This past year 2017 has been a year in which at Smiles on the Way we had the opportunity to learn, to evolve, to focus our work and to specify our objectives.
We created the NGO for the desire to help, but with total inexperience and innocence in this sector. We wanted to achieve too ambitious and unrealistic objectives without knowing the terrain or the current situation. We had tried to make contacts with other NGOs working in this sector, we asked how we could help, but nobody gave us credibility or confidence as a new-born NGO. After several project projects, collections of clothes that we could not send at that time and other failed ideas, we discovered that we needed to know where we were getting. We need to live the situation in the first person and know first-hand what was the real need to supply.
This is how Albert decided to remedy and volunteer to one of the most critical points where refugees are arriving daily. The Greek island of Lesbos.
In June 2017 he volunteered with Lighthouse Relief, an NGO of Swedish origin that is in charge of getting the refugees boats that come from Turkey to the north of the island to have a good reception to the island in the safest way possible. They are also given a first reception, security, food and clothing to refugees who arrive fleeing tragic situations they had not chosen. There he had the opportunity to know how NGOs work, interview volunteers, refugees, make contacts and get to know reality.
After a month working on the island, he came back loaded with experience, motivation, contacts and objectives. When we returned from the island, we decided to focus on collaborating with this and other small NGOs of the island that survive and grow entirely thanks to volunteers and donations.
The way we decided to help was to raise awareness of the situation and collect and send donations to the island according to the need of the moment.
This past year we have managed to send some 30 boxes of clothes for Lighthouse Relief to Lesbos, a box of school supplies to Senegal and 5 boxes of clothes and toys to Garawol Principal School, Gambia.
We have organized various activities to raise funds in Sant Pere de Ribes (Barcelona) and participated in fairs to let us know.
This year we have many plans to be able to help even more effectively. To begin with, this February 2 Smiles on the Way members will go back to Lesbos to continue helping, learning, establishing links and new collaborations. We hope to be able to send much more help and thus contribute to the refugees being treated with the decency and respect that they deserve as human beings.
We will continue doing awareness and diffusion activities, talks and workshops to schools.
We will not forget our home either. We are planning to develop a counselling and guidance service for homeless people or at risk of social exclusion.
This NGO was born thanks to the smiles and confidence that thousands of people have put on us and we intend to bring all this positive energy to the people who need it.
And all this we have achieved and we will continue to achieve thanks to you and your support.
Albert, Anna Mª and Aida – Smiles on the Way Team