A Month with Starfish is available from Amazon now, with net proceeds going to the Starfish Charity. My sincere thanks to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for a review.
In November 2015, Bev Jackson traveled to the Greek island of Lesvos to join Starfish, based in the tourist village of Molyvos, one of the groups of volunteers helping to receive and care for refugees arriving in boats from Turkey. A Month with Starfish is a largely light-hearted account of a trip to a kaleidoscopic world that provided the author with a crash course in human possibilities and her own limitations.
Lesvos is a Greek island 4.5 miles from Turkey. In recent times refugees have been travelling from Turkey to Lesvos in a bid to have a safer and happier future. It is part of a journey which is treacherous and this book tells the story of the month that the Author spent volunteering for a charity which assists refugees in numerous ways.
I had imagined that this would be a very sad and emotional story, however it was written with a humour and wit that made it bearable. Initially, I was concerned that the author seemed emotionally detached in the telling of the story. It however became evident though that rather than being emotionally detached, it was necessary and perhaps essential to maintain a distance to be able to make it thorough the time spent there.
I found this account to be rather educational and informative, yes of course I know about refugees, but honestly how much did I really know? There were some interesting observations about the press and governments, which have given me something to reflect upon.
This account told of the day to day tasks involved with volunteering, be that preparing food packages, working in the clothing tent or organising different bus queues and tickets. It also tells of the refugees themselves and there was also some entertaining passages that involved fellow volunteers.
I expected to finish this book feeling utterly depressed, and yes although the situation is bleak and difficult I was left with a sense of potential possibilities and hope.
We are all humans, and it is only a matter of situation and place that makes others be the ones approaching that harbour, and not you or I.
I would like to thank the people that are courageous enough to volunteer for such organisations as Starfish, you give the rest of us hope for a better life for everyone.
Since I have read this book it has come to light that in recent days there has been an EU deal that changes the situation in Lesvos dramatically. I contacted the author who was able to provide me some more information about the current status for Starfish.
Starfish is currently still operating a standby harbour shift in case people are rescued and brought to the harbour. Fewer people have arrived recently than before the "deal", that appears to have been partly due to the weather. 459 refugees arrived on the island yesterday (29th March).
Starfish still has lots of work unpacking, sorting and distributing clothes, sleeping bags and suchlike. There is also still some duties at the IRC camp, which is the camp that was established to replace Oxy.
Starfish is providing food packages on a daily basis to many hundreds of in desperate need of them.
Starfish itself says:
"Starfish has been hard at working in the sandwich factory making packs of food containing sandwiches and fresh fruit to give to new arrivals who have been detained under the new EU deal. We want to ensure that despite the new restrictions, no refugee goes hungry.
Each food parcel costs around 2 Euro and we are making around 500 a day at the moment, which is a daily bill of 1,000 Euro, so please make a donation to help us keep feeding hungry people in need! http://www.asterias-
About the Author:
Bev Jackson joined the group who founded the Gay Liberation Front while studying at LSE. Soon afterwards she moved to Amsterdam, where she has lived ever since. She has raised two daughters (one now a mother and a journalist, the other a composer, singer and graphic artist) and pursued careers as a teacher and university lecturer before becoming a translator. She started writing in 2008. A Month with Starfish, her first published book, was self-published on Amazon on 9 February 2016. Bev Jackson comes from a Jewish background, and her childhood experiences of anti-Semitism instilled in her an ineradicable commitment to standing up for underdogs of all kinds: this underpins her present determination to stand up for the rights of people fleeing from war.