Volunteer Story

Volunteer Story

My name is Joshua Gordon, currently a postgraduate student at the University College London (UCL) in International Public Policy. I am passionate about all things political and making a difference in individual people’s lives. In my downtime, I enjoy the outdoors, traveling and experiencing different cultures and learning about the history.

I wanted to see for myself the personal stories of refugees, the conditions of the camps and learn from the local experts without any political bias. Stepping away from the political golf ball used to discuss refugees in the West, I wanted to develop an accurate picture of the harsh reality for refugees.

Macedonia has a unique geographical location, as an entry point to central Europe from Greece and Turkey, and with that a route for refugees fleeing conflict zone areas to relative safety. I was keen to understand how one of the economically poorest countries in Europe handled the crisis, what international support was given and how effective that support was.

I remember taking the trip to the small town of Gevgelija, a few kilometres from the border of Greece. My first impressions were that the camp was situated in the middle of nowhere, segregated from the locals and guarded by police. Once entering I saw logos of International Organisations such as the UNHCR, The European Union, and the British Red Cross, I began to understand the role of each.

In the height of the crisis thousands of refugees were passing the camp on a daily basis, today a small number remain, I could only imagine what the situation was like then. I was still perplexed by the stories of the refugees that remained, one man, a qualified engineer, fluent in German being held away from his family now based in Germany, for what reason? Only children being taught English, limited skills being taught to help refugees integrate into society.

The closure of the Balkan route, was a political decision that effectively made the situation worse, the question I was continuously asking was what did they expect to happen? This decision gave rise to human trafficking, dangerous routes, and exploitation. The truth is that politics will play a vital role limiting the effects of displacement, but what I was most encouraged by with my time at Legis was extraordinary people. People willing to give their time to make a significant impact, I met with Il Pulmino Verde, an organisation of Italian students seeking to tell the human story of refugees and Yves, a French teacher volunteering at refugee camps around Europe teaching the arts and crafts. I very much hope to stay in contact with Legis and the wonderful work that they do to support the most vulnerable people in the world.

By:

Joshua Gordon