“”I am from Canada and in Canada we do not say >refugees<. We call them newcomers. For me it is a little bit weird because technically I am a newcomer myself. But during the peak of the “refugee wave” where more and more refugees came in every day I worked in on of these register camps. The newcomers came here often without anything: crying babies, sick people, traumatized, shocked, disoriented people who did not even have shoes or a pullover on. It was complete chaos. There were up to 2000 people in this one tent and it was stressful for everyone: for those who came and for those who had to take care of them. They all had to get registered, they needed clothes, showers, toilets and so on. My job was to hand out donated clothes. Sometimes I only had 3 pair of shoes but I had 15 people who needed them. I worked there 8 to 9 hours a day and at the end of each day I was wrecked.
After everything calmed down in the evening I used to make my rounds through the camp. I looked here and there to check if there was still something needed, made eye contact with some, I sat down sometimes and just listened, hold a baby while the mother went to the bathroom. This was not in the job description but I did it because the human interaction is so crucial. And during the hectic days this had so little space.
I am not a office person – not made for a desk and papers. I can do slides and statistics, but I need to be close to people, sitting down with them, face to face. My motto is “I can do what I can do”. In the end I know that if I helped five persons out of these 2000 a day I was successful. Success means to empower people by giving them something: knowledge, confidence, the feeling that someone listens and cares. This is important. Yes, giving them shoes and perhaps a blouse is also important so they do not feel cold or dirty. But those little gestures make the difference. “