Gaia Giletta is an Italian 25-year-old graduate student in Paediatric Nursing. She started doing her first volunteering experiences in high school and these eventually transformed into medical missions with the evolution of her professional formation. She went to Kenya 7 times, collaborating directly with an orphanage and with their heart surgery projects. In 2014 she stayed 3 months in Somalia to work in a children’s hospital. In 2015 she spent two months in Lesvos where she counts to return in May, as soon as the ski season ends.  In fact, she affords to work as a volunteering nurse by working as a Snowboard instructor, her other great passion.

These are some of the stories that Gaia recorded during her volunteering experience in Lesvos. 


October 21, 2015

2,600 people had to sleep on the floor, along the way, last night at the camp of Skala (Lesvos), including hundreds of children and infants. Half the people had nothing but wet clothes. We worked until dawn to try to cover, feed and heat at least the little ones. All night we did nothing but repeat “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” to mothers and fathers who stretched frozen children, desperate with hunger and fear, begging for help, “please, please, it’s cold” . In the last 24 hours, the rain and wind have further aggravated the situation. People are exhausted and we had major security problems. All this is inhumane and unacceptable !!! WHERE IS EUROPE ?!

Photo credits: Courtesy of Graham Green

Photo credits: Courtesy of Gabriel Green

October 23, 2015

Yesterday was a hard day. It began at 7am in the rain, strong winds and heavy seas. Due to poor visibility, we realised a  boat was approaching only when it was very near to the coast. We called for help, but it was too late … we had to handle this on our own, three young women. While waving some life jackets to signal them a safe place to land, I’m not ashamed to say that I was literally trembling with fear: I was sure that the waves would have capsized the boat once near the shore. And how could we save 40 people on our own? But the boat arrived and we were able to control it with the help of some men who were on board. Terrified women and children began to jump out of reeling in the icy water, screaming and crying. I pulled up a little girl about four years old, who was staring into empty space. He was shaking so hard that she could not stand, and I had to lie her down on stones to remove her wet clothes. I opened my jacket, I tucked her in, against my chest, and I ran to the car holding her in my arms with four of her brothers and her mother holding a baby in her lap. I sang, whispering in her ear “It’s ok baby, you’re safe now, you’re safe.” She began to react only once in the car, when she was warmer.

Later that morning, I entered the tent of the doctor and the child, dry and thus refreshed, raced to meet me and clinged her arms to my neck. She kept me embraced until the bus came to the field and the mother managed to pull her off. She wiped my tears with her hands and smiled at me while going away with her family.
I hope that she will forget me in a hurry together with the whole traumatic experience that she he to go through.
I will not forget.
Welcome Little One.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Graham Green

Photo credits: Courtesy of Gabriel Green

October 27, 2015

– Night boats –
Imagine having never seen the sea before. Imagine being forced to choose to put your family on a boat so full that barely emerges from the water. Pay all your money for a place on that boat. Wait for days, without food or water, in the woods of Turkey. Then one night when it gets dark, the trafficker calls you, he cries to be quick, pointing a gun at those who are afraid, who would not want to leave the darkness. He turns on the engine, he gives brief instructions to one of the men on board and you’re out at sea, in the night, without the possibility of calling for help, with the only hope of getting to the lights that shine on the coast in front of you. Then, the motor stops.
Tonight we took a boat stranded on the rocks at fifty meters from the shore. Gasoline was over more than two hours before, and arrived thanks to the wind. Fortunately we saw the lights of a torch in the distance, so we found them and could rescue them. We entered the water up to our armpits, and we could not even prevent children from getting wet, but we barely managed to pull them out before the waves overthrew the boat on the rocks.
Now imagine stating days without eating, sitting for hours in the same position without being able to move. Imagine thinking you are going to die. Imagine being soaked to the bone and having to spend the night sleeping on the street with your children, in the icy wind.
You’re just imagining it.
But all this is happening, NOW, in Lesvos, to thousands.

Photo credits: Courtesy of Graham Green

Photo credits: Courtesy of Gabriel Green

October 30, 2015

– Stories from Lesvos –
It’s been over 48 hours and I still have not found the words to describe the tragedy.
A full day as almost every single day here on the island, with more than a hundred boats arriving in a day and thousands of people to attend. The rough seas are making it hard to locate the black & orange dots in the distance. A strong wind that fills the inflatables with saltwater and freezes people.
We were on the road along the coast, scanning the horizon. At about two miles, we saw a large wooden boat, resembling a fishing boat … but better double checking.
Where are the binoculars? While we are looking for it, Gabriel takes a few pictures with his most accurate camera lens ..
We can now clearly recognise the lifejackets  of refugees, hundreds crammed on top of each other.
Seconds later, another photo.
The boat is gone. It sunk before our eyes. Men, women and children floating in the waves in the freezing water.
Immediately we call the Greek coastguard, but is does not respond. We contact then the group of lifeguards Spanish (Proactiva Open Arms) who works on the island. Eftalou and run to spread the word as much as possible, trying every channel for summoning assistance.

Photo credits: Wikimedia/Syrian and Iraq refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesvos island, Greece. Spanish volunteers (life rescue team - with yellow-red clothes) from "Proactiva open arms"/30 October 2015/ CC BY 4.0

Photo credits: Wikimedia/Syrian and Iraq refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesvos island, Greece. Spanish volunteers (life rescue team – with yellow-red clothes) from “Proactiva open arms”/30 October 2015/ CC BY 4.0

Minutes passed  inexorably without anything that moves. Then finally, we see the coast guard boat out of the harbor. From the ground, and we point out the position of the group of people carried by the current. Finally they reach them, along with the fantastic Spanish boys with their jet skis. From this moment, until late at night, working at sea and working harbor, where many children arrived clinically dead and were revived by a team of doctors, nurses and paramedics from all non-profit organizations that operate in this area.

At dawn, more than 240 people are safe. 4 dead, 38 missing. 20 more dead bodies were found today on the beaches of Lesvos.
What would have happened if we would not have been, by chance, in that precise spot looking towards that boat full of desperate people? What would this island be without volunteers? Where are the big organizations, where is Europe, where are the eyes of the world while thousands of people lose their lives at sea ??? Because the authorities’ response is so slow?
And most of all, despite all our efforts, how many people drown in these few kilometers of sea between Greece and Turkey, without anyone noticing?

Stories by Gaia Giletta

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