A family mission: Shefta’s preparing for Greek aid mission
They say when it comes to charity work, two hands are often better than one.
Thankfully for the Shefta family, ten hands will be on deck this December as they embark on a team aid mission to the Greek city of Thessaloniki.
Mum and Dad, Nasar and Rubina, will be accompanied by seasoned aid givers, sisters Samar and Sitara, as well as 17-year-old Usman, when they head off on their assignment on Saturday 3rd December.
Together they will help some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees who continue to arrive in the country after feeling war in their home countries of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
With the target of delivering much needed warm meals, water, tents, blankets and even medical support to families who call the camps ‘home’, the Sheftas will spend one week in Thessaloniki.
Samar, 33, and Sitara, 26, have previously completed two aid missions to the island of Lesbos before and are both excited to be bringing their family this year.
“As a family, we have always been quite active in charity work, and over the past year-and-a-half we’ve taken a much more active, hands-on role,” Sitara explained.
“We (Samar and Sitara) have already visited Lesbos twice and know firsthand just how unsanitary and distressing the conditions are out there. We simply need to help.
“We know we can't change the world, but we're hoping to make a few lives a little better and bring some hope to people fleeing war and persecution in what must be an unimaginably painful time in their lives.”
Last winter, the sisters were able to work with their parents during an aid mission to Calais’ Jungle refugee camp.
With youngest sibling Usman signed up to take part in this year’s Thessaloniki trip, it really is a family affair.
Sitara added: “I’m really proud of my parents coming this year and especially my younger brother. It goes to show that it doesn’t matter how old you are, everyone can help out and it is just about being human.
“When you are out there, it feels like the right thing to do. It could be any of us in that situation one day and I know if I was in their shoes, I would want help as well.”
Throughout all their past aid missions, the family have always covered their own travel and accommodation expenses, ensuring every penny they raise goes towards purchasing aid for refugees.
In January of this year, Samar and Sitara were able to raise £10,000 through donations to spend on supplies in Lesbos and they are hoping to hit a similar figure this time around.
“Because people had seen what we had done in the past, we were able to fundraise a lot of money for our trip earlier this year,” Samar said.
“Since then, both my sister and I have continued to be involved behind the scenes.
“As a GP, I’ve been able to send out a lot of medical aid through third parties and we’ve managed to provide warm meals also. It’s just so hard to do it from so far away.”
With less than two weeks until departure, the Sheftas are prepared for their travels and will work as a team with a mixture of skills to the benefit of the refugees.
“I’m the loud one who gets people’s attention, Mum’s the empathetic one, dad’s the organiser, Samar’s the specialist and Usman will be the negotiator and the friend,” Sitara added. “Together I think we are a great team.”
Nasar, who at 62-years-old will be the oldest member of the group, says the trip to Calais was a real eye-opener and is expecting much the same in Thessaloniki.
“I’ve wanted to do something like this for quite a while, and at the risk of sounding like a parent, my daughters have been so inspirational for me,” he said. “They were on the national news last time they went over there and that made me so proud.
“Unfortunately we weren’t able to go out for a variety of reasons and I said this time I’d really love to go out. I’m hoping we can make a contribution.
“It’s the least really which we can do. It was an eye-opener going to Calais and I’m expecting a similar experience this time around.”
Rubina added: “As a mother and grandmother, I know that I could not see my child suffer in the way these kids are being forced to live. If I can make just one child smile that will be a success for me.”