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Raquel Herzog Gründerin SAO Association

«After the first week of volunteering, it was clear to me that I wanted to make a longer-term and sustainable commitment to displaced people.»


SAO Association was founded on 24 February 2016 by Raquel Herzog after she volunteered in Lesvos in 2015 to help rescue refugees at sea.

2016 Foundation of SAO Association

2017 Opening Bashira Day Centre Lesvos

2018 Opening Amina Day Centre Athens

2019 Start Back on Track Academic

2020 Start Back on Track Vocational



Jan 2016 - Feb 2017


The SAO van was used to bring people arriving by boat to the camps and bus stations. It was also used to bring people from Moria and volunteers to the warehouse "Attika" and back. Additionally, it was used to distribute aid to displaced people all over the island.

At night, the SAO van became a mobile warehouse at the beach for rescue foils, woollen blankets and dry clothes and countless freezing and drenched children were warmed up in it after their arrival.

Because of its eye-catching colour, the SAO-Van was known all over Lesvos.

SAO Attica Warehouse

Mar 2016 - Feb 2017

Relief supplies warehouse, Lesbos

SAO initially ran the largest and only public warehouse for relief goods in Greece on Lesbos. We rented the location in 2016 and received donations from all over the world. These were sorted, stored, delivered and handed out to those who picked them up. The donations went to refugees, camps and other NGOs on Lesbos and mainland Greece, as well as to people in need in the local population.


In February 2017, SAO handed over the warehouse to the local organisation ATTIKA Human Support.

SAO stonehouse

Mar - Aug 2016

stone house

After the borders were closed, displaced people were stuck in Greece. From March to August 2016, thousands lived in inhumane conditions in the port of Piraeus. A group of volunteers led by Renata Blazková, who was later program manager at Bashira Day Centre, took care of the approximately 1300 people living in and around the so-called "Stonehouse", 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They distributed donations in kind, provided minimal medical care, organised baby food and better accommodation for those in particular need of protection, and regularly took people to the hospital in their van.

camp report.jpg

Apr - May 2016

Camp Assessment Tours

SAO initiated and carried out a significant research effort in April 2016. On two comprehensive tours, a group of volunteers, including the current SAO Field Director Tereza Lyssiotis, took an inventory of the 46 refugee camps newly established on the Greek mainland after the EU-Turkey deal. Volunteers regularly completed the report on the ground until the camps were closed. The report is still publicly available today.

raquel herzog sea rescue sao

Oct 2015 - Mar 2016

Emergency response

In October 2015, Raquel Herzog flew to Lesbos to volunteer to provide emergency aid for arriving boat refugees on the beaches.
After she founded SAO in February 2016, the association continued to be active on the beaches with several volunteers. At night, there was a lookout for boats north of the island and on the coast around the airport. At the critical moment of landing, the frightened and wet refugees were supported and provided with first aid, dry clothes, water and energy bars on land. The SAO van transported elderly, physically challenged and injured people to the UNHCR buses that took the people to the camp for registration.

SAO Association logo

Name and logo


Sao is a nymph from Greek mythology, one of the 50 daughters of the sea gods Doris and Nereus. The sea nymph (Nereid) protected and rescued shipwrecked people in dangerous waters. A stylised Sao adorns our logo.

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