Volunteer Reality Check.

Today was my last day visiting the camps. One of them is officially closing next week. There are around fifty people left. Most of the residents have been relocated to hotels or rented apartments, where they suffer isolation from the community within the camp but of course appreciate the conveniences of modern life that they were used to before the war.

I am going to Athens tomorrow and while I'm there I'll be visiting someone who was relocated there from the north who has a newborn, and I'll be visiting the Amurtel centre for mothers and babies.

In the meantime, I am left with a feeling of not having done nearly enough - which I know is a normal response to a crisis as big and as ugly as this one. So what did I actually do, people? I gave out a lot of food packs and diapers. I met with women who were breastfeeding, and tried to encourage them. I weighed babies. I listened to fetal heart rates and reassured pregnant women. I sat and conversed with a lot of people, using sign language and Google translate. I made a difference for a few people I met. I provided continuous prenatal care for a couple of women. Oh, and yesterday I met with a woman who really wanted a nightgown to wear after she gave birth, so we went shopping. We bought a couple of pyjama sets and a few other bits and bobs. It was fun, and gave her a lot of pleasure. Instead of being given something that was old and probably the wrong size, she chose what she wanted and although I paid, I could have been her mother, so it didn't seem so bad.

The maternity care system here is brutal and backwards. Arabic or Kurdish speaking women go into the hospital and often are not allowed to bring anyone in with them. Cesarean section rate is ridiculous.

Will talk more about that in a future post, and about what I am going to do about it, with YOUR help.

But for now, I am just devastated by the level of disorganization and egotism that is apparently rampant amongst the organizations that are here to provide care. The disorganization starts at the top, to wit a screaming match between the UNHCR officials and the military about what day the camp would close.

I understand, I do. We are talking about tens of thousands of people, no money, closed borders, an infrastructure that is on its knees, yes I understand.

But I've heard stories, consistent ones, about disorganization and chaos reigning supreme in the smaller organizations as well, and that, to me, is unacceptable. Are you proud that your organization has 50 volunteers? Because it makes you look like a saviour? Even if each volunteer hands one banana to a refugee every day? And the so-called refugees don't want your crummy banana anyway?

I know what the women and families I met wanted from me. They wanted me to provide good, quality midwifery care. They wanted to see me every week. They wanted me to be able to visit them wherever they lived, whether or not my organization had permission. They wanted me to help them have the baby, to be with them in labor and birth. They wanted care that was not judgemental, no rolling of the eyes when they mentioned circumcising their baby boys.

So, people, I'm working on it. I have a plan. Please keep on supporting me, I'm going to tell you about my plan soon soon. Inshallah.

In the meanwhile, here are some images from the past few weeks that will give you a sense of what I've been seeing.

I'm With Syria

Home for many until Jan 2017

No diaper donations needed!

Warehouse of donated stuff

Look Closely

Handprints on the wall

View of the camp

MotherBaby Tent

School and Playing Field at Camp

Elpida - Charter School of Refugee Camps

Fireside seating


  1. G-d bless you for always continuing to make a difference in the world. We are blessed to know you.


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