By Brady Way, 2017-18 president of the Rotary Club of Moorehead City-Lookout, North Carolina, USA
In the winter of 2014, Europe was beginning to experience a massive refugee influx as a result of the turmoil in the Middle East and Africa. Berlin would receive 100,000 of the 1.2 million refugees which came to Germany.
Rotarian Dr. Pia Skarabis-Querfeld went to a refugee shelter with a much needed donation of clothing. She was immediately struck with the urgent need for medical care and medical supplies. The refugees had traveled long distances for several months, in harsh conditions, fleeing many atrocities at home. They had many obvious acute and chronic problems, especially the children.
Despite the excellent healthcare system in Germany there was a clear problem. Some found their path into the healthcare system denied while others simply could not navigate it despite proper credentials.
Dr. Skarabis-Querfeld and her husband, both physicians and Rotarians, began taking care of the needs of the sick at the refugee center. She organized other doctors, nurses, and volunteers into the nonprofit healthcare group “Medizine-Hilfte Flüchtling,” which grew to more than 120 doctors, nurses, and volunteers. They service multiple refugee camps, providing emergency help, primary health care, information campaigns, assistance in navigating through the German healthcare system, networking with other medical facilities, immunizations, and translation services.
When I learned of this effort, my thought was how my club could be of assistance. I contacted Dr. Wilhem Bürklin, president of the Berlin Tiergarten club, and Dr. Skarabis-Querfeld. She drafted a global grant proposal, and we were able to share with many clubs and districts in the U.S. and Europe. With the help of Rotary leaders in my district and in Germany we raised the necessary funds, which when matched by The Rotary Foundation, total $160,000 for the “Medizine-Hilf Flüchtling.” This has included support from clubs and districts in Germany, France, Austria, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico.
While in Berlin, several of us had the opportunity to visit refugee centers. We were able to see the medical clinics and visit with some of the volunteers as well as refugees. To experience their response of thankfulness and heartfelt gratitude was amazing.
Without Dr. Skarabis-Querfeld’s tireless effort and commitment, neither the refugee assistance organization nor the grant would have been possible. Her passion is contagious and has affected others.
This project has been an exciting endeavor. It has shown me what Rotary is about – Service Above Self. We were able to work together across great distances and unite toward one goal. Without Rotary’s connections worldwide and the Foundation this grant would not have been possible.
This crisis will not be over with the end of the grant March 2018. More support will be needed. We will be presenting a breakout session – Improving Germany’s Refugee Camps, One Global Grant at a Time – at the Atlanta Convention at 13:30 (EDT) on 13 June. If you are attending the convention, please drop by Room A402-403 to learn more.