Meet the volunteers of Belgrade helping care for refugees in Serbia

Refugee Aid Serbia (RAS) has received volunteers from 40 countries. This is the story of those who decided to make a difference

JHY Belgrade (10 of 12)

Belgrade, Serbia — [MEE] Throughout the summer of 2015, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants have been streaming across Europe. The majority are Syrians escaping the nearly five-year civil war that has ravaged their country and the squalid conditions in refugee camps in neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The most popular route through Europe runs through Belgrade, on the way to the Hungarian border.

When the city’s government said it wouldn’t be providing aid to the new arrivals as they were only “passing through,” local groups decided to step in. A coalition of nine local NGOs, groups and charities formed Refugee Aid Serbia (RAS) in August to mobilise local support. They set up the vibrant aid centre of Milkaliste, around the corner from the public parks where hundreds were sleeping in the open.

Since then, RAS has received overwhelming support from both local residents – who are donating clothes, food and supplies by the box load – as well as donors from all over Europe. Local companies have been contributing services and goods to keep RAS stocked with supplies. The volunteers of Belgrade have rallied to the cause.

Groups of volunteers arrive daily from Sweden, Croatia and elsewhere. Since its founding, RAS has received volunteers from 40 countries. This is the story of some of those volunteers – local and international – who decided to make a difference.

Read the full story at Middle East Eye

Lissette Menendez

JHY Port Lissette (1 of 12)

I came to help because a month or so ago I passed by the park and there were two tents. Then I passed again a few days later and there were 10. Then I saw on TV what the situation was like on the border and thought, “I need to come and help.”

It is all much more organised now. Today there are not too many people, but it’s been really busy this week. We had a plan in place, but we didn’t really know what to expect. We’re improving things little by little. Now, finally, we have a clinic permanently here, and there are the food and drinks handouts too.

I’m getting emails from people all over Europe who have seen us on Facebook, asking to come and help. But for now we are well-stocked with supplies and people, so we are saying people should find areas where there is more need.

Read the full story at Middle East Eye

Alireza Akhondi

JHY Port Alireza (6 of 12)

I am a political adviser for a liberal party in Sweden, but I’m out here as a private person. I have €25,000 in donations with me from my friends, and I also have my own money. I’ve been here nine or 10 days. I had planned to stay one week but I’ve extended my stay another week now. We have a card for the local wholesale market and every day I go and use the money to buy the things we need here.

We are finding projects to set up – we get them running and move on to the next thing. We set up a soup kitchen so we are making hot food and we go to the park and give it out – our last batch yesterday was 11pm so we finished at 1am.

Why am I here? The reason is that I have a son who’s 19 months old. I want to look in his eyes when he’s grown up and say, “OK, I couldn’t save the world but I did my best.” It’s important to always do your best and I’m really happy that I have the donated funds to make a small difference here…[Continue Reading at Middle East Eye]

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Tags: Aid, Belgrade, EU, Europe, freelance, Humanitarian, MEE, Middle East Eye, migrant crisis, refugee, refugees, syria, and volunteer.