Project Stories:

First-time participation

by Brigitte Nieberlein, 2016/11/25

In March this year the world looked at Idomeni in Greece, where thousands of people fleeing to the West waited under worst conditions in front of closed borders to continue their journey. Today, eight months later, this problem still exists, but its address has changed. According to official sources, in particular on the Greek islands and in the North of the country more than 62.000 refugees are being stuck and still every day more and more people keep on arriving.

To assist the refugees in the scantily equipped camps the humedica teams ensure medical care at three camps and distribute lacking relief goods such as shoes or diapers. Our nurse Brigitte Nieberlein, who took part in her first volunteer intervention for humedica, knows how this support functions on site:

„Eight days of work in three different refugee camps in the North of Greece are behind me. While preparing my backpack I had felt a kind of concern. What is awaiting me? How will I cope with the work in the Greek country?

Immediately after my arrival the team on site helped me to find my way, even so the English conversations needed my full concentration. Our team comprised Germans as well as Serbians, so communicating in English was a practical and logical solution.

The medical labour in the refugee camps was not as exhausting as I had expected, also the basic working conditions did not cause too many complications. I like to improvise. During our relief interventions I mostly worked together with the Swiss medic Manuel, with whom I instantly got along excellently. We transported our whole equipment in only four plastic boxes, which was quite uncommon for me, but covered for the complete medical basic care of our patients.

The conditions in the various refugee camps differ quite a lot. Some are still not fit for winter, so the humanitarian support of the international relief organisations is really needed there. To coordinate the aid for the refugees as best as possible, our main coordinator Roland takes part in a lot of meetings in the North of the country in order to stay in contact with the many people responsible. It was very interesting for me to learn more about the multi-layered structures of humanitarian help, which are active here.

The conditions in the Greek refugee camps differ: while some of them are already prepared for the winter, others are still lacking protection against the cold temperatures. Photo: humedica

Serres was the largest camp, we cared for during my intervention. Even so on the mainland the camps are significantly bigger, approximately 500 refugees live here presently under extremely basic conditions. Daily we could provide medical treatment for nearly 40 sick persons. As soon as we reached the camp and set up our tent, many families came with their small children. In spite of their living conditions the boys and girls were delightful and happy. We gave our best to divert them for a short while from their gloomy everyday life with soap bubbles and blown-up gloves.

Infections, fevers, head, back and joint pains as well as minor wounds and damaged feet were the major complaints of our patients. With regard to the restricted possibilities in the refugee camps it is a special challenge to care for chronically ill people and pregnant mothers, which impressed me time and again.

While working in other camps such as Vagiohori in the East of the country or the centrally situated camp Sinatex, which accommodated about 220 refugees, we noticed that the efforts, humedica had taken on, were bearing fruit and the supply of the people has already reached an acceptable standard.

My first humanitarian operation on site was very interesting for me, because I had the opportunity to study the course and structures of a humanitarian relief intervention organised by humedica. This intervention made one thing very clear, especially with regard to the ongoing discussion about refugees: the support provided by humedica is exactly in the right place for the people in the Greek refugee camps.”

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