Donna from our team has just returned from 6 weeks volunteering in Athens where the situation for refugees is so much worse than it was last winter. Now the world doesn’t view it as a crisis, fewer funds are available, news doesn’t reach the UK and the numbers of volunteers and services have decreased dramatically. Sadly the 70,000+ people trapped in Greece are mostly forgotten by the rest of the world but we at ASN Team UK and our partner NGOs continue to work in difficult conditions to do the best we can for people who need help most.
While working with Medical Volunteers International (MVI) who are a team of volunteer doctors, nurses, paramedics and medical students from all over the world that provide free medical treatment in squats, social and community centres, refugee camps, via street outreach and are currently setting up a permanent clinic in Athens Donna approached our board with an important, often overlooked funding request.
Many donors and volunteers do not realise the essential role of community refugee volunteers to the work that all grassroots NGOs do.
In the case of MVI it is wonderful that so many medical professionals continue to volunteer, often during their holidays and a network of amazing donors ensure access to medication and supplies but without the refugee volunteers it would be impossible to treat patients safely and use those supplies.
Refugee volunteers, usually young men who are trapped in Greece alone and without family support, who carry deep personal and emotional scars, who are struggling to find their place in Europe and who many people view negatively are the heart of the majority of small NGOs. It is them who truly understand what life is like for the refugees we help. It is them who build trust between the refugee community and NGO. It is them who have to hear hundreds of stories of suffering every month and translate it to the international volunteers. It is them who have to explain complex and sensitive information to the patients. It is them who are always on call to translate in an emergency. It is them who are so committed to helping their community that they use their small UNHCR cash allowance to buy a homeless person a sandwich or take patients to hospital to act as translators. It is them who work every day for months on end. And most importantly it is them who need extra support.
While international volunteers self fund their trips these amazing young guys simply don’t have that luxury. During the extrordinarily cold weather of the last month in Athens one of my refugee translators gave his last pair of socks to a young boy who had the cold and he ended up with the same cold as a result….. They are truly selfless superstars
In an ideal world all community volunteers should be compensated for their time but many donors specify which aid the donation is to be spent on meaning many NGOs are unable to pay these guys.”
From December we at ASN will pay a small monthly stipend to one of the MVI refugee volunteers. We would love to be able to pay both stipends but in order to do that we need more funds from you, our amazing donors! Could you commit to a monthly donation? Our charity checkout link can be found here www.asnteamuk.charitycheckout.co.uk
Learn more about MVI here. https://www.facebook.com/medicalvolunteersinternational/
For more information on how important refugee volvolunters are https://www.opendemocracy.net/…/refugee-to-refugee-humanita…