Read what Doctor Anik has to tell you about what working with refugees does to you.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
So my name is Anik I was born and grew up in Missouri, a state in the Midwest part of the United States. I trained as a general pediatrician in Kansas City, at Children’s Mercy Hospital, and I finished my residency training June 2017. I left to work for BRF soon thereafter in July-August 2017 for one month.
What were your expectations going to Lesbos?
In some ways, it was more intense than I expected it to be. My first few days in Moria, there were riots between the refugees and the police and later on, fighting between ethnic groups within the camp. Tensions were high in the camp as people were frustrated with how slowly applications were being processed and how they are treated by some of the Greek police. As a medic, we were often caught in situations that were intense. Emergencies could occur that required acute care. We saw unconscious adults and children, traumatic falls, suicide attempts, and auto mutilation. Working in a resource-limited setting, we had to do the best we could with the situation given.
Did you feel like you made a difference for the refugees in being there?
I think as a physician, I did make a difference. Many people had psychological and physical trauma. They often times just needed someone to bear witness to the trauma they had endured. Other times, people would show up acutely injured. As medics, we sutured lacerations, assessed unconscious patients, triaged patients to send to the hospital, dressed wounds and monitored pregnant patients. As a pediatrician, I offered what specialized knowledge and training I had in taking care of children. And as a volunteer, I did what I could to help people when I could. There was, for instance, a Syrian boy that needed glasses. Unfortunately, there are no optometrists or ophthalmologists in Moria, but we found a few spare pairs of reading glasses in our living quarters and I let him try on a pair that ending up working well for him. It was a small act that I hope made a difference.
Does BRF makes a difference in the camps?
BRF definitely makes a difference. At times, BRF is the only NGO that provides medical care to the camp of 3500. There would often only be 2-3 medical providers for this large camp full of vulnerable patients and high-needs patients. When BRF had to temporarily pull out overnight due to rioting, the refugees noted our absence. We have built trust with the refugees over the past year, and BRF has a good reputation with these people as a result.
Did your time here on the island change you?
It has been a few days since I left Moria and Lesvos, and I still frequently think about the people I met and the people I am leaving behind. I am ashamed in how much of the world has just ignored or overlooked or is unaware of what is happening in Moria. I am more appreciative of the things I have in my life. I am humbled by the acts of generosity I saw in the camp. I am amazed by the resilience and bravery and strength I saw in people continuing to live their lives in Moria. I have realized that as a physician, I can be flexible and adaptive, and that I can rely on my own instincts and training to take care of patients. I am proud of the work that the other members of BRF have done and will continue to do. And I’m inspired to continue to do this line of work in the future as a physician.
What should new volunteers know before they come?
I would tell new doctors to be prepared to work hard. The hours can be long and exhausting. The stories you hear can be heavy and draining. Be prepared to be flexible and adapt to situations you have never been before. Be open-minded and willing to learn about different cultures and religions and languages. Be ready to do the best you can with the circumstances you are given; it may not be the ideal or optimal solution, but do what you can with what you have. And most importantly, be grateful that you have the privilege to help ease the suffering of these people as much as you can.