Selfie puts migrant crisis in frame as Aldborough family bring joy to refugees in Greece

Chiara poses for a selfie with some refugee children who introduced her to their families.

Chiara poses for a selfie with some refugee children who introduced her to their families. - Credit: Submitted

A compassionate couple from north Norfolk who took their children on a trip to Greece to help refugees fleeing war and persecution revealed they were initially turned away by police.

The De Grandis family buy extra supplies for the refugee camp at a local store.

The De Grandis family buy extra supplies for the refugee camp at a local store. - Credit: Submitted

Carmine and Jenny De Grandis, from Aldborough, visited a refugee camp in the country with their children - nine-year-old Federico, Chiara, aged 11, and Aldo, 13 - to raise awareness of their plight and deliver much-needed aid.

They packed light so they could take with them 80kgs of supplies, including clothes, toys, medicine and mosquito nets, much of which was donated following a public appeal and online fundraising campaign.

The selfless family joined the CK Team, an international group of volunteers, which has been helping refugees arriving on the island from Syria and other war-torn countries.

Mr De Grandis said: 'We were all really feeling positive. Then the disappointment came.

Carmine De Grandis hands out gifts to refugees in their camp in Greece.

Carmine De Grandis hands out gifts to refugees in their camp in Greece. - Credit: Submitted


You may also want to watch:


'We arrived at the camp and the nice army men said they needed to get us permission from the police. We waited for a while and when the police came they refused us entry to the camp - in spite of having permission from the owners and having registered with Greek authorities before.

'They took the toilet paper and washing powder and sent us away.'

Most Read

But he added: 'After having been turned away, we decided to go and have a swim while waiting for a better time and, when we went back, we were welcomed by the new police people who were working for the afternoon.'

Last month the big-hearted businessman drove hundreds of miles across seven countries in four days to deliver a van to the CK Team to help transport refugees to hospital and reunite families.

De Grandis family visit refugee camp in Greece

De Grandis family visit refugee camp in Greece - Credit: Submitted

This month's visit was his fourth to the country this year - but first with his family.

And Mr De Grandis revealed his children opted to spend more time in camp than on the beach, as the trip doubled as a holiday.

They donated colouring books and pens to the camp's makeshift school, handed out sweets and played with the refugee children.

Mr De Grandis said: 'We managed to deliver the toilet rolls and washing powder, then gave out almost two full suitcases of mainly children/baby clothes - in the last three weeks three babies have been born in the camp and one is expected soon.

Jenny and Chiara show solidarity and build a bond of friendship with the families in the camp.

Jenny and Chiara show solidarity and build a bond of friendship with the families in the camp. - Credit: Submitted

'Chiara and Freddie managed to do a great job with sweets and working out some nice fashion for the boys and girls while Aldo tried to be kind and sensible when the odd person wanted too many items.

'Highlights of the day were Chiara's being really appreciated by a few girls who introduced her to their families. Then Aldo managed to teach swimming to a Syrian man who is trying to learn to swim.

'Jenny and I liaised with Sonya, the school teacher. We donated all the toys and small gifts which have been wrapped in the UK.'

He added: 'We also love the idea that our children led in wanting to go back when they had the chance to do more holiday like activities.'

Although they were able to provide some relief to hard-pressed families - mostly from Syria and Afghanistan - in the camp, many still faced an uncertain future.

And Mr De Grandis, who thanked the Norfolk community for their suppport, warned they could be moved on at any time.

He continued: 'What stays in my memory was meeting Hassan, a 16-year-old boy, who is in the camp with his mum while his dad is in Germany, and he does not know if and when they will be allowed to join him. They are from Aleppo, a city which has been devastated by war. Did they really have any choice, but to leave? This is the question which sticks in my mind: What would I do with my family, which I love above everything else, if I was in the same situation?'

To donate to the appeal, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/ckteam

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus