AdventistHelp: Mission in Greece

AdventistHelp: Mission in Greece

Markus Alt working in 'his office' (FB)

Markus Alt, one of the Coordinators of AdventistHelp, sharing challenges, perspectives and stories.

April 19, 2016 | Bern, Switzerland. | Markus Alt, Andreas Mazza, CD-EUDNEWS.

The needs are great, the means of the Greek authorities and the EU seem very limited. Numerous individuals and NGOs are pitching in, from abroad but also many Greeks. The helpfulness of locals, persons, businesses and government officials, is overwhelming and very encouraging to me and the team.  The Med Bus, our mobile clinic is operational in "our" camp at Oinofyta near the city of Chalkida. This town of Oinofyta is just over an hour north of Athens, on the Greek mainland.  This is a brand new camp set up on the premises of an abandoned factory, designed to finally host 2'000 refugees. At present there are tents for 400 refugees set up. The first ones have arrived; more are due to arrive any minute. Electricity and running drinking water are installed, a luxury that must not be taken for granted. 

AdventistHelp has an official mandate to take care of all medical issues in this camp. This is an exciting challenge, which we will only be able to manage with lots of help from people like yourself. Funding is always an issue and staffing, especially the medical services. We are expected to offer medical care 7 days a week, 24 hours. This will require quite a large number of personnel, even though during the night and on Sabbaths we will only offer emergency care.  The beautiful thing about this site is the proximity of our MedBus to the local medical centre. The officials showed me around it: It has practises for 38 doctors, but the Greek state can only pay three, two dentists (!). There is a full-size lab, an x-ray department, eye, ear, heart, dental, gynaecology and anything else there, ready to use. And the climax is, that we will be able to use these facilities 7/24, I have been assured.

Let's hope and pray, that we can get this in writing.  Last week we took the first two patients to the clinic. A little boy had his chest x-rayed, as he seems to have a lung infection. Dental patients we can take in this week.  We have an ambulance sitting outside our MedBus. A local group of volunteers, got it from Germany. It is now serviced, gets a new battery and the owners have offered to take it to the technical and medical certification offices and let us then use it. All we have to do is supply the required medicines  and the oxygen tanks. When we will not need it any more, the municipality will gladly take it over and use it for its inhabitants. So we don’t only help the refugees but also the local population in this economically struggling state.  The nearest ambulance services are quite a distance away, so we might be able to serve the local community as well in a medical emergency. Of course we will only offer that if we have the qualified staff for it. 

The camp is now ready to host up to 400 refugees. At present there are only 50 here, but we expect the others any day now. AdventistHelp is in charge of the medical services, not the overall organisation of the camp. As it is a very small camp today (number of guests), and because we work very closely with the Airforce Officer in charge here (he comes once a day for a few minutes), we do get involved in some other activities, besides medical. For example, we help store and distribute goods which other groups of volunteers, locals and foreigners, are bringing. We also develop close relationships with the local authorities, medical facilities around, various shops and trades like garages to fix our van. All very helpful and friendly, despite the occasional language difficulties. But with GoogleTranslate apps we manage just fine.

Interesting to point out is our collaboration with the Medical Centre of Oinofyta. They are very well equipped with clinics for just about any medical issue, including an x-ray and lab. Of the 38 possible positions, only three doctors are hired. We already took a boy with a lung infection to have a chest x-ray and we will take dental patients there this week. They do all services for free, we can even access the house out of office hours with our doctors. Very friendly and helpful staff. All they ask is for a box of x-ray films, as they do not get large quantities from the respective government agency.

There is another clinic in the next village, which offers 7/24 services and has paediatrics available. If the need arises and we cannot provide the help needed, we can take the patient there.

We even have electricity and running water, a commodity not to be taken for granted, when looking at other camps. Computers will be a major topic. The refugees apparently will have to apply for European visas via skype. We do not have computers for them at the moment and certainly not the necessary infrastructure for internet access. So that would be an important help we could offer, if we had the means. With it would go all sorts of things like tables and chairs. At present the refugees are in very nice tents but sleeping on the floor. The Greek Authorities do not seem to be in the position to provide beds for them, let alone a simple matrass or even an outdoor iso-mat for under the sleeping bag. They do have some blankets and now even sleeping bags, but all are summer versions and at night the temperatures drop to maybe 14° Celsius or less. Everyone wants to help the babies and brings nappies etc.

Among our present guests we have two (!) babies in nappies. Of course we share our surplus with other camps and NGOs, if they have a need, but that means more logistics and transports.

Transport is an important issue. We will have an ambulance on our site (it is actually standing right next to the bus now), but this is really for severe emergencies only, and not for taking patients to the local medical centre. We do need another car with preferably seven to nine seats for such transports and also to take our teams home in the evening and to work in the mornings. It is planned, to build extra accommodation into the large, empty factory halls on the premises of this camp to offer spaces for up to 2’000 refugees in total. Then we will have to offer extended hours of medical services, probably even 7/24. That would increase the need for staff on our side and obviously also the transport capacity necessary.

Greek people are so generous and helpful, despite their desolate economic situation. We thank God for that.

Markus' final appeal: "Staff is missing. Are you going to be part of our team of volunteers? Sign up today, for a week or two, for a month or more! please contact us here."

About Adventist Help

Adventist Help is a project established to help refugees arriving to Europe in the current refugee crisis.

Our aim is to provide immediate medical and humanitarian support to refugees arriving in Europe. To accomplish this, we are operating a medical first-aid bus on the Greek island of Lesbos, with both medical professionals and others.

Project values: Friendly, Helpful and Trustworthy, as represented in the logo through the smile, the hands and the lifering.

Who are we? Adventist Help is run primarily by volunteers from the Seventh-day Adventist faith community — a community that is known around the world for its development and relief work through ADRA, and for its high-class medical and educational facilities. Adventist Help is here to assist refugees, irrespective of race, culture or faith. All will be treated equally.

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