White church building

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

23 December 2015

A scene from the beautiful Greek island of Lesvos

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied, “Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined and all the starfish were saved.

   ~ Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley and shared by The Starfish Foundation ~


Many of us watch the horrendous news reports of refugees risking theirs and their children’s lives fleeing the conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Few of us have the privilege to go to help, so we were delighted when our social worker colleagues, Wendy and Sue had the opportunity to spend time helping the many ordinary people doing extraordinary things on the island of Lesvos, welcoming and helping them to the sanctuary and safety of this beautiful Greek island and help them prepare for their onward journey to a more settled life.

Wendy and Sue take up their story:

“You may have seen reports about the refugee crisis in Europe. Having been involved in collecting and packing aid and becoming more aware of the plight of those fleeing from war torn areas, we decided to volunteer on the Greek island of Lesvos. Close to the Turkish border, the islands have been coping with thousands­ of people fleeing to safety. They rely on traffickers who arrange boats, which are nearly always over crowded, and life jackets that are often fake, in seas that are now very cold. To see adults, parents, like you or I, who put their families at risk is sobering.

“Hell on earth”

Our experience of volunteering was daunting, humbling and life changing. We handed dry clothing to people as they came of the boats and others assisted lifeguards and doctors, saving and treating people as they were brought to shore. The only words that seemed to describe what was happening was “hell on earth”. Yet, as time went on, many other thoughts came to mind such as the thankfulness and relief of those arriving on European shores, their bravery, the tenacity of the human spirit, the wonderful response of those living on Lesvos who ensured basic human need is met and the way ordinary people have responded from all over the world volunteering their time, many of them young with a heart for humanity.

“If needed, we hope to return”

Now we are back it is sad to hear people continue to take risks and drowning. Our words really cannot describe what is happening for the people. Part of our heart remains in Lesvos, and with those fleeing. We live in the hope that the governments of Europe will do what is right. It truly is a mighty challenge, but if it is still needed, we hope to return.” If you are inspired by Wendy and Sue’s experience, many organisations are looking for practical support and help. The Starfish Foundation, founded by a local restaurateur and supported by people, both locally and internationally.



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