Volunteer Story

My name is David Jordan and I have been volunteering with migrants and refugees along the Balkan route for ten months. I have spent time in Greece, Serbia, and Macedonia volunteering both inside official camps and with those who prefer irregular migration outside official camps.

When I am not working with migrants/refugees I am cycling long distance with my girlfriend! Currently, we are on a tour through Europe, Turkey, and Central Asia. We travel with our bicycles from place to place, and we stop to work or volunteer along the way.

I have a keen interest in social sciences with a degree in political science and anthropology. During my studies, I performed an ethnography of homeless populations around the city of Montreal Canada. During the study, I developed an interest to work with vulnerable people; after my interactions with not only the homeless, but also the social service groups who support them. During my bicycle trip, I decided to volunteer with migrants/refugees and apply anthropological knowledge to the current migration situation.

I began my work with migrants in Northern Serbia near the Hungarian border during fall 2016. I joined some NGOs and the Serbian Red Cross as a volunteer. Daily, I assisted hundreds of migrants sleeping rough in precarious conditions and below zero weather until spring 2017. On the ground every day with migrants, in these terrible circumstances, enhanced my perception of the migrant crisis and I felt that I needed to be there to continue the supportive efforts. When spring 2017 arrived with satisfactorily weather, I jumped on my bike and continued south towards Macedonia with Legis as the next destination.

I found out about Legis by word of mouth. In this region, humanitarian actors have good communication with each other and they share information about the current migration situation. I met a couple of Legis employees who visited Northern Serbia to check out the situation while I was volunteering there. When I arrived to Skopje they kindly invited me over for an interview and I began to volunteer shortly thereafter.

Volunteering at the camp is an unforgettable memory. I made friends with other aid workers and migrants whom I will have contact with for the rest of my life.

It's a pleasure for me to volunteer with migrants whenever I am granted an opportunity to do so. I enjoy hearing their stories and helping them with whatever I can. I find pleasure in helping those who are vulnerable. Ideally, I aspire to have a career in humanitarian relief. The lessons I learned from my time at Legis will help me to succeed as a professional humanitarian worker.

Bringing positive energy and lifting spirits to vulnerable people who are stuck in horrific situations is one key element of humanitarian activity. One day, we had a group of humanitarian colleagues from “clowns without borders” who came to the camp. They performed circus acts and skits for the children and everyone (including the adults) really loved it. It was great to see everyone at the camp smiling and laughing with the silly clowns. I will never forget the joyous expressions on everyone’s face that day.

I recommend volunteering with refugees/migrants to anyone and I recommend doing it for at least one month. One month or more allows for one to efficiently build relationships/trust with migrating people, in conjunction with, the development of a holistic perspective on the migration situation. Legis is an excellent organization with a great team of people committed to helping refugees/migrants. They’re on the ground every day; helping those that are less fortunate. It’s a good place to learn more about the migration situation along the Balkan route.

I am also a type of migrant and I am aware of the difficulties one faces while transitioning from region to region. I am not pushed from my place of origin due to poverty, environmental disaster, or war. Nor am I pulled away in search of a better life with greater economic opportunities. Rather, I migrate because I have a choice; because I come from a place where the economic, political, and social climate is calm and stable. I feel that migrating people, regardless of who they are, need protection and assistance, until they reach their final destination. NGOs like Legis are providing these precise components for the populations whom they are assisting.

By: David Jordan