Arbeiter Samariter Bund Deutschland e.V first arrived in Greece 35 years ago following the devastating Kalamata earthquake of 1986. ASB doctors and emergency staff provided much needed assistance to the citizens of Kalamata, “ASB was probably the best organized group of volunteers who helped the earthquake-stricken Kalamata at the time”, states Stavros Benos, ex-mayor of Kalamata.
Arbeiter Samariter Bund first arrived in Greece 35 years ago following the devastating Kalamata earthquake of 1986. The 1986 Kalamata earthquake struck the southern Peloponnese Region of Greece on September 13th. The earthquake, a 6.2 on the Richter scale had an epicenter located near the coastal city of Kalamata. At least 20 people were killed and approximately 300 injured by the earthquake.
ASB doctors and emergency staff provided much needed assistance to the citizens of Kalamata shortly after the earthquake. The ex-Mayor of Kalamata, Stavros Benos, spoke to us about ASB’s role back then. “… ASB was probably the best-organized group of volunteers who helped the earthquake-stricken Kalamata at the time” he says, adding that “this group were oriented to the here and now” explaining that over six weeks ASB made three consecutive visits where each group used the experience of the previous one. He told us that during the time ASB spent in Kalamata helping the population “the most important of all was the hot food […] the people of Kalamata loved the Samaritans so much […] and of course, it wasn’t just that, they had targeted help for young children, they had targeted assistance in toiletes, in campaign beds, in other words, it was a very human and very effective team”.
The first foreign assignment of the ASB took place in Russia in 1921. Twenty million people were about to starve after the harvests failed and therefore were in urgent of support. Back then the ASB initiated a campaign named “Help for Russia” and sent Samaritans to the affected regions, to give medical assistance but also to provide food and expedient”, ASB Managing director of Emergency Services and Education Ms Edith Wallmeier states.
Today ASB is providing assistance to refugees and migrants in four different Long Term Accommodation sites in Northern Greece, Diavata in Thessaloniki and Katsikas, Filippiada and Agia Eleni in the municipality of Ioannina.
Dr Moses Elisaf, Mayor of Ioannina tells us “that the timeless cooperation of the Municipality of Ioannina with ASB was exemplary. We know very well that ASB has made a significant contribution during all these years, to the connection of beneficiaries of international protection to the social services of the municipality”. Emphasising also ASB’s role during the pandemic Dr Elisaf states that “I must also appreciate the very important cooperation we had during the pandemic trying in every way to limit the spread of the virus among this vulnerable population”.
During the interview Dr Elisaf sends a message to all of us by stating that “those who are different are not our enemy, but rather our fellow fighters in a difficult uphill course” and highlighting “that our obligation as humans is to stand next to those in need”.
Two members of the population, Ms Maryam Sarazi and Mr Mohamed Hussein who both participated in ASBs Non Formal Education programme spoke to us about their experience and benefits from ASBs contribution at their camp. Mohamed Hussein tells us that “If there was no ASB I couldn’t learn the Greek language so fast […] I couldn’t help other people learn the Greek language”, and continues by highlighting the importance of ASBs protection services “I would have to pay for my registration and find lawyers myself”, he tells us. Maryam Sarazi found her participation in the Non Formal Education programme very helpful and shared with us that she and her family have now been given refugee status and are planning to move out of the camp.
Until today the ASB provides emergency and disaster relief, mainly through the Fast Action Unit (FAST), where Samaritans are engaging voluntarily. “ASB’s motto of “We help here and Now” is very important to us and this is what we have been trying to do in Greece for the past 35 years”, Greece Country Director Mr Ljubisa Vrencev states.
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