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Covid-19 update from Northern Lights Aid

How is Covid-19 affecting your work?

Covid-19 has forced us to close our operations and the volunteer team has been sent home. We are based and work outside of the camp and when movement in and out of camps was restricted, people could no longer get to our services or group activities. We still have a field coordinator on the ground, and together with camp resident volunteers and in collaboration with camp managers (IOM), we make sure that our most urgent services are still being provided, sometimes in new ways. We are supporting and encouraging best practice to help avoid the virus spreading. For example, we continue to support unregistered cases with food or other essential items such as baby milk. We have distributed supermarket gift cards instead of our usual diapers distribution, to cover 6 weeks worth of diapers since camp residents are allowed to go to the supermarket. We prepare emergency packages to deliver in certain cases when asked by our partners, this includes clothes, medical treatment, and hygiene items. Before the full lock down, we delivered our sewing machines to our tailoring team in the camp to create fabric face masks which have now be given to all families, along with soap and information about the best hygiene practices and use of face masks. On a less urgent note, our sewing machines can usually be borrowed from NLA for 24hr by camp residents. This service is now available from the camp, through one of our camp resident volunteer.

What does your current day-to-day look like?

Well, in the field there is not much of a routine. As the only "international team member" left in the field, and since camp residents volunteers can't visit NLA, it involves a lot of solitary work. I go almost daily to NLA, even if it is just to work on my computer and do much needed admin. When I'm there, I also prepare emergency packages or do some storage and garden maintenance work, keeping in mind that one day we will reopen! I also sometimes welcome people in the store, when referred to us by our partners, but the schedule is organized for only one person to come at a time, to receive what they need and go. When we organize distribution in the camp, I deliver the material at the camp gate to our residents volunteers and they do the rest, following distribution guidelines, they are so efficient and amazing. They also do a great job reporting "issues from the camp" or vulnerable situations we may not be aware of and how to help them within the circumstances. Other than that I work from home which means a lot of computer work, online training and skype calls. We recently elected 4 new amazing volunteer board members, remotely based, and we take advantage of this time to support them in their new role, doing handover etc.

NLA is also working from abroad! Our amazing team of volunteers and our board is still very much involved. First, they are working daily on continuing the English classes for adults online. Weekly, each of our 5 levels receive 2 video lessons and some opportunity for self practice, through homework and worksheets. Then, our HR, communication, and fundraising team is still very active, trying to plan the next steps and keeping our former and future volunteers well informed. Finally, the whole NLA team is really good at checking each other, making sure everyone is coping with the situation as well as possible!

How do you think it will affect the project long-term?

I have a lot of concerns for the future. First, I worry that we will be allowed to reopen our services, based on national regulations, but that international flights will be banned for longer and that we will have no volunteers for a much longer period, which will prevent us from providing much needed services. I also worry that people will feel worried to be in closed spaces with other people or to attend group activities long after the "crisis is over". Also, since we work with international people, I will need to be mindful, about volunteers travelling to Greece and carrying the virus "back" to their home countries. All these fears, even if some might be irrational, I think, will affect our work and "peace of mind", at least mid term. In addition, I also worry about fundraising as people's attention was completely drawn from the situation in Greece to the pandemic, I'm afraid funding will be hard to find afterwards as it is during the pandemic .

Finally, when things will go back to "normal" there will be many needs that weren't taken care of during the crisis, or situations that have been "on hold" that will restart all at the same time. I think we may also realize that this lock-down has affected vulnerable people in terrible ways and that some abuses were committed because of this "force majeure", and "public health reasons" while people were looking elsewhere. I think the effects of this on people will have long lasting effects. For NLA it also means a lot of situations to support at the same time which will all be of equal importance. For example, this means a lot of people will have to visit the asylum office which is closed for now, something we support them with (with transportation), people will be evicted from camps, lose their cash support etc. I'm afraid we won't be able financially and workforce wise to support all these people because of what I explained before and that it will result in many difficult personal situations.



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