“We got a call, the port police towed a boat in with about 35 refugees not too far from here. Myself and the team rushed there to assist them, like always, we gave them food, water and dry clothes. There were three children on the boat, crying and screaming and their parents were missing. We had no idea what happened to them. Maybe they fell into the water or they just sent the children alone… The greek port police often split people on the boats as they are always dangerously overloaded so maybe they accidentally separated these children from their parents. We had no idea… They were one, five and ten-years-old. We had a translator with us and tried to calm them down to get some information but they were in such shock they couldn’t say a word. I tried to call the refugee camp to find out if the parents were there, but back then there were 20-30 landings a day so there were about a thousand people waiting and another 500 new arrivals… Of course, they won’t know straight away who is who. So I spoke with the port police and asked for permission to move the three children and the translator all together in my car to try to find the parents. They kept crying and screaming the whole way and I was terrified! I kept thinking ‘what if I can’t find their parents, how will I leave them behind at the camp’. I felt like I lost 10 years of my life that night. When we got there, we rushed to the registration area of the camp hoping they would still be there and as soon as we entered I saw a woman sobbing very loud so I thought this is it! She might be the mother! While we were approaching her, she saw us, they recognised each other and they ran into each other’s arms… I cannot describe in words the energy I felt in that room… there were about fifteen hundred people witnessing the reunion and every one of them started to cry and cheer… You know this is only one of a thousand stories I could tell you why our job in CESTR is so important and why I gave up my life to help. ”
Toula, founder of Chios Eastern Shore Response Team – CESRT.
The CESTR team is looking for six volunteers to join their fantastic team from the 1st of Sept. Find out more HERE!
On the link below you can donate directly to Chios Eastern Shore Response Team – Click here!
The audio file of her full (1hr) interview is available here: