Rethinking How to Spend Lockdown in a Global Pandemic!

When and how did you first get involved with Global Aid Network? 

One of my childhood friends is now the director of GAiN Spain. He would often tell me about the organisation’s projects, which sparked my interest as I found their work super exciting. My friend often jokes around, telling me that I should work for GAiN Spain! I like the idea that employees fundraise their own salary. It takes a lot of real commitment to do that and shows a true belief in what they’re doing. So I suppose I first got involved with GAiN through my friend and through my own investment in the commitment of their employees. 

What motivated you to become a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) member?

Previously, I had been completing an internship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This involved me giving mental health support to survivors of trauma. At the time I felt frustrated at the huge level of poverty there. I knew how to respond to the psychological consequences of disasters, but I wanted to learn how to respond to the practical needs that come straight after disasters occur. People in those situations need food, a safe place and practical support – not a psychologist straight away. So when my friend spoke about the DART training with me, I thought that this is the perfect opportunity to develop my own practical response to need. 

I am also very excited to be put through difficult situations with high pressure – I’m quite interested to see how well I react. Being a DART member means that I can respond differently at different times, and not just to one appeal! 

What inspired you to join DART’s response to Covid-19 in Camp Moria? 

The whole world has been affected by the corona virus. Things aren’t normal at home and so I think people are more understanding of me responding to this emergency. This mission implied that I would need to take 6 weeks off of work (instead of the usual 4) and because more people can relate to this disaster, it was easier for my employers to allow me the time off to go. 

When lockdown began in the UK, I had time to rethink how I was using my time in London. I thought, well, I’m health and the nature of my job had moved online, so I wasn’t being entirely useful in London. When the ‘Beat Corona, Help Lesbos, appeal came out, I felt that this was exactly what I could be doing with me time – everything just fell into place. By joining this response, I have the chance to go to Lesbos and use this quarantine period to help people. 

I had been preparing to volunteer with Eurorelief in Camp Moria in April, by reading about the situation in camp and praying about it. But this project was cancelled. When this came up, it was perfect timing and I was ready to go! 

You’ve been in quarantine since arriving in Greece over a week ago, how have you spent your time? Have you found this time useful in preparing for the work that you’ll be doing on Lesbos? 

Yes, I’ve had lots of time to prepare. The best thing to do as a team is to build the team spirit. We will be making decisions that are difficult and under time pressure. I am quarantining with two other new team-members – we are the second rotation of the team. So at least it feels like we can prepare as a group (even if not all of us are quarantining together).  

It feels strange quarantining in a nice house with such picturesque surroundings, when I know there is the camp down the road, that is so cramped and unhygienic. This contrast makes me feel very grateful but also quite sad. 

This time also gives us the chance to gather as a team and pray together and discuss how we feel about what is to come. 

How are you feeling about joining GAiN’s response to Covid-19 in just over a week’s time? 

What worried me most was travelling here – it’s a four day journey with many changes! Now that we’re here, it’s difficult to know whether I’m excited or expectant or sad. I am excited to be a part of something that’s bigger than where I was two weeks ago, stuck in lockdown. But there are people suffering and I want to care for them and also learn from them. This trip will be a very big learning opportunity for me, it’s my first time in a refugee camp and I think it’s a hard reality seeing how people live even in Europe.

I would like to come away from this opportunity, being able to help those at home really understand what it’s like in Camp Moria. 

Anais is one of GAiN Worldwide’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) members, who is based in the UK. She has been trained to respond to the psychological consequences of trauma and joined DART to learn how to respond to trauma in a more immediate and tangible way.