Camp residents step up to keep community clean

Publicado: 2 agosto 2016 13:06 CET

By Anita Dullard, IFRC

Taking pride in your neighbourhood and working with your community to keep it clean and safe is something we are all keen to do. But what happens when your neighbourhood is a migrant camp? Well, for people staying in Greece, like Samir, the same principles apply.

Samir, from Syria, moved to Skaramagas accommodation centre earlier this year and began volunteering in the camp to address rubbish and waste issues. Armed with sunscreen, rubber gloves and a trolley bin, Samir and eight other volunteers from the camp go out every day to pick up and clear away rubbish, and talk with the residents about how important hygiene and sanitation is for their community.

He says: “We volunteered with the Red Cross hygiene promotion team to clean the camp, because there is no one to clean it.”

Clearing away rubbish and promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices are vital for health and safety. A build-up of rubbish, or an accumulation of stagnant water can lead to disease outbreaks, and attract rats and mice, which in turn can bring poisonous snakes to the camp.

Samir describes a typical day: “First, there are a lot of mosquitos, then many flies. So if we don’t clean up around the camp we could get health issues.  After cleaning we fumigate for insects, near the bins and where water is coming out of the ground.”

As people arrived to Greece, informal and temporary camps were set up to accommodate the many women, children and men seeking refuge. This caused an immediate need for critical waste management and clean water supply.

The all-round benefits of volunteering

Georgios Frantzis, field coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)in  Athens and Attica region, says: “In camps around Greece, we’re providing water and sanitation expertise, equipment and technical support to install and manage critical infrastructure like water treatment tanks.”

But it’s the camp community that has to use the facilities. So it’s crucial that not only does the Red Cross set up a waste management process and access to safe water, but that it  works alongside the community to make sure what is provided is culturally appropriate and people know how it works.

“Volunteers like Samir are a vital link to the community, working through them means we hear exactly what’s going on for communities, what they need and how we can meet that need,” added Frantzis.

Becoming a hygiene promotion volunteer can have a profoundly positive psychological benefit for people too. Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, anxiety and even depression, prevalent among people who may have experienced trauma at home or on the journey to Greece.

Samir says the role has also helped him engage with the community and  play a part in camp life.

“Some of the volunteers are my old friends, some are new friends I have met since arriving,” he says.

“We’re all in it together to assist the camp. In Syria I am a car mechanic, but here in the camp, if I am not volunteering, I’m doing nothing.”

Describing his hopes for the future, Samir says: “Hopefully I will go with my family to a country, any country with a future, that is safe from bombing. In Syria our future is lost, our houses are gone, our work is gone. Nothing remains.”