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Greek-American Zoe Pappis Talks to TNH about Refugee Aid Organization WWBT

NEW YORK – Zoë Pappis, co-founder of the refugee aid organization When We Band Together (WWBT), spoke with The National Herald about the organization and about her Greek roots.

WWBT supports and operates community centers and safe spaces for refugees – so those living through the difficult experience of being displaced have places to find safety, happiness, and purpose.

When asked about where in Greece her family is from and how she became a co-founder of WWBT, Pappis told TNH, “My dad’s mother and father’s families are from Chania, Crete. My husband and I were visiting them in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis when thousands of people were fleeing the coast of Turkey daily to Lesvos island. Being so close, we jumped over to see how we can help. We learned so much on this trip, it changed our lives.

“We created WWBT soon after we returned home as a way to continue helping from afar. We started by selling bracelets made from the life vests with the goal of spreading awareness and driving support from the west. 100% of the proceeds we raised were brought back to Lesvos island to purchase aid locally for the people in the camps. The bracelets were also a way to clean the beaches and employ local Greeks whose tourist economy was so badly affected by the influx of refugees. 

“Five years later we are still present on the island with the same goals but even bigger dreams than before: Our health clinic, partnership with MSF (Doctor's Without Borders), is set to open May 5.”

Of the organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pappis told TNH, “When the [coronavirus] pandemic struck, our organization, WWBT, and our partner Team Humanity – along with a group of female Afghan refugee volunteers – mobilized to manufacture masks for the 20,000+ residents at the Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos. 

“When the refugee volunteers produced enough masks for everyone in the camp, we turned our attention to helping others, making masks for the local Greeks, and then shipping even more masks to organizations fighting for freedom and equality here in America. 

“We’ve shipped thousands of masks in total – with recipients including Black Lives Matter founder Patrisse Cullor’s Diginity and Power Now in Los Angeles, Equity and Transformation in Chicago, the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women, and the Black Lives Matter of Greater NY in partnership with congressional candidate Chivona Newsome.

“We’re also sending thousands of masks to conservative groups in the south in hopes of changing hearts and minds,” Pappis told TNH.

She noted that “some of the world’s most marginalized people” refugees, are “stepping up to protect themselves and others,” during the pandemic.

According to the WWBT website, the sanitizer and mask projects launched in response to the pandemic have been fully funded thanks to Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Jack Dorsey's grant to Team Humanity.

The organization’s ongoing efforts to aid refugees continue. WWBT urges its supporters to help spread the word about the global refugee crisis and starting important conversations in our local community through wearing WWBT gear. All proceeds from the gear are used to support WWBT’s initiatives.

More information about When We Band Together is available online:https://www.wwbt.org.

Information about Team Humanity is also available online: http://teamhumanity.eu.

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