Due to the closed borders of Europe, many refugees, especially from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are stuck in refugee camps on the boarders to Croatia. As these camps were only temporarily made for lay overs on their way to Europe, they were not built to hold many people for a long time.
As Serbia itself is in difficult situation, they try to do their best to feed and shelter the thousands of refugees who are now in Serbia. Many NGOs including Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation do their best to help.
On the 5th of February 2017 Tzu Chi volunteers from 7 different countries arrived in the little border town called Šid. Gathered there they prepare to distribute undergarments, food and tracksuits in three different refugee camps in and surrounding Šid.
This time again Tzu Chi volunteers were joined by young Bosnian participants of the cash-for-work program. Besides being a great help in the distributions, they were also receiving Tzu Chi volunteer training in how to practice Tzu Chi’s humanitarian spirit into daily life.
At the beginning, Tzu Chi volunteers were giving out 7600 undergarments and 1000 casual wear at the refugee camp in Šid. Due to the cold weather many hoped to get their goods as soon as possible, since also young children and the elderly waited for their turn. With help of the local refugee commissariat the distribution went by smoothly. A few days later Tzu Chi volunteers met young girls, who were very happy with the undershirts they received. They even showed the volunteers pictures of them wearing them as tops during a birthday party.
On the next days Tzu Chi volunteers gathered in the Principovac and the Adaševci refugee camp 30 minutes away from Šid. There too undergarments were distributed to the residing people. Tzu Chi volunteers were very happy to see that many refugees were still wearing the jackets they distributed months earlier. Additionally also candy was given to the children there. During the distribution volunteers met many refugees, with each of their own sad stories. Meeting a father whose hand was cut off by Taliban while protecting his sons was just one of the many personal stories which were shared by the refugees.
On the 9th of February Tzu Chi volunteers asked their hotel’s management to borrow their kitchen to cook warm Tzu Chi Nutritional Instant Rice for the people living in Šids refugee camp. This hot meal of rice and vegetables was warm welcomed by the people. Usually with their meals consisting of hard bread and canned fish, the hot meal was received happily by all the refugees. Many children came to take another portion for their families.
During the following day Tzu Chi volunteers drove one hour to a new built refugee camp in Obrenovac with only young men, which were brought in from the streets. Scared of being sent back to their countries, they tried to live under bridges or in abandoned buildings. Local police gathered them in this new refugee camp and offered them a roof to sleep under. Due to the fact that this new refugee camp was an unused military base there is still no kitchen or proper bathing facilities. To help the young people there, the youngest being 9 years old (no parents or family members), Tzu Chi volunteers distributed thick tracksuits. On the next day the volunteers met many of them again, wearing their new clothes already. On meeting Tzu Chi volunteers many of them immediately thanked them for the new clothes as they were comfortable and stylish to wear. They all felt like their own mother had chosen new clothes for them.
Though these humid and dirty tents are their temporary resting place, at least it's better than the discrimination they have faced their entire journey; at least it's safe here.
In order to help provide safe camp for refugees, Tzu Chi has helped put up a fence to ward off danger outside the refugee center. Now it's nearing 80 percent complete.
「The border is at that side, there is a big street, and they were scared the kids were going to run on the streets. So they asked us to build a fence. 」Said by Nathascha Chen, one of Tzu Chi volunteers in Germany.
Tzu Chi also donated a van to refugee committee. The van, which was donated to the Refugees and Migration committee from Tzu Chi, is definitely going to help them get around.
Vladimir Cucic, Commissioner for Refugees & Migration, said that:「It will be a proper shuttle bus, because there is no regular bus line from Principovac to here. So it will be a regular shuttle bus for all those who have to go to the hospital pay a visit to the bank, need some registration or whatever it is, so it's more than useful!
The refugee camps also expect Tzu Chi to assist in the installation of water heaters and dryers for refugee, for the provision of sanitary clothing and underwear to improve refugee health problems.
Tzu Chi provides 4 washing machines and 4 drying machines for refugee camp immediately. In the near future, the water heaters will also be donated to them.
When requests are made by the refugees, Tzu Chi volunteers will always try to provide it for them to the best of their ability, so that these refugees can have a smoother path to safety. Improving refugees' quality of life is Tzu Chi’s wish.
On the last day Tzu Chi volunteers found their way again to Obrenovac to distribute breakfast early in the morning. Since there is still no kitchen in this refugee camp the volunteers needed to organize fresh bread from a bakery for them. Lining up with their eyes still red from the sleep, everybody happily received the bread. A young men’s reaction: “This breakfast is better than all the other days…”
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