grandmother and child
Ever wondered what it’s really like to work in an emergency?

Gwen Wilson has seen it all. After retiring as a nurse, she worked in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. Now Gwen has swapped her life in Sheffield for a refugee camp in northern Greece.

Writing to you from Thessalonica, Gwen gives her reflections on supporting refugees in Greece.

Hi All,

A big day today: the upgraded showers and toilets arrived.  They aren’t set up yet but it was such a boost to see them and to realise that something is going to happen soon. The toilets will be squatting latrines with piped water. The cubicles will be large and there will be separate facilities for men and women.

On Monday a Red Cross person will come from a team called Restoring Family Links. They work to reunite loved ones who have been separated. There are so many different stories.

One young woman, eight months pregnant, is in the camp. Her husband is on one of the Greek islands, she wants to reunite with him, but it is not clear how this can happen.

Another woman is here with her husband and two sons, one has Downs syndrome.  Her older son of 17 travelled to Germany unaccompanied and is living with a family there. She was so distressed telling her story, but was also so dignified. She wasn’t expecting us to do anything, just to listen.

There are also teachers working here as well as doctors and nurses. We do have many very young babies in the camp, which is very worrying.

child outside

A local Greek community group has donated playgrounds in both camps. There’s a sand pit, plus swings, slides and footballs.

The number of volunteers  working with us to do activities to help with health and hygiene issues in the camp  is growing by the day. They are so enthusiastic and energetic that they are a boost to my spirits.

But we do have a major gap: dentistry. Greek dentists are private and expensive. No one is providing dentistry. So we are working to find someone who is able to work in extremely basic conditions.

The people urgently need shoes, hygiene items, nappies, etc. Children need immunisations and appropriate health care.

It is almost unimaginable that this is all happening in the EU.


Images © Mirva Helenius / Finnish Red Cross .