Austria is one of the countries where refugees are seeking asylum (almost 90,000 in 2015). ADRA Austria mobilized and is supporting church members across the country in assisting refugees during the long integration process. At least 10 churches in the country have ongoing refugee projects.
One church is renting the empty pastor’s apartment to two refugees from Iran. Another church offers basic education to 25 children two days a week. Nearly every day, donated food from supermarkets is brought to refugee centers together with clothing and other items that may be needed (e.g. furniture or household items). Refugees themselves help at the church, which has a regular flea market for second hand clothing.
Social integration is very important. Church members are organizing social events, assisting families with finding apartments, completing the necessary paperwork, and furnishing apartments. ADRA is helping to support refugees attending German language courses, and some church members are themselves providing language classes for refugees.
Winter was a difficult season for refugees, particularly those who were still on the move. ADRA Bulgaria distributed winterization items such as blankets, shoes and warm clothes to help protect refugees from the cold and associated illnesses.
When the borders were still open and large numbers of refugees were passing through Croatia, ADRA Croatia was active in a refugee camp and a transit admission center. Staff and volunteers distributed essential items, including winter clothing and hygiene kits. They also assisted refugees by providing psychosocial support and charging stations for cell phones.
With the borders closed, ADRA Croatia is still working with around 300 refugees who remain in the country. Activities include awareness raising and sensitization of the local community to the needs and challenges faced by refugees, bringing refugee and local populations together through sporting activities, and refugee excursions. ADRA is also running a library for migrants.
ADRA Dunkerque, a local branch of ADRA France, have been active with refugees in France. They prepare about 400-500 meals on Sundays, and go to the Grande Synthe refugees camp and distribute it among the refugees. They have been supported by volunteers of British churches like Newbold, and also French churches, mainly from the Paris region.
Most refugees attempting to reach Europe from Turkey travelled by boat to the Greek islands. A treacherous journey, there were thousands of tragic deaths at sea. ADRA was one of the NGOs assisting refugees when they arrived on the islands.
When Europe began closing its borders in March 2016, around 50,000 refugees became stranded in camps spread throughout Greece. ADRA has established a presence in the country, focusing its efforts in the area around Katerini in northern Greece. ADRA is leading the humanitarian services in four refugee camps, operating various health, WASH, and supplementary food projects. ADRA is also providing psychosocial support and translation services.
“We want you to save us. We don’t want to stay here.”
ADRA Italy and the Italian Seventh-day Adventist Church are collaborating on a project for refugees from Ghana, who have lived in Italy for several years. This project helps the refugees find agricultural employment in a socially conscious capacity that contributes to Italian society and protects the environment. The project also offers refugees job training, Italian language classes and driving lessons.
ADRA Macedonia staff and volunteers provided winter clothing, food, and hygiene items to refugees at the Greek border. They also provided valuable information to refugees about their onward journey and points of contact with ADRA offices who were assisting refugees further along the Balkan route.
“We just want to continue our journey to live peacefully.” Nura, Iraq
ADRA Montenegro has a project working with Roma women who are refugees from Kosovo. The project involved the recycling of textiles. The women use secondhand clothing to make pillows for cats and clothes for dogs. In addition to traditional sales methods, ADRA Montenegro is planning to make these available for sale online.
Other ADRA offices in the region also have textile recycling projects, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Serbia.
ADRA Romania is a member of several working groups created by the government to address refugee issues. The Church in Romania is also preparing to become actively involved with six regional centers that assist refugees.
ADRA Romania has also dispatched teams of volunteers to Greece – to the island of Lesbos in 2015 and in 2016 to the camps in northern Greece – to offer help where it is most needed.
More than 900,000 refugees passed through Serbia on their journey – as many as 10,000 a day at the peak of the migration. ADRA Serbia was on hand to help provide for the immediate needs of the refugees. This included such delivering services as communication and translation, identifying needs, providing practical information on legal issues, and assistance in the distribution of food, water and hygiene items. ADRA Serbia also provided psycho-social support, mediated between beneficiaries and service providers, advocated for refugee rights, and monitored unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable individuals, referring them to the relevant protection agencies.
ADRA Serbia is still working in a refugee camp in Presevo. ADRA Serbia has also established a Family, Youth and Children’s Corner in Belgrade which serves more than 2000 beneficiaries on a monthly basis. Several translators from Serbia are assisting with ADRA’s response in Greece.
“Every day before I go to work I’m reflecting on what I did yesterday, that even a small thing can make a big difference for them. When they are hugged, they are so grateful for that. They are grateful for a touch, for a smile, for a look of understanding. We were in a queue leading to the refugee registration, when a girl in tears approached me … I gave her a hug and that was enough. No words needed.” Sofija Manjak, a volunteer with ADRA in Serbia.
ADRA Slovenia is one of the leading humanitarian organizations in Slovenia and since 2015, they have been responding to the needs of refugees entering their territory. More than 430,000 people crossed through Slovenia on their way to a safer home and ADRA’s volunteers tried to help them feel like humans again.
ADRA Slovenia has a very strong pool of volunteers who worked in the field every day during the peak of the crisis, where they daily distributed necessary humanitarian items including hygiene packets, food and clothes. Special attention was given to the most vulnerable groups. Volunteers regularly supported mothers and young babies, helped the elderly step off the train, accompanied those in need of medical attention to the doctor and provided wheelchairs for people with disabilities.
Since the closure of the Balkan route, ADRA Slovenia is helping in asylum centers, where they provide hygiene items, clothes, shoes and with vital Slovenian language classes.
“At ADRA Slovenia we appreciate our volunteers – they are the ones who stay in the cold distributing food, warm hats and gloves and they still manage to share smiles with the refugees day after day. They see the homesickness in the eyes of the refugees, they hear their stories and are touched by them.”
Read more of Maja’s story.
Due to ongoing fighting between rebels and governmental forces in eastern Ukraine, more than one million people have been driven from their homes by the conflict, as at 2014. ADRA has been responding to the crisis in Ukraine since May 2014.
ADRA’s Ukrainian Shelter and Winterization Project focused on providing live-saving activities to internally displaced persons (IDPs) to help them survive harsh winter conditions. Activities included the distribution of cash so IDPs could purchase winterization items (including winter clothing, blankets, heaters) to cope with lowering temperatures.
In 2015, ADRA implemented a project to support the economic integration of IDPs. The goal of the project was to improve income generation capacities of IDPs from the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine through programs involving training and consultations on employment, reregistration, recovery of business activities and entrepreneurship.