Razia Anwar spent nearly two weeks in Greece and describes the plight of refugees as they make their way across Mediterranean. Here in part one of her special column she meets young and old in dire need of assistance.

Watching the baggage carousel offloading the large north face mountain bags it was evident that most of the passengers were volunteers, some returning to increase their contribution to humanity.

A team of six sea rescue helpers wearing their waterproofs and wellies were already kitted to respond this evening.

A thought crossed my mind, I would see this level of equipment when I am planning a long mountain expedition undertaken purely for my own pursuit, whereas here I was currently surrounded with similar attire and kit but with a very different focus, we were all here to help others.

I safely landed in Mytilene, Lesvos Greece and engaged brain orientation in to Greek driving mode in a well-worn muddy red jeep. 

It is biting cold out near Mytilene port and I am already wearing two hats and thick warm gloves.

The thermals and merino wool tops will be worn tomorrow under many layers, with wind chill the temp has been hitting a hypothermic minus 18. 

I shudder to think how the refugees will cope in this hypothermic freezing temperatures during a sea crossing attempt. 

Lesvos: My first day on the island

Today I woke up late, absolutely drained from the journey here yesterday. I headed to Moria camp after hearing 15 buses had come in from last night.

The main refugee help seems to be undertaken during the nightly hours with sea dinghy rescue, providing medical aid, dry clothing, snacks and water as soon as refugees land on shore.

I stepped on to the overflow section of Moria camp and within minutes a young Arab man came up and spoke in English about helping a Syrian man with two young children aged 5 and 6 years old.

He needed money for the ferry to Athens and bus to the Macedonia border

He had registered with UNHCR, his wife with one child had got to Germany and he wished to join her. 
After the help of another Arab interpreter to determine how genuine he was, 350 euros of your donations was handed to him to help with his journey.

The children were freezing and the sooner he was moving to the next destination, the closer he would unite with his family. 

The white tents lined up on the upper hill reminded me of a basic Mina in Saudi, tents to house the refugees overnight.

I next went to The Zahra trust warehouse to see the distribution centre, I unloaded the aid of clothes, toiletries, colouring books I had bought and overheard a call from Moria asking for aid needed.

Specific cardboard boxes were loaded in to the car and delivered to the dry clothes tent.

£2300 will be spent tomorrow on buying warm items, such as hats, scarves, men's shoes, men's warm jackets, blankets at wholesale prices.

Currently getting ready for a night shift patrolling an area, looking out for overnight dinghies arriving.

The logistics have been put in to place by amazing volunteers and organisations.

Volunteers are based around 10 locations across the coastline with UNHCR buses, medics from Medicins sans Frontier positioned close by. Six boats came to shore within our area.

It is tough seeing the pile up of life jackets across the coastline, safety, resilience, determination for a better life, the small life jackets are the most difficult to witness but a triumph to lay here as an aftermath on the shores of safety. 

The coordination with UNHCR, NGO and volunteers is amazing with the help of Google maps, pin drops and WhatsApp groups, volunteers can quickly move to where they are needed very quickly.

Looking way beyond the pitch black waters a few large bright coastguard lights shine near Turkey shores in front of us, darkness surrounds us bar the strip of moonlight hitting the sea.

A faint low level light or any noise, screams or cries coming out of the darkness is what we are searching for, any sign of life.

Running out of funds to give to independent families

These are people of Sham that need help, fleeing murder, Isis brutality. Have had an amazing situation happen today, a meeting which I was unaware of.

My right hand women Zoya, a medic remained at Moria  efugee camp with some of my donated funds whilst I went on the night mission looking for boats. 
She mentioned in the morning that she had given the money to a family in need, she had helped a woman with an elderly mother and 4 kids get to Athens. 


'As they were fleeing for safety, they were captured By Isis shortly afterwards she was shown pictures of her brother's murdered body'

They fled for safety to Turkey and now had got to Greece on route to a safe European place.

I had not met this family she hurriedly shouted to me as she was getting in to her taxi in the morning.

At lunch we sat surrounded by lots of refugee families in Mytilene port.
Unbeknown to me I was actually interacting with the family of four children that had been helped by the funds via Zoya. 

Today I used your funds and did a Lidl shop buying cereal bars and cartons of orange juice to feed the refugees waiting in the cold for the evening ferry to Athens.

There are over 500 plus people waiting. We communicated with Syrian families through smiles and any help we could offer.

Then visited a Chinese outlet haggling over a large batch of socks needed in a family compound in Moria.

Just waiting in the National bank in Mytilene, I think to myself, I can wait, it's been almost an hour and a half.

I am sat on a comfy chair, I can sit and wait because the end result will be absolutely brilliant.

Help get the most vulnerable and difficult people moving on to the next destination, pay for food, medicine, shelter....basics.

Trying to get this objective of withdrawing a sum of donated money £3600 has required four people and a phone call to Athens National Bank to verify. 

A study of my passport, visas etc. Saudi visa raised an eyebrow which was a little strange.

We have heard about Greece in this economic crisis and now I am actually witnessing and experiencing this financial problem first hand.

A Greek can now only withdraw 420 euros a week which raises my heartbeat a little when I think how I work with cash in business and life. 
Writing this in the bank.... Currently at 341... 5 more ticket beeps to go. It will be a beautiful start to a great day when funds are released. Funds released. 

Volunteers of all nations are here to help

After the bank withdrawal of funds I set off for Moria refugee camp. Prayed Zohr at the mosque in Moria camp, which was a recently erected tent filled with prayer mats.

A UNHCR bus had also just come in and lines of soaked refugees were waiting in turn for dry clothes.

Today for 3 hours, I was part of a maintenance team of 13 Muslims, (2 Pakistani, 1 American, 1 Danish, 9 Brits) which included a familiar face Tariq Jahan. 

I have read many positive things about him and I inwardly smiled that our first encounter would be at a Muslim cemetery in Lesvos. 

He is out here to also help refugees, with a charity set up in the name of his late son's behalf. We all happily volunteered to top up all 30 plus graves with soil.

My left hand scraping and filling a large container with soil, the men used the basic limited equipment of 2 spades, 3 shovels. Unfortunately, the DIY shop had closed for the day and we could not buy essential tools for the cemetery.

Even though my fingernails were filled with wet soil, my hands caked up dry, I relished in this wonderful opportunity to do this for strangers, our brothers and sisters and for the pleasure of Allah SWT.

Thoughts that crossed my mind were that you never know when and where your soul will depart from your body and where you will be laid to rest in the world.

The Muslim cemetery was filled with international refugees with basic 15 x30cm white marble gravestones, all uniform in appearance at the foot of the grave.

We all came to Lesvos with the intention to help, in whatever means that would materialise we would welcome it wholeheartedly. 

Today we all walked away with another positive reinforcement in humanity and importantly the very raw reality of our very own temporary fleeting life.

Another Lidl run for orange juice and cereal bars, and then met up with a pallet of water at Mytilene Port for the refugees boarding ferry Athens bound. 

It was raining and most wore orange and clear rain ponchos, sombre,  heads down, laden with their basic belongings. 

It has been a tiring day, my feet are throbbing though my head and heart are feeling good. 

‘I am lost for words at what could be done to comfort this lady’

Today the morning began with a port distribution of water and snacks. Then visited the "Kitchen no borders" near the shore at the back of the port, to deliver and distribute cases of water. 

A lot of single men of mixed nationalities were temporarily sheltered here, a Merci, shukariya, Thankyou was given in gratitude. 

A smile is what they saw back. This area is all about independent volunteers pitching in and helping with food preparation etc. No NGO involved here.

Today on my Moria volunteers orientation visit I was informed that majority of refugees will be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. 

How can you help, comfort and support a sobbing Afghani mother who had lost her 8 year old child at the Iranian border (not died), she was missing from the border point.

I am lost for words at what could be done to comfort this lady. 

The volunteers in Moria are amazing, to take on this level of tragic grief and sadness and try to work on diffusing sometimes volatile situations before it combusts is the prime objective.

The other difficult situations I am encountering are Pakistani men who have literally no finances on them, they have travelled through unbelievable terrain, woodland.

Some have been fleeced by a smuggler agent or abandoned, resulting in being penniless, unable to pay the 1 euro bus ride and now walking 4 miles to the ferry port.

I prayed to God to somehow bring the needy and vulnerable  to me, to have an interaction that would solicit a Sadaqa or zakat transaction. 

After Asar, it was by pure coincidence that the Imam notified me of two unfortunate cases, this conversation was sparked off from the Muslim burial place yesterday, one of the guys I saw helping displayed a very hardworking individual as he dug and heaped soil on the graves.
As I walked away from a teary man, speechless to now have money for his Athens bound ferry, I heard the Imam say to him that was your "Nakey" good deed karma from Yesterday.

Chatting with them made me realise how fortunate I am to be able to help these people in some difficult situations and that God is the best of planners. 

Today donated and helped at the Lemon Tea Tent in Moria which through donations provides hot meAls and hot chai  for the refugees. A hot drink brings your senses back to a little comfort. 

‘Goodness and love lives in colossal hearts of many’

Today has been productive with 3 port distributions of water and snacks. This time, after helping at Greengate warehouse organising boxes, I picked up a bag full of baby  carriers and slings to give to parents. 

The baby straps took a little time to figure out as I demonstrated the practicalities to grateful Syrian mothers.

The one thing that I am going to have to stress with regards to containers and donations, please send good quality things organised in the correctly labelled boxes. 

The organisation of boxes of broken, ripped things is useless and highly frustrating. Please send new, in good condition items as this will help to free up valuable volunteer time and energy. 

After almost a week in a volunteer role, I am starting to feel and look like a seasoned volunteer, sombre, full of a cold and sleep deprived.

My days have been fuelled with bouts of immense happiness when synchronised situations arise, the timing, the meetings.

I helped a young 16 year old Pakistani male today with your donations. How did he travel through  difficult dangerous means and countries to seek a better life, he was out here supporting a very poor family.

Whatever your thoughts are on "economic migrant". 
Mine was bordering on irritation before this trip as the focus and support  should remain on fleeing war refugees.

However a 16 year old in distress would put any ill feeling, pessimism, prejudice aside seeing him about to be abandoned alone at the port, he had no money  to buy his ferry ticket.

What absolute joy and pure bliss to be able to travel with his new friends. I have never seen happiness like it from any 16 year olds around me in the UK.

That is what drives me to make the most of every day. 

The final port distribution, the UK teams were just awesome, a Norwegian lady heard about “no money for ferry Ticket” situations and handed me money for three Athens tickets for anyone in need, just before she boarded. 

Goodness and love lives in colossal hearts of many and we seem to float towards each other to unite and help many.