet and lay the ground rules down to. eg no assisting with any rescues as it’s against the law.

Today I met about half the volunteers here – 1 Norwegian, 4 Swedes, 1 Romanian, a German, a Swiss, an Austrian, a Polish, 3 English girls and Val herself whose a wonderful mad Italian!

Oh and 7 guys from MSF who brought us some lunch and helped hump boxes for an hour or two.

It's late & I have retired to my digs in need of an early night - let's see what the morrow brings. Good night folks.

PS: you took the funding page to over £1K today. Amazing! It remains open to donations until Friday midday. Thank you everyone.

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Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 08, 2016

"Had a fun night getting here and slept for 1 HR.

Met a lovely girl from Brighton that is on her 3rd trip in three months and is relieving Vale (volunteer co-ordinator) so she can go home.

Sat on the little plane over from Athens, then rented a car and drove across this beautiful place. Saw a navy ship setting off for patrol and in the main Vathy port town were the 2 swedish rescue ribs. It was a stunning crisp morning.

The back road are mini, cars kept popping out of sides, not possible to pass, cats constantly on a death wish 2 inches from the kerb. Had to drive round town twice before we located the hotel. I woke the owner up and now I'm off to have 40 winks before heading back out at 11am to do good stuff in the warehouse and deliver the socks!

2187 miles from home"

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Update posted by Susan Lacey On Feb 07, 2016

Andrew leaves tonight and you lovely lot have have already donated nearly £1000 between you in just 3 days!!

With space to fill in his rucksack, we called the volunteer team in Samos and asked what we could donate that would be of use. Their answer was socks. So, along with 70 emergency blankets already packed, Andrew is bringing out 120 pairs of socks that we bought with the funds that you have donated - and decent new socks for just £50. We are so happy to be able to do this as we all know what it feels like to have cold feet.

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Backed with £10.00 On Feb 12, 2016


Have only just caught up with this - but how moving - and inspiring. Well done Andrew! And the Together100 team

Helen Webb

Backed with £75.00 On Feb 12, 2016



Backed with £20.00 On Feb 10, 2016


Another belated £25 from Together 100 film night

Lee Rothwell

Backed with £25.00 On Feb 10, 2016


Well done Parkesy, Keep on growling!

Dan Murray

Backed with £20.00 On Feb 10, 2016


Sarah Krogdahl

Backed with £20.00 On Feb 10, 2016


On behalf of my great friend Ary, @veracityvpnkrafft. She und a wonderful person and I highly recommend to take to your team !!!

Sinan A.

Backed with £10.00 On Feb 09, 2016


Donated on behalf of my friend Ary @veracityvonkrafft

William A.

Backed with £5.00 On Feb 09, 2016


Good luck Andrew

Paul Bevis

Backed with £20.00 On Feb 08, 2016


Well done Andrew - huge admiration for what you're doing here!

Shaun Mercer

Backed with £30.00 On Feb 08, 2016

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