When Ciara Ross spent the summer of 2015 working in Italy she was struck by what she saw on European shorelines: a chaotic scene of desperate people, tents, huts, dinghies and garbage.
“It was horrible to see,” said 21-year-old Ross, who, at the time, was working as an au pair. Her host family had taken her out on their boat.
“I thought, ‘what is going on?’”
It wasn’t until she returned home to Camlachie and news reports about the European refugee crisis that she realized the magnitude of what was happening there.
“I started to put it together and realized what I had seen — those were people coming from Libya and Egypt at the time,” said the graduate of Lambton College’s Child & Youth Worker program, who currently works with Sarnia-Lambton Rebound and The Haven Youth Shelter.
And the more she learned about what’s now the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, the more she was moved to do something to help.
After some extensive research, Ross reached out to Greater Europe Mission (GEM), an organization on the ground in Lesvos, Greece.
The Greek island has been a central point of entry for migrants escaping war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan by boat from the shores of Turkey.
She’s set to travel there in June, for a two-and-a-half month stay onsite at a refugee camp, focusing on children’s programming and women’s groups, as well as sorting donations, handing out food, water and clothing.
Ross, who plans to attend university in the fall to pursue a degree in social work, says her passion for helping people is behind her desire to take the trip.
“I want to get that experience so that when I come back to Canada, I’ll be able to handle anything,” she said.
With a total budget of $13,000, Ross has launched a fundraising page (www.youcaring.com/ciaraross) and is looking to local service clubs for assistance. She’s also accepting donations of clothes, books and hygiene products.
The cost will cover her entire trip, including airfare, training and debriefing.
“We’ve kind of stopped talking about it,” she said of the crisis. “I want people to know this is still happening.
“You have to think about how bad it must be to get on a boat, and put your family in that much danger,” she added.
“And it’s families just like yours or mine. Just trying to get away from war.”
For more information, or to make a donation, contact Ciara at [email protected]