Former Cromer Academy teacher launches new fundraising mission
PUBLISHED: 10:59 18 February 2016 | UPDATED: 10:59 18 February 2016
A former deputy head teacher at Cromer Academy has spoken of his horror at the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe and begged the question: “How many children and families must die before this crisis is stopped?”
Carmine De Grandis, 45, from Aldborough, revealed he was so moved by the human tragedy he read about while relaxing on a skiing break in the Alps that he volunteered to fly out to Greece to help those fleeing war-torn Syria.
He has just returned from a fortnight supporting the CK (Co-ordination Korakas Lighthouse) team on the island of Lesvos which looked out for refugees who braved the crossing of the Aegean Sea from Turkey in search of safety.
Mr De Grandis said: “While a political solution is found, many volunteers from all over the world keep giving their time, skills and money to be in Lesvos or in other areas where this drama is unfolding. However, the volunteers will not be able to work effectively without the help of those who feel these people’s pain and donate goods or money to support the work of NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and other organisations on the ground.
“On my part I believe that the work the CK team or Borderline Europe and Medicins Sans Frontières are doing is essential to stop these children and families dying en route.”
While he was there, the doting dad helped rescue men, women and children and transport them to respite centres, as well as cleaning up the coastline, which was littered with broken boats and life-jackets.
He twice saw boats capsize with at least 70 people, many of them children, losing their lives. Now home, he is trying to raise £5,000 in 30 days to help those he left behind.
Recalling the first landing he witnessed, Mr De Grandis said: “I saw children like mine with a mix of tiredness, bewilderment and horror dismounting their makeshift, overcrowded boats which had crashed on the rocks.
“I held a little two-years-old boy who could not walk over a steep track, while encouraging a young mother suffering from mild hypothermia and exhaustion to make it to our cars. Before the volunteers arrived they had to find their bearings and walk 60km to Mytilini, the capital city.
“Ppposite the Korakas lighthouse where I have had many night shifts camping out awaiting landings, two tragedies have happened. Twice boats have capsized and too many have died - at least 70. Of these many would have been children.
“During the same 12 days, we transported a young child who had severe brain damage, another who had fallen in a fire and was severely burnt, one who had suffered frostbite while walking for eight hours in the snow with no shoes.
“We also stretchered up the rock cliffs two elderly people at 4am. Both seemed very old. One was in a wheelchair. Both had travelled from Afganisthan with their family for one month mostly on foot. Their thin fibreglass boat split in half soon after we managed to get everyone out.”
Mr De Grandis revealed he was loathe to return home as there was no end in sight to the number of people attempting the perilous journey over the Aegean Sea and he appealed to anyone who could to support the work of the volunteers he left behind.
“More boats will land tonight and more will continue landing,” he said. “Volunteers were coming from all over the world and helping every day and every night. These volunteers were spotting boats, escorting them to safe harbours, helping them to land and assess the medical needs of each person. They would then transport them, provide them with clothes, hot drinks, more transport and lots of positivity and smiles before they would go on to continue their uncertain journeys in the hope that life will be better for them in Europe offering them the chance to live, not simply survive, until the day they could go home.”
To donate, log on to: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/carmine-degrandis
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