Paul Carr began following the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 when images were flooding the internet and news channels of yet more bombings and atrocities in Syria, with ISIS killing thousands of innocent citizens and children every day. He was working in financial services at the time and was feeling wholly unsatisfied with his job.
Then the pictures hit the media of 5-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on shore; he died alongside 3,700 other souls trying to get to Europe that year. With tears in his eyes, Paul discussed options about what he could do with his girlfriend Gemma (now wife) and between them they decided to hold a fundraiser to gather funds for a trip to Lesvos so he could get ‘hands on’ with beach rescues and help with aid wherever needed. A calling stirred inside; Paul quit his job, and his journey into humanitarian aid began.
Paul and Gemma set up a You Caring page and raised 1,200 euros at a dinner auction, and began collecting clothing donations to go to Greece. The spare room quickly filled almost to the ceiling with clothes! Paul arrived on Lesvos on 29th January 2016 and immediately started helping in camps and with beach rescues. Refugees were queuing for handouts of food and clothing as they arrived with nothing. Their dignity was shattered, their lives changed forever. Over the next two months, he spoke with refugee families and listened to their heartbreaking stories, and he realised it was only luck that separated him from them. He managed to get a job working with Samaritans Purse and stayed in Greece for a further five months.
In those five months, he moved from Lesvos to Idomeni, where 15,000 refugees were stuck at the border of Macedonia. Support was growing locally for Paul through friends, social media, and the Costa del Sol West church, who supplied 10 tonnes of firewood and baby milk for 3,000 children while he was on the ground. Gemma joined him on his missions every two weeks and felt an overwhelming attachment to the crisis herself, so when Paul’s employment came to an end with Samaritans Purse, they both decided to use some of their savings to create Collective Calling as a Spanish registered NGO. They realised that there was little they could do as individuals, but that collectively a large group of people could really make a difference in the lives of those fleeing the horrors of war.
From that point on they started doing talks in more churches and also clubs and associations such as The Rotary Club, getting more and more support along the way. They gathered more funds and since then have supported refugees with further distributions of baby formula, hygiene packs, diapers, thousands of kilos of fruit and vegetables and tonnes of clothing in Greece, Turkey, Serbia & Africa – the priority being to get aid to the most vulnerable.
In March 2017, CC was chosen by the Bishop of Edinburgh for the 2017 Lent Appeal. More fundraisers were being held by other caring individuals to gather support for the ever-growing amount of refugees stranded and enduring horrendous conditions, and it was becoming clear that there was a collective of people out there who really wanted to help and were searching for a way to do it.
It was now 20 months since Paul first made his way to Lesvos and after identifying the needs in various locations throughout the crisis, CC are now focusing their efforts on helping refugees with disabilities living within refugee camps and local community support initiatives. They are collaborating with other NGO´s to continue to help with other areas that need attention in Greece such as mental health issues using Yoga Trauma Therapy, but primarily they are empowering children with disabilities in the third largest refugee camp on the globe in Nyarugusu, Tanzania, which is home to 127,000 people, over 50% being children.
Their plan for the next coming months is to deploy small teams on the ground in refugee camps throughout Greece that they have access to through partners, collaborators and like-minded NGOs. The aim is to identify children with disabilities there also, establish what services are lacking or simply aren´t available and to then meet those immediate needs in form of aid and program implementation. As and when crisis´ arise, teams may be deployed to other crisis zones to identify children with disabilities and meet immediate emergency needs.
Collective Calling is a collective of entrepreneurs, service organisations, churches, companies, and compassionate individuals – all striving to alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings in desperate need. Their vision is to create a worldwide platform that bridges the way for those who have had a calling to help those in need, to go forth and empower the lives of those affected by war, persecution and poverty.