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Story Time: Volunteering in the European Refugee Crisis

In this heartfelt blog post, we delve into the inspiring journey of one of our volunteers, Catherine (Cat) Hill, who dedicated her time to making a difference in the European refugee crisis.

Guided by the profound mission of Indigo Volunteers, Catherine shares her transformative experience volunteering with our partner InterEuropean Humanitarian Aid Association (IHA), in northern Greece. Through Indigo Volunteers' tireless efforts, Catherine found an organisation that fit her values and needed her skills, and that was committed to supporting refugees.

"[IHA] have a Community Centre in the village of Lagadikia which supports the nearby camp and a warehouse near the shareflat in Diavata. The IHA Warehouse is partnered with eight organisations and delivers basic needs (food, clothing, and hygiene) to twelve camps. I discovered IHA through Indigo Volunteers, an amazing organisation that finds a volunteering program catered to you." - Catherine

Doing Impactful Work with IHA

During her five-week volunteering stint, Catherine engaged in crucial roles as a child carer and English teacher. However, this experience went beyond imparting knowledge; it unveiled the immense resilience and courage of the visitors at IHA's Community Centre. Her interactions with refugees shattered preconceived notions and emphasised the significance of acceptance without the need to understand people's past.

"One morning at the Centre, I commented on how smiley one of the visitors was that day. While continuing to stir his coffee as though we were talking about the weather, he responded that it's the only option; he, and the others, have to stay positive in order to make it out alive." - Catherine

Changing Perspectives

Embracing Indigo Volunteers' approach, Catherine learned to use inclusive and responsible terminology, addressing people on the move (POM) with utmost respect. Understanding the complexities of asylum seekers, refugees, and individuals with Subsidiary Protection allowed her to offer tailored support to those seeking aid.

Volunteering Amidst Challenges

Volunteering in this crisis was not without challenges. Catherine witnessed the perseverance of fellow volunteers despite the potential criminalisation of their efforts to assist refugees. The dedication to search and rescue, food distribution, and advocacy showcased the indomitable spirit of humanity.

"In addition to search and rescue, distributing food and water, and advocacy can also be criminalised due to the undefined law against ‘assisting’ POMs." - Catherine

The story of volunteering with Indigo Volunteers and IHA is a testament to the power of compassion and collective action.

Guided by Indigo's responsible volunteering approach and comprehensive support, Catherine was part of a transformative mission that went beyond volunteering, into a global movement. It instilled a profound sense of responsibility towards creating positive change and supporting displaced populations. As Catherine reflects on her journey, she is reminded that true transformation lies not only in alleviating immediate symptoms but in advocating for systemic reform to ensure a brighter future for refugees.

"While I acknowledge the crucial role of volunteering, it is frustrating to realise that aid can only alleviate the symptoms of the asylum system, and that only through law reform can we change the system." - Catherine

If you'd like to support Indigo and keep our work alive, contribute to our Emergency Fundraiser.

Read her full blog post here.


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