Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Day 3 SAMS Global Response

The day started with an early morning exercise session run by the field coordinator. It's done Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to help maintain the physical and mental well being of volunteers. Alongside this there is a weekly welfare meeting where volunteers can raise issues about the work, and any problems and pressures they may be experiencing.

We did half an hour of intense cardio exercise then went off to breakfast and the morning briefing.

After the briefing we headed back to Iliadis, now with a Syrian doctor with us as part of the team. Mohammed (not his real name) is a recently arrived refugee from Syria. He had been living in Eastern Syria, but ISIS tyrannical rule had forced him to leave with his family.

Mohammed had been working as a volunteer in various projects in Athens supporting refugees there with medical care, until he was recruited by SAMS to work in the camps in Northern Greece.

On the way to the camp he told us of the horrific things he had seen as ISIS resorted to immense brutality to cement their rule; publicly beheading people and leaving their victims lying in the main square of his town to intimidate the populace. Unable to tolerate this, Mohammed had left and came to Greece.

Having a native Syrian doctor with us was a godsend. Mohammed had a jovial but no nonsense attitude and could triage, diagnose and treat patients quickly. Even those patients who would normally complain or take the piss with the foreign volunteers were impeccably polite around him, and treated him with respect.

Being a Syrian gave him an inroad into the community which we didn't previously have. Mohammed had already identified a number of active members of the community from working at the camp the last fortnight.

We were introduced to them, and made plans to train them and equip them to help the camps inhabitants and develop SAMS relationship with them further.

Alongside the plan for training community healthcare officers, SAMS is collaborating with a Syrian psychologist who plans to train a number of camp residents in providing counselling to children to help them cope with the trauma they have suffered in the war.

Over the next few days we will be working to recruit a number of residents in each camp to take part in a training course to give them the skills to teach basic coping strategies to children suffering psychological trauma, and help identify those that need more intensive therapy.

The hope is this work can function as a trial and if it proves effective, can be used to justify implementing it in camps elsewhere. In the absence of proper mental healthcare services, working in collaboration with the camps residents to provide basic counselling and identify traumatised individuals would be a big step forward.

The day was much smoother than the last, and was brightened up when one of the children came and gave me their origami animals which they had made with some of the other volunteers. Sweet gestures like this mean the world when you realise how little they have to give, but how willing they are to do so.

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