Volunteering for Refugees in Turkey – How It Started

I guess there is no longer a need to explain what the whole refugee crisis is about, as you all are well aware of it, at least through media bombardment no matter how twisted it may be. Indeed, it is the biggest humanitarian crisis after WWII. Innocent people have fallen victim to this big political ball game, losing their homes, their lives, dignity, sense of belonging, and hope. It is a real crisis no one should turn a blind eye to.

It was midyear 2016. The ripple effect of the crisis that peaked earlier this year was still evident, if not worse. People were still fleeing their homes, crossing seas and continents to seek refuge. Refugee population just kept increasing, but a few borders were closed, refugee camps were evacuated, and humanitarian aid was starting to slow down.  


I had just graduated med school. Excited over the prospects of a "gap year" or "sabbatical" ahead, i was thinking about what i'd like to do. Backpacking round the world had always been a dream, and i was close to doing it, but a new door opened and i changed my plan.

I was talking to a friend one day, who had been to Greece to volunteer at refugee camps. Inspired and moved by her stories from the field, I realized how selfish i had always been, to constantly think about what i wanna do for myself, when not just me, but every single one of us, no matter how small or insignificant we think we are, have the power to give something to society.

Equipped with just a medical degree and truck loads of enthusiasm, i told myself, "This is it. I'm gonna try to be useful. I'm gonna do there and contribute something."

I got in touch with an NGO called Medvint (Medical Volunteers International) which at the time needed doctors to serve refugees in the greater Izmir area in Western Turkey. The co-founder Christiane was kind enough and quick to respond and immediately recruited me into the medical team.



With limited resources in this crisis of tremendous needs, Medvint needed funds for medicines. Not wanting to go there empty-handed, i launched an online fundraiser containing an article i wrote in hope of creating awareness, getting the word out there, and gathering some money for medicines. Quite frankly i wasn't sure if anyone would give a shit but over a few weeks the response i received was incredible. Such an amazing feeling to gain so much support, and to know that people actually do care.





So i packed my bags, along with a heart full of anticipation and optimism to combat every inch of doubt and clueless-ness of the journey ahead.

As much as i was excited over the prospects of gaining new experiences, making a difference, widening my horizons and all that jazz, i was also freaking out. Not because of safety issue, inadequacy of medical experience, or going to a foreign land. But freaking out at the possibility of an experience that may change my life forever.




Will talk about the volunteering experience in the subsequent posts. Stay tuned!

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