After many missions in Greece, Serbia and France we found one recurring issue: the absence of a long-term volunteer onsite. On average volunteers stay one week, which means that the majority of the work is being done by well-meaning but inexperienced people.
We believe a long term volunteer is the linchpin of any truly successful aid. Ensuring efficiency, providing continuity and supporting those essential short-term volunteers to be as effective as possible during their time onsite.
These Heroes are the quintessential glue between all parties involved, the refugees, the locals, the partner NGOs, the suppliers and the authorities. What these heroes bring to the table is:
Next to putting their lives on hold for such a long time, most long-term volunteers have to pay their own costs like housing and food, which makes their position unsustainable for the long run. After a while, savings simply run out.
To support these long term volunteers, we started the Help a Hero! Program. We carefully select highly motivated and effective individuals, who bring lots of added value on the ground, and do not have the means to sustain themselves anymore. We match them with donors who fund some of their personal costs, (to a maximum of €500/ per month) and support their projects. Aside from running highly efficient projects, these volunteers are also our eyes and ears on the ground and are essential to identifying the best places to use our funds.
To become a donor or to one of our wonderful heroes or to join our Hero program please contact us.
Sophie is a French doctor with over 3 years of experience as a humanitarian in Greece. She coordinated the activities of DocMobile after which she identified a great need on the island of Samos; where there are thousands of refugees but there was no medical practice.
In July 2018, Sophie supported by us started Med’EqualiTeam, opening a free clinic where she helps on average a 2,500 patients per month. The camps in Samos are home to >5,000 residents whilst only being fit to hold 650. Diseases and infections, such as scabies, are rampant in the camps.
Sophie and her team are doing an amazing job working the clinic 6 days a week! They are real HEROES!
Michael is the German coordinator of the Mobile Info Team, who provide legal information to over 10,000 refugees weekly! Having been in Greece since 2016, Michael is an essential and informed resource for refugees.
As well as regular Facebook posts and a daily hotline service, Michael and his team also support family reunification cases. Often, children are alone somewhere in Europe while their parents are still in Greece (or the other way around) and proving that you are indeed a family can be an incredibly complicated and lengthy process.
Michael and his team are Heroes to many families working their way back together.
Jonathan is a European Lawyer and has worked in International Relations – but he also is an experienced paramedic and volunteered in different countries. He was shocked about the humanitarian situation in the still existing jungles in and around the city of Calais. Even though there are more than thousand displaced people, refugees and migrants in the north of France, the access to fundamental rights, such as access to healthcare, is often denied by local authorities.
After having volunteered in northern France twice, he decided to join the Coordinator’s Board of the First Aid Support Team (FAST) and now ensures access to first aid for hundreds of humans every day. Thank you Jonathan and your hero volunteers!
Justyna and Wave Thessaloniki are here for the most vulnerable refugee groups, those that cannot stay in camps and have to live in the streets. Every month, they cook and distribute over 10,000 meals! Also, whenever Justyna identifies another need for the beneficiaries, such as warm clothes or drinking water, Wave Thessaloniki can react extremely quickly and provide it.
Justyna introduces herself:
“My proficiency of language skills [Arabic, English, German, Polish and French] mixed with experience on the field in all refugee-related shelters, and relations through all kinds of different work and official meetings with colleagues in humanitarian work all over Northern Greece, I see myself as a key-person between our kitchen project and other organizations and NGOs. This role makes me able to react fast in emergency cases.”
“Mama Rosa” is almost a celebrity under hundreds of refugees living in the streets of Thessaloniki. Having been the coordinator for Medical Volunteers Team since August 2018, Rose has been seeing 80-100 patients daily, completely changing the livelihood of these refugees in the streets. However, Rose does more than only provide medical aid. She explains:
“When they struggle with the pain, I hold their hand; when they need a hug, I give it to them. This close-body, maternal contact simply isn’t possible for younger volunteers. The men see me as an elderly person with more experience. I often remind them of their mothers and, for that, they respect me.”
Also, due to Rose’s experience and contacts she creates a myriad of synergies among NGOs and other (humanitarian) services: “My experience in the field during the last year has given me a good overview of the situation for homeless people in Thessaloniki. I am aware of their needs, their worries, and able to respond quickly in emergency cases.”
Hope has been in and out of Thessaloniki for the past two years whilst completing her Masters. She has 5+ years of experience in humanitarian projects, having worked in Bolivia, Nepal, and the UK. Now, with our support, she is working full-time as one of the co-founders and coordinators of Wave – Thessaloniki. The Wave team serve over 10,000 hot meals per week and equip new arrivals with essential supplies like shoes, warm clothes, and hygiene items.
Introducing herself, Hope says:
“Using my organisational skills is a big part of my role in this project. I oversee vital collaborations with other local NGOs to improve service provision for our population, as well as organise and apply for funds, oversee volunteer wellbeing and safeguarding, and assist with day-to-day operations. A lot of my work is in the background and behind the scenes, I see myself as a key figure in ensuring the project runs smoothly on a daily basis, and is able to continue and grow in the long term.”
Isa is working with CollectiveAid in Subotica (Serbia) near the Serbian-Hungarian border. They are supporting people on the move sleeping outside of official accommodation in squats or makeshift-camps. The focus of the project are hygiene solutions (through shower and laundry services) and the provision of vital material aid (such as blankets or clothing items). Apart from that, they are part of the Border Violence Monitoring Network and are collecting testimonies of violence people on the move encounter while trying to cross the border to Hungary as well as reports about internal state violence. At the moment, they are supporting four squats in the region in two different municipalities with a total population of approximately 150 people.
In 2017 Isa first started working in this field in a distribution project in Greece. After finishing her bachelors in sociology and political science in 2019, she wanted to go back to the field full-time. Since then, Isa has worked in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Italy and now in Serbia.
Isa says: “There are a lot of ways to fight the racist and inhumane migration regime of the European Union, and with the experience I have in the field, I see myself most useful being on the ground.”
Chiara moved to Samos in February 2020 to teach English and German at Banana House from Action for Education. When Banana House had to close due to the Covid-19 measures, she moved on to Med’EqualiTeam to help out with translations and crowd management.
Now that all community centres are slowly opening up again, she will divide her time between teaching, translating and taking over admin tasks.
Before coming to Samos Chiara was living in Berlin, running a translation agency and volunteering at an emergency shelter for refugees.
Ana fulfilled the role of coordinator for foodKIND from April-October 2019. This being her 10th humanitarian project, after experiences in Ethiopia, Honduras, France and more, she knew exactly how to increase efficiency! Having worked with foodKIND as a volunteer before, she already knew the local, NGO and refugee community. As such, Ana has sourced new produce suppliers within the refugee community, not only reducing the cost per meal and stretching our food budget but also supporting the refugee’s efforts to become self-sufficient.
When the foodKIND vehicle had a large breakdown, she could not only coordinate with the other NGOs that her volunteers could still be transported to the camps, she also communicated clearly what was needed to fix it, ensuring donor support for their new vehicle.
Simultaneously, she managed to make the necessary increase in food output for both Malakasa and Oinofyta camp where foodKIND works. Having more and more new arrivals from the islands, the camps were housing several hundred unregistered refugees without food support. In September, Ana managed to prepare and distribute >10,000 meals, impressive!!
Majid fulfilled the role as coordinator, chef, handyman, distributor and many more tasks as a Hero for House of All, Usivak Refugee Camp and for a project providing food for refugees living in the street. Pulling an eight-hour shift as a chef at one to continue cooking for the next, his energy was unlimited. As a refugee himself and as a former chef in Iran, he knew very well what food the refugees liked and how to prepare it. On average he secured an output of a staggering 20,000 meals per day!
As a Hero, Majid facilitated many improvements and synergies. He got low prices from the local market after building long-term relationships. He helped coordinate the efforts of ten NGOs working in the region, so that efforts were complimentary and not duplicated. Food waste decreased and kitchen cleanliness improved as Majid knew very well how to run a professional restaurant. And to top it all off, Majid cooked birthday cakes for all the volunteers to increase moral!
Unfortunately, as the situation started to deteriorate for refugees in Bosnia and many NGOs were asked to leave the country, Majid had to choose for the safety of his son and himself and leave the project. We are forever grateful for his fantastic efforts and impressive contribution as a humanitarian!
Brittany has volunteered at projects in France, Serbia, Greece and more and is an expert at navigating the field. Coordinating foodKIND’s team of volunteers, who prepare thousands of meals a month together with refugees, is a big challenge, but she takes it in her stride.
With Brittany’s background in addressing mental health needs, she manages to psychologically support both the beneficiaries and her volunteer team. It’s really special to have someone who can simultaneously coordinate a team under pressure to make loads of meals and provide this psychological buffer. We’re very glad to have Brittany on board – she is a Hero.
Jitske graduated as a social worker with a focus on empowerment and liberation of people. At KLM she gave training to employees on committing to the bigger picture and she did a master’s in Neuro Linguistic Programming to understand even better how the minds of people work. As such, she learned how to motivate and unite a large group of people, which is exactly what she did on Lesbos. She coordinated a team of almost 60 volunteers, of which 50 were refugees from the camp. Together they:
We are proud to have supported Jitske!
Almut made the stereotype of German efficiency her own while managing foodKIND’s team through tumultuous times in Greece. Doubling their output from 10,000 to 20,000 meals with practically the same resources is just a tip of the iceberg on how Almut took a leadership position in this project.
When the beneficiaries they served were moved out of the area and the volunteer team was left without work, she pulled through and made an amazing deal with the Greek government to work in two refugee camps where they cook with the people instead of for them. Not only is foodKIND’s impact even bigger, they also give provide fun activities on the long and boring days in Greece.
Almut, you’re an absolute hero!