In Pictures: Day 3 – Part of the team

By Caroline Haga, IFRC 

My third day with the Hellenic Red Cross rescue team on Lesvos is almost as busy as the previous one. Boats keep arriving. As the communications delegate, I am here to document what is happening, but I now feel I am a part of the rescue team. When we race to meet yet another rubber dinghy, the rescuers pass rubber gloves and astro blankets not only to each other, but to me as well. I even get a responsibility of my own; I am the ‘key holder’ which means that I am responsible for locking the car when they run to the shore and for keeping the keys safe.

Lesvos

Boats come in one after the other. It feels like we’re constantly running. Rescue teams from different organizations greet us as we arrive on the shore. I bring astro blankets to keep people warm and distribute water and even toys to those who have arrived. Suddenly a man is brought to the shore and laid down on his back. The Red Cross team and volunteer doctors surround him. Later, we find out the situation was not life-threatening, thankfully. The mad had suffered a panic attack brought on by the stress.

Lesvos

“Hey key holder,” Pakos shouts to me as I am talking to some of the migrants who just arrived. It’s time to move again. I take the opportunity to ask Pako about his volunteer experiences. “What is different about this situation compared to my other rescue missions is that I have to keep my feelings in check. If I get too emotionally involved I will not be able to do my work properly,” Pakos explains, when I ask how they can leave the new arrivals so quickly. Thinking about it, I completely agree. There is no way I could have remained calm and reassuring while taking care of the hysterical mother or little girl suffering from hypothermia, if I had let all my feelings surface.

Lesvos

Then, too quickly, comes the time to say goodbye. I have to go back to the southern part of the island where I am needed there in the registration centre. The team decides to take a break and drives me to the village of Skala Sikamineas at the western end of their 15 kilometre patrol area.

Lesvos

On the way, we’re stopped by a man who tells us that a week old baby has arrived. He is upset that no organizations or volunteers have been there to help. We explain that our team has been helping three other boats some kilometres away and that we are not able to be everywhere at the same time. But I can see that it is difficult for the man, as well as our own team, to accept that we were not able to be there to help this other boat.      

Lesvos

We sit down to have a coffee together in the small village, the whole team and I; Vasilis, Pakos, Ioanna, Elitheria, Manolis and Antonis. I am so thankful for their comradery, and so proud of what they do. They counter with: “We want you on our team.” There and then, I vow to learn emergency first aid and rescue skills so that one day in the future I can also be a part of a rescue team.