Adventist humanitarians hear first-hand accounts of the hardships refugees are escaping.
December 21, 2015
Victor Hulbert with Urška Čehovin, tedNEWS
[Photo courtesy of the Trans-European Division]
News broadcasts are full of their stories. While politicians struggle, while winter sets in, and while some boarders close, others cannot just stand by.
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) volunteer workers in Slovenia hear those harrowing stories on a day-to-day basis. As they hand out food, water, hygiene products and warm clothes at the railway station they meet a 28-year-old Syrian. He tells how seven members of his family were beheaded because they are Kurds. He shares how one of his relatives had to witness her daughters being killed before her very eyes. Hardly surprising that the remaining 13 members of his family have fled. "All we want is a normal life", he says.
Such stories motive the volunteers. One Adventist retiree has given his time since the beginning of the refugee crisis. He says, "I’m retired so I have time. Besides that, I love working with people and the co-volunteers here are great."
He volunteers work three times per week for 12 hours. "We do it in shifts, which means you work one week during the day and one week during the night." He explains that every day is different and that he does actually experience a lot of beautiful things, but then adds, "Some days are just shocking. And those shocks stay with you for a while."
They met another Syrian family who left for Egypt two years ago. Their father was a civil engineer but could not find work. In desperation, they decided to head to Europe. They are at least together as a family. They have hope. They want to build a new life in Germany. Surrounded by his family, he turns to the girl next to him and explains, "This is my love. We have been happy together for the last two years. We’re waiting for our whole family to be safe in one place and then we will get married."
By the end of November, 280,940 refugees have entered Slovenia this year. They are still coming despite the winter weather. Almost half of them pass through Brežice – Dobova, the area where ADRA Slovenia is concentrating its efforts. Here they collect and sort in-kind donations, with hygiene products and baby products being a high priority. ADRA Slovenia has a primary responsibility for taking care of refugees at the train station in Dobova, where most refugees enter Slovenia and are registered.
Their volunteers and coordinators still deliver and distribute basic supplies to around 3,000 refugees per shift although the numbers of refugees are reducing due to the winter weather. The last two weeks in November saw them care for 30,464 refugees by providing basic humanitarian supplies. That was a total of 110,000 refugees in October and November. Despite winter weather that number appears to again be on the increase.
Each of those numbers is a story. A story of fear, despair, and now of hope – even with a still uncertain future. A young man on a train tells how he has travelled by car, bus, boat and train all the way from Afghanistan. He says, "I want to go to Germany. We were lucky to have a real boat. The boat was crowded with 65 people but the see was calm so we arrived safely. On the way we heard rumours that it’s possible we will not be able to stay in Germany and will be forced to go back to Afghanistan. But for a chance of a better life we are prepared to take that risk."
Like other ADRA offices around Europe, ADRA Slovenia is also a donor office, providing support to Greece and Serbia. They are just one of the many ADRA offices and other humanitarian groups providing help in Lesbos, Greece, Dunkirk and Calais in France, and almost everywhere in-between.
To find out more, visit your national ADRA office website or donate on the ADRA Emergency Fund webpage.
To see more photos, please click here. [tedNEWS]