Global Citizenship Series, 4th Edition, 'Realities of Lesvos'
- 5 min read
"Seeing is believing", three words the audience of the Global Citizenship Series, 4th Edition will never forget! The event was held at Hotelschool The Hague Campus Amsterdam on 13 June, where Johnny de Mol, Dutch actor, singer and producer, shared his incredible experience of helping refugees in Lesvos.
"Seeing is believing" was the motto that made Johnny de Mol change his vacation plans and travel to Lesvos instead of Ibiza, in August 2015. Together with a friend, Johnny wanted to see with his own eyes what was happening with refugees disembarking every day on the Greek Island of Lesvos.
The refugee crisis is one of the most discussed topics over the past years. Refugees are people who are forced to leave their countries because of wars, fleeing to Europe, risking their lives, driven by the hope to survive and find help. Johnny decided to distance himself from political talks on the matter, and decided to experience it in real life.
Amongst all the anecdotes he shared, he told us about the moment he saw the first boat with refugees arriving to the coast. He asked another volunteer “What do we do?”, and the volunteer replied: “Now, we help them”. No governmental infrastructure to welcome them, no first aid, no sanitary infrastructure; only a tent with a small campfire, water and bananas. They helped the people reaching the coast, drying their clothes, and provided them with a cup of water and a banana each.
Suddenly, a second boat arrived and the volunteers went to offer assistance. Back to the campfire, the first group of refugees had left; they moved away from the campfire to leave space for the other group, in major need of warmth.
After a month, Johnny de Mol returned to the Netherlands, leaving his second family, volunteers and refugees in Lesvos. He needed time to process the experience, calm his anger and emotions, and ultimately find a better way to contribute. November was coming, and the fear of refugees dying in Lesvos during the cold nights, moved Johnny to go back to Lesvos, with the support and equipment to fund a proper camp.
The refugee camp he founded with his foundation is a great example of a long-term project which aims to become 100% sustainable, managed by refugees and locals working together, helping each other and making the most out of this crisis.
Two years after his first time in Lesvos, Johnny de Mol felt ready to share his experience. He talks about it in schools and public events, though he distances himself from TV shows, as the subject is delicate and the organisation and its people (volunteers, refugees and locals) are still vulnerable.
Seeing is believing, is not applicable for everybody. Not everybody can (economically or mentally) afford to help refugees like Johnny de Mol and his fellow volunteers are doing every day in Lesvos.
However, as the Dalai Lama said and Johnny de Mol quotes “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others and if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them”.
We need to distance ourselves from politics and thoughts of fear for the unknown.
We need to listen to people who are sharing their experiences and try to understand with our heads and gain awareness of what is happening around us.
It is, therefore, essential that citizen around the globe talk about the realities of Lesvos (Greece), Lampedusa (Italy) and other European Mediterranean locations where refugees disembark every day.
We need to realise that everybody has the power of making the difference: liking and sharing the Facebook page of Johnny de Mol’s organisation “Movement On The Ground” contributes as much as working a in Lesvos, as Johnny de Mol explained.
As citizens of the same world, we are all on the same boat. Let's show solidarity and help each other in the best way we can.
-Martina Biondina, Global Citizenship Student Assistant.
Who is Johnny de Mol?
Johnny de Mol is a Dutch actor, singer, DJ, producer and presenter, born in Laren (North Holland) in 1979. In 2015, after his experience with Refugees in Lesvos, he founded Movement On The Ground, an NGO working on the Greek Island of Lesvos, welcoming refugees.