Refugee Support Project
Since May 2016, AWB has offered trauma-healing treatments in Greece where over 60,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries live in 50 refugee camps. Many refugees experience significant trauma from war, displacement, dangerous migration, and loss of friends and family. Immigrating to EU countries like Germany is not a possibility for them because they migrated to Greece after the border to the rest of Europe was closed in March 2016. They are stranded in Greece until they receive asylum there, or are likely to be deported back to the Middle East. Greece cannot provide an economic future for them (many Greeks have no work) and deportation can mean death.
AWB is the first organization that we know of that has brought trauma reduction acupuncture to refugee camps in Greece. Our mission is to create as much “capacity” as possible, which is why we are now training Greek acupuncturists to offer treatments. In October and December 2016, AWB trained 20 Greek practitioners who are working in teams to offer treatments twice weekly at the Ritsona and Oinyfyta camps. Since May 2016 AWB has sent eight volunteer teams to Greece.
Moving forward, AWB intends to:
- Create new refugee support clinics in the US. In 2019, we especially intent to build on our trauma-relief project at the Texas/Mexico border in Brownsville, TX, to treat migrants, asylum seekers and community first responders.
- Continue direct service in the refugee camps we are currently working in and expand services to five more camps in mainland Greece.
- Train more Greek acupuncturists to provide treatments. We are supporting them by offering training, transportation and supply stipends.
- Train acupuncturists in European countries such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands who are working with over 1 million resettling refugees.
AWB Treatments in Greek Refugee Camp
AWB Treatments at the Texas/Mexico border, 2019
“When I think of the service work that we do I realize how intimate it is. As I treated the children and their mothers seated on the floor of the tent with a platform floor, I felt energetically intertwined…so aware of the physicality of our treatments…treating the mothers with curious children pulling on my arms and knees to be able to see what I am doing. So much mutual love.
Nour,Shahein, and all the other people in the EKO camp are foreigners here in Greece-just like me. In theory they can leave this place, but they are not free. I can drive away, use my passport and fly back to my home. They have no status here – no connections, family outside the camp, options to get a job or make a choice of where to live…they are essentially in prison. And yet we are similar in almost every other way.”
Ritsona Camp at Night
How to Volunteer with AWB in Greece
AWB has sent eight teams of volunteers from the US, Europe and Israel to provide trauma healing treatments to hundreds of people living in the Ritsona and Oinyfyta refugee camps. We have also trained a core group of Greek acupuncturists to work in the camps each week.
Going forward, we will continue to send volunteer teams to work with our Greek colleagues, and hope to expand our refugee support to additional camps.
If you would like to volunteer for a team trip, here’s what you should know:
- All volunteers must have gone through AWB’s Level 1 OR Level 2 training courses (Healing Community Trauma or How to be a Global Healer).
- Volunteers do not have to be licensed acupuncturists. Acupuncture students, physicians, massage therapists and translators (Farsi and Arabic) are welcome to apply.
- There is a written application for volunteers, followed by an in-person, Skype or Facetime interview.
- Trips are self-funded by volunteers. In addition to airfare, a 10-day trip costs approximately $1,500 including lodging, food, travel-medical insurance, and a $350 volunteer placement fee. This fee covers the cost of supplies, ground transport to and from the camps, and AWB logistical coordination and support. Included in this fee is a year AWB membership.
- You can raise funds for your trip and have your donors contribute through AWB so that their donations are tax-deductible. AWB charges 20 percent of the donation total to cover the costs of accounting and administration.
- Teams usually consist of 3-4 practitioners with a team leader who has worked in the camps and knows the residents and NGOs.
- Lodging and ground transportation to and from the camps is arranged by AWB.
- Working in the camps is challenging – physically, mentally and emotionally. Physical and emotional resilience is required, as well as the ability to work on a team in a chaotic environment.
- Upcoming trips are currently being scheduled for November, January, March and May.
If you would like to apply and/or learn more about volunteering in Greece, please contact Carla Cassler at firstname.lastname@example.org.