A Donegal man who has spent time in this past year helping refugees in Greece spoke about his experiences at this year’s READ DL initiative in the Central Library Letterkenny on Thursday evening.
Aidan O'Doherty, who is originally from Lifford and now living in Donegal Town, retired from the council in 2014 after nearly forty years of service and travelled to Greece last year to support the refugees who have been fleeing persecution in their own home countries.
Aidan went to Greece last year because he was affected by the sight of so many people leaving their homes all over the Middle East and North Africa to make a very hazardous journey to Europe.
Speaking in the run up to the READ DL launch Aidan said: “I met retired colleagues for lunch in early 2016 and we talked together about the refugee situation and about our desire to do. At the time, refugees were travelling to Greece and the Greek Islands from Turkey. We decided there and then that we would volunteer to work with refugees in Greece.
“Friends went out, almost immediately, to the Greek Island of Lesvos. Subsequently I went to Piraeus on the outskirts of Athens in May 2016 and with others, worked as independent volunteers with the refugees that had landed in Piraeus port from the islands”.
Aidan, who worked as a senior engineer at the National Road Design Office and was instrumental in the development of a number of key road infrastructural projects in Donegal and the north west region, returned to Piraeus in November last year with three other people and worked as volunteers with the Norwegian Group A Drop in the Ocean at various locations and camps in Athens.
Aidan, along with two others, is returning to Piraeus again this Sunday and intends to return a number of times during 2017.
“We pay our own expenses, flights, meals, accommodation and car-hire. While we are there we work directly with the refugees, distributing clothing and footwear and toys to the children. And a lot of these items are bought with money given to us by friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues who have also been touched by the situation”.
The book chosen for this year’s READ DL initiative is particularly fitting and throws a light on the life experiences of those forced to live under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Deborah Ellis’s book The Breadwinner tells the story of one family’s survival under Taliban rule in Afghanistan and is told by the daughter Parvana and has been chosen as the book for this year’s READ DL, One Book, One Community initiative.
READ DL 2017 was launched in the Central Library, Letterkenny on Thursday 19th January.