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Volunteers Flock To Greece To Aid Migrants And Refugees


Let's turn now to the ongoing story of half a million refugees and migrants who have crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece so far this year. Most land on the island of Lesbos, where locals and volunteers from around the world are there to help them. Joanna Kakissis met three friends who traveled from Sweden to assist in what's become the greatest migration of people in Europe since World War II.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: It's raining, and the volunteer rescue team in a village in northern Lesbos waits for boats. The team includes Spanish lifeguards, a Malaysian chef and three friends from Sweden, Linda Wasell, Asa Swee and Bri Stundon. Wasell works in public relations, and it was her idea to come here. She made the decision on vacation in France.

LINDA WASELL: I was lying next to the pool with a glass of rose in my hand.

KAKISSIS: And reading the newspaper. There was a photo of the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey. She put down her glass of wine and felt sick.

WASELL: I have a 5-year-old and a 15-year-old, so then I decided.

KAKISSIS: She was joined by Stundon, an athletic chef from Canada, and Swee, a creative director at a cosmetics company.

The rain picks up. The women jump into a van they've rented to transport refugees. Five thousand people land on Lesbos every day, even in the rain. Stundon points out the boats, black dots in the stormy, gray sea.

BRI STUNDON: Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.

KAKISSIS: And they're all headed here?



KAKISSIS: The three friends get to the beach. A rubber boat lands, packed with soaking wet people. Someone hands Linda Wasell a screaming baby girl from Afghanistan.

WASELL: I don't know where the parents are.

KAKISSIS: Wasell cuddles the baby until she finds the mother. Swee takes a group of Syrians and Afghans in the van and drives them uphill to the camp. Nearby, the Malaysian chef makes vegetable soup. Stundon waits on the shore with the Spanish lifeguards.

STUNDON: I don't know how I'd ever be able to live a normal life after this (laughter).

KAKISSIS: She barely finishes speaking when more refugees arrive. It's the 10th boat to land here in just an hour. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis on the Greek island of Lesbos. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.