KALI:MERA is an NGO found in Germany by two philhellene friends, aiming to help both refugees and locals in Lesvos. Their initiative captured our attention because of the benefits to everyone on the island. We spoke with Andreas Stephainski, who explained how it all started, their current influence on the island, and their future plans.

KALI:MERA supporter Tom Oppermann (left) hands over emergency blankets to Philip Hahn, team leader of the organization Seawatch on Lesvos. Photo: Stephainski

KALI:MERA supporter Tom Oppermann (left) hands over emergency blankets to Philip Hahn, team leader of Seawatch organization. Photo: Andreas Stephainski

What is the main purpose and action of the KALI:MERA initiative?

KALI:MERA was founded and registered by law in summer 2015 in Germany to help refugees and poor Greek people in Lesvos as well.

When the financial debacle was followed by the refugee crisis in Greece, we could not continue having ouzo & meze in the kafenio, while people were stranded on the coasts…

What motivated you to create KALI:MERA and help refugees in Lesvos? Have you been to Greece before?

Oh yes. All the founders of KALI:MERA have been cultivating a long “personal history” with the island for years, including a lot of enduring friendships with Lesvos people, especially with Eleni and Theodoros Valakos. When the financial debacle was followed by the refugee crisis in Greece, my friend Werner Gnieser and I could not continue having ouzo & meze in the kafenio, while people were stranded on the coasts, migrating over the island and living in tents in Mytilene. That was the impulse for launching KALI:MERA (KAtastrophe in Lesbos LIndern:Hilfefür MEnschen am RAnd).

Refugees and migrants try to reach the shore on the Greek island of Lesvos, despite a rough sea, on October 30, 2015, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

Refugees and migrants try to reach the shore of Lesvos, despite a rough sea, on October 30, 2015, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

 

Photo: Markou

Photo: Markou

What is your fundraising process and how do people in Germany react to what you do?

We are journalists, creatives and/or managers in the media industry, and we organize our fundraising together with local/regional newspapers in Germany. Due to our connections to Lesvos we were able to deliver our media partners with first hand information; see the publications via http://kali-mera.org/PRESSE/KALIMERA-in-der-Presse.

As people in the media field, we know about the power of photography. This prompted the formation of our website, and encouraged our Facebook presence and newsletters.

Altogether, the reactions in Germany are completely positive. Although the Germans are donating a lot of money for the refugees in our country, the situation of the people in Greece – inhabitants and refugees – motivates them to support KALI:MERA. As a relatively new NGO we hope to continue our work on Lesvos in the future, too.

Distributing scarves to children at the port of Mytilene.

Distributing scarves to children at the port of Mytilene.

How has your initiative benefited even the locals?

We donated a new steam-oven to the bishop of Mytilene for feeding poor Greeks. We support Mr. Dimitris Telonidis´ street kitchen. And together with “Iliaktida” we recently installed a social warehouse for the free delivery of goods also to the poor locals – this is just one of the projects we are realizing together with Antonis Zeibekis and this splendid organization.

Do you cooperate with other NGOs?

Yes- with Iliaktida and partly with the German NGO “Sea Watch”, which is patrolling the north coasts with rescue rafts – but nobody knows, how things will go on here in the future.

it is the thankfulness which goes deep into the heart – and to see the message working: No, Europe has not forgotten YOU refugees. And YOU Greeks.

What was the most poignant moment you have experienced while helping the refugees?

This is hard to say. In any case it is the thankfulness which goes deep into the heart – and to see the message working: No, Europe has not forgotten YOU refugees. And YOU Greeks.

Some NGOs are leaving Lesvos after the most recent events. What are your plans?

There is so much to do. Especially when the big NGOs actually decide to leave the island. We will stay.

Distributing blankets to refugees at the port of Mytilene.

Distributing blankets to refugees at the port of Mytilene.