SCM Medical Missions


3806 Whitman Ave N
Seattle WA 98103


+1 206-545-7307

Category: Greece

GreeceHumanitarian AidRefugees

Photos from mission volunteer in Greece

Laura Pierce has shared some of her photos that she took while she was volunteering with SCM in northern Greece. You can see the conditions of Karamanlis camp, which has now closed and the refugees have been moved to apartments to get them out of the cold dark warehouses. Laura is thinking of doing an exhibit with her photos in the Seattle area, and if she does, we will keep you posted on that so you can see her work in person if you are in the area!


Photo by Laura Pierce


Photo by Laura Pierce

Photo by Laura Pierce



Photo by Laura Pierce

To see the full gallery on Flicker, click here. Thank you, Laura, for sharing!

GreeceHumanitarian AidUNHCR

Expanding Greece Operations for #Syrian Refugees

Changes are taking place at SCM again as we are constantly striving to be where we are needed and help as many refugees as we can. For the last year, we have been in the northern part of Greece near Thessaloniki at the camps of Frakapour and Karamalis. When we started there, the camps had about 1100 – 1200 people between the two. Now they are down to about 100 people in each camp.

The Greek government has moved the refugees out of the camps to hotels and apartments that the UNHCR is renting for them to get them out of the cold. Each day the government comes to the camps and picks a number of families to move. One of our team members has gone to look at the facilities and they say they are clean and warm, very different from what they had at the camps. When we talked to the hotel and the apartment managers, they told us that the leases were for two months. We have no idea what will happen when the leases expire.

SCM has decided, with the dwindling numbers of people in the camps in northern Greece and increasing numbers on Lesbos again, that we are moving our operation back to the island of Lesbos and the camp at Morea. Currently that camp is housing 5,000 refugees with more arriving on the beaches from Turkey every day. Because of our good relationship with the government on Lesbos, the mayor there has asked us to set up a medical clinic for the growing population of refugees at the camp. We have reached an agreement with the mayor that, in exchange for the use of a warehouse building for the clinic and storage of our supplies, we will provide medical services to the refugees and anyone on the island that needs our help.

We expect that by mid-February most of the refugees will have moved from Frakapour and Karamanlis. We will be moving all of our supplies to Lesbos and have the clinic set up shortly thereafter. Jamal Sawalha, who was the SCM team lead before will be returning from Jordan to lead this operation. We will be in need of medical and humanitarian volunteers to staff the clinic and provide other services at Morea and in the area there. Medical volunteers who can bring equipment and supplies will be in particular need (more details on needs will be coming soon), as well as Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu and Kurdish speakers. Very few organizations are able to bring in as many volunteers with the needed language skills as SCM is, and we are extremely grateful to all of our supporters who can do this. Stay tuned for more details on our upcoming missions.

Right now, we need your help to raise money to pay for the clinic set up, establishing schools in the camp, and housing for those who are vulnerable on the island of Lesbos. This would include pregnant women and their families so they have a clean and warm place to give birth and tend to the new baby, those with acute medical conditions who don’t need to be in the hospital but cannot withstand living in a tent in the wet and cold, elderly and the very young who are most susceptible to the adverse conditions, and so on. We need to get them out of the tents and into decent living conditions as quickly as possible.

The reality is that they are not going to be moving from Greece any time soon, with all the available pathways to Europe now closed, and with the suspension of the refugee resettlement program in the US, we must help them prepare to stay in Greece indefinitely. To add to Greece’s burden, Germany may be sending as many as 60,000 refugees back to Greece. The UNHCR is stretched thin and is lacking in resources, and with the US appearing to withdraw support from the refugee program, individuals and other NGOs like SCM must help more than ever.

The people of Lesbos have been very hospitable and stepped up to help at the very beginning of the refugee crisis, but their island can only take on so much. Their economy is based on tourism and agriculture, and it has been devastated by the refugee crisis. We hope to help alleviate some of their burden in helping to provide these services. The UNHCR will still be doing interviews and processing people to be resettled in other countries, but this is a long, slow process that will still take up to two years to complete.

We are asking you to dig deep and help us raise a total of $250,000 – that is our ultimate goal to provide the long-term services we have outlined for the refugees on Lesbos. You can help by donating and doing a fundraiser through Crowdrise for SCM. Just click this link, and set up your own fundraising page, share it with all your friends and family.

Please help us fully fund our operations on Lesbos so we can hit the ground running. We need to be up and providing services within a month, so the need is immediate.

Please join our fundraiser now!

Thank you!

GreeceHumanitarian AidRefugees

Life at Karamanlis and Frakapor

Below is a an account from a recent volunteer with SCM in Greece, Dvorah from Seattle. She has been on missions before with SCM to Jordan. Thank you Dvorah for sharing!

Life at Karamanlis and Frakapor, Two Refugee Camps in Thessalonika (or Saloniki, for short)

Winter has arrived. It is cold. To me, it feels like the winters I remember in Michigan.

My first two days/nights here it is below freezing, and the refugees live in large unheated warehouses. There are about 400 at each camp, but Karamanlis is the better off of the 2, because in addition to the warehouse in which they line their tents up, side by side, there is, next door, another large warehouse that has been simply and sweetly set up with spaces divided for children’s art and play and learning activities, a space with weights for working out, a private women’s space with supplies that women both need and enjoy, from hygiene to make-up, to needle-work, and relaxing, in which children are not allowed, a children’s library, and a tailor’s shop with Aburahman stitching, mending and creating clothing, as he did in Aleppo, before fleeing with his wife and 2 sons, the older of whom just had his first baby, who I met yesterday.

Here, too, are the offices for the volunteers of the NGO’s, which include Swiss Cross, founded last year by a young Swiss man, Michael , who saw the need upon his first volunteer work to Lesvos, receiving refugees from the boats on the Aegean. Never having done anything of this impact and magnitude, he had the drive, resourcefulness, smarts to make this happen. His mother, Christina, is here now, and she and I have worked together sorting many hundreds of boxes of donations, currently consisting mostly of clothing and shoes for winter to equip 800 men, women and children.
This warehouse holds the massive amounts of clothing, toys, sports equipment, hygiene, blankets et al, to supply the 800 refugees with needed items.

Swiss Cross brings in many volunteers mainly from Switzerland, but also Germany, Italy, Israel and Greece, and whoever finds them as a source to help. Michael won an award in Switzerland recently for this work (google Swiss Cross). Two lovely young Israeli women, Adi and Noam, have chosen to volunteer here prior to beginning their service in the Israeli army. They are resigned to this dreaded responsibility.

Salaam Cultural Museum, SCM, is the NGO I am with, the only American presence here, and currently just 3 of us: John, team leader, 37 years old, is a gracious dedicated young man from Bainbridge Island: Rasha, a 30 something Palestinian woman who grew up in New Jersey, and serves in so many ways here, including as a translator, and also going beyond the Pale to assist families experiencing major crises. In a couple of weeks, 13 volunteers will arrive under SCM’s auspices. This morning at the hotel, I witnessed the arrival of 4 large heavy boxes from SCM, which John will unpack when he comes down for breakfast, where I await, with my coffee, eggs, olives and tomatoes, fruit and yogurt. I will enjoy seeing what comes out of these boxes, since I know very well who collected and packed and sent them. Thank you, Rita, and all your workers and volunteers, in my neighborhood of Wallingford, Seattle.

Yesterday I led a doll-making workshop, with Chrisina and Miryam’s help, for the women, with fabric, needles and thread and beads and googly-eyes and pipe cleaners. (photos posted on my FB page.)

On sunny days, and we have had a few, it is warm in the daytime, but at night the temperatures drop to below freezing, and the warehouses are unheated. Everyone is bundled in parkas and scarves to stay warm. I go to my hotel, 30 minutes from the camps, and have warmth. My heart is with the refugees contending with being cold.
At Karamanlis, children roam between the warehouse where they live, and the warehouse across the road with their activity spaces. It is not unusual to see children under 5 unsupervised. It is taken for granted that they will be okay, and looked after by any adult in the vicinity. I have served to assist the children’s and women’s space with activities, and have brought music on my tablet to aid the ambiance, introduced rhythm instruments, pulled out jump ropes and Twister and bubbles and art supplies from the warehouse-supplies to be available to the kids. The large center space becomes a free-for-all, with badmitten rackets and birdies, pingpong for young men, gathering of grown up men smoking cigarettes, a falafel shop.

The volunteers work their butts off, rarely taking time even to eat, don’t get enough sleep, no days off. They are mostly 20-somethings who thrive on the stress, so my offerings of yoga, meditation, Reiki, etc go unheeded. You can’t push the river. Can’t be attached to outcome, or meeting my needs of being a Jewish grandmother telling them they need chicken soup when they are sick (and several are), trying to encourage them to eat and rest and take a yoga class with me.

I may add to this document later, but for now, let it suffice as a summary of life here at Karamanlis and Frakapor.

EducationGreeceHumanitarian AidRefugees

What Life is Really Like in a Refugee Camp

Recent Greece volunteers, Rana and Iman Shanawani, were interviewed by a New York Public Radio program called The Takeaway.  Click on the photo and headline below for a link to the interview and photos from the online story.



EducationGreeceHumanitarian AidRefugees

Volunteers Needed in Greece

SCM is continuing our work in Greece to at least the end of this year. We are really focusing on teaching and doing activities with the refugees. Activities can include arts and crafts, teaching a new skill, taekwondo, and just interacting with the residents of the camp. Many are fighting depression and are starved for something to do that is meaningful and mentally stimulating. We are in particular need of Arabic speakers, and self-starters.


Maha and Robin from Seattle in the warehouse at Karamanlis. They are doing soccer skills and Maha is translating. These are the supplies they brought with them.

If you have some skills that you would like to share, please contact our office for more information about volunteering. Also, below is a link to a story on KCTS 9, the local public television station that talks about what SCM is doing and what it’s like to volunteer.