Rick from Utrecht worked as a doctor in a refugee camp

The traces which two weeks of volunteer work in refugee camps on Lesbos have left in me, run deep. The feeling of injustice with regard to the treatment of my fellow human beings. The shame for Europe. The incredulity that we try to sell this inhumane form of ‘shelter’. My view on the world and on humanity have been permanently scarred on Lesbos; my heart gained a flicker of hope.
Moria, the camp in which I have worked on Lesbos, evokes the images of concentration camps. This camp was set up as a ‘transit camp’ for no more than 2.250 refugees for no longer than 48 hours. Currently, Moria houses 3.300 people permanently and this number is growing. There is barely enough food, the water supply runs dry on a regular basis and people sleep in a provisional container, if they even have that ‘luxury’. Many have been waiting here for the asylum procedure for over a year. The Greek civil service is straining to keep up and Europe cheerfully reassures “the EU – Turkey deal is a success”. Right. Have they ever been here to see what it’s like? In a way, it’s a miracle that refugees are able to live here together so peacefully.
The work I am doing here is nothing but a tiny drop in a huge ocean. Our sympathetic ear is the only meagre positive thing that Europe gives them. Their deeply rooted fear and panic cause them terror and anxiety over every ‘minor’ physical complaint they may have. In my consultation room I see a veritable parade of diversity and emotion. Behind almost every head ache or belly ache lies a complex story. The people before you have often been devastated physically and mentally and the despondency is clearly visible. The effects of horrific forms of (sexual) abuse in Congo, tribal prosecution in Nigeria, the horrible violence of war in the middle East and the horrors they have gone through on the way to this place. It places a clamp around my heart and sickens me.
It is with pain in my heart that I leave these people behind, knowing that I can escape this feeling, but they might never feel safe and at home somewhere. Hopefully, a long line of people will succeed me, people who do care about them, hearten them, help them. It’s no lack of effort by my fellow volunteers at Boat Refugee Foundation, they are wonderful people with a heart of gold! We were able to rely on each other and have worked together to create a better world. It was great to catch our breaths at the beach, to enjoy the impressive volcanic nature and of course the excellent Greek ice cream.
Would you like to support people that have had to leave their home and need help, and do you have some time to spare (two weeks is enough)? Boat Refugee Foundation is in desperate need of volunteers. Apart from medical care in the camps Moria and Kara Tepe, the foundation also organizes activities for refugees, like swimming, English classes, children’s activities and ‘social shifts’. There are many options and you will always work with wonderful people.