Generosity on the Ground for Refugees in Greece

Welcome Stacey Harris-Papaioannou, president of the American Women’s Organization in Greece, who gives us a glimpse of the selfless, compassionate people assisting the refugees in Greece, and tells us how we can help.


By: Stacey Harris-Papaioannou


Philoxenia for refugees in Greece

A sea of separatism between Europe and not-Europe is present in the 6-mile crossing from the Turkish coastline to the closest Greek border on the island of Lesvos. The human flood of refugees in Greece fills the channel daily. When weary travelers, soaked by the salty sea, seeking solace and safety, set foot on dry land, they find generosity on the ground in Greece. In the land that invented the notion of hospitality to foreigners, philoxenia, remains alive and well on the shores of Greece, as more than a million asylum seekers have crossed into Europe in 2015.  From the islands in the Aegean, to the port of Piraeus, to the northern border town of Idomeni, taking care of these fragile travelers has been the incentive that has created more than a hundred groups of volunteers, large and small, to soften the harsh journey.  While European governments bicker acrimoniously about borders and migration, Greeks, weak from teetering on the precipice of economic collapse for more than 6 years, have opened arms, hearts, and homes to men, women and children who can no longer live in their own countries.

Generosity is not an institution that is mandated. It grows from the hearts of the empathetic and the compassionate.  Ad-hoc groups have sprung up throughout Greece and Europe to assist where governments have failed.  Their kindness and chutzpah have put them in the center of the human flood on the ground in Greece, transforming their generosity of spirit into dry clothing, good walking shoes, a warm meal, a back-pack of basic toiletries, warm gloves, on-line and printed guides to help lead the asylum seekers to being properly registered and vetted. Who are these extraordinary groups and what are they doing and how can we support them?



Volunteers help rescue refugees on the eastern shores of Greece. COURTESY STACEY HARRIS-PAPAIOANNOU
Volunteers help rescue refugees on the Greek islands. COURTESY STACEY HARRIS-PAPAIOANNOU



How can you help?

Sensitive souls instinctively feel a call to action. What can be done to help the refugees in Greece? The majority of these groups are requesting monetary donations at the present time and able volunteers. Right now, gathering used products-clothing, baby apparatus, etc. to be shipped makes no sense.  There is certainly not the manpower to sort it or facilities to store it. It is much better to make a financial contribution, giving the volunteer organizations the ability to purchase supplies locally. They infuse the Greek economy and they buy what is actually needed, as it is needed.

And for those who are considering giving of themselves on the front line, a qualified volunteer means several things; having language capabilities, enduring long days of physically demanding work in all kinds of weather, having a useful skill, working effectively as a team member, and being self-financing.


A dry clothing station to assist refugees in Greece. COURTESY STACEY PAPAIOANNOU
A dry clothing station to assist refugees in Greece. COURTESY STACEY HARRIS-PAPAIOANNOU



NGOs helping the refugees in Greece

Some amazing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have banded together to support refugees. Here’s a list. They need all the support they can get. Click through the links to learn about the organizations and how to donate.


On the islands: Lesvos, Kos


On the Mainland: Piraeus Port and Central Athens



stacey papaioannou

Stacey Harris-Papaioannou is the President of the American Women’s Association of Greece (AWOG), an international women’s organization doing good for Greece. She also edits and writes for the organization’s magazine. She is a member of Democrats Abroad Greece and writes for their monthly magazine. She has served as president of the Volunteers Organization of Mykonos (VAM), international wives doing good for the island.

Born in suburban Chicago and raised in a bilingual Greek-American home, she moved to Greece permanently in the 80s. She traded in teaching high school English and Journalism for a Greek husband and retail and rental businesses on the resort island of Mykonos. During the last 10 years she divides her time living in Athens and on “the rock.” The Greek husband is now an ex-, however they remain business and parenting partners. She is the proud mother of 2 sons– one on military duty for the Greek army; and other a university student. She is an “aquaholic” as she continues to swim in Mykonos even during December and January because she needs her “Vitamin Sea.” And never a day goes by when she is not surprised, enchanted, frustrated or giddy about Greece.


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