Since March 2022, with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, and hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into Romanian through the border at Siret, AMURTEL Romania has had a team on the ground.
Melinda Endrefy, our professional emergency psychologist, with her big friendly stuffed monkey, Oscar made the rounds daily of all of the tents looking for refugees that needed a quick or sometimes complex intervention. They have become well-loved by all present at the border.
My friend, Maria Andries from the Libertate national newspaper came with Dumitru Angelescu, the photographer, and made this wonderful article about our work there.
Here is a short excerpt, the full article can be found here, and includes a video in english at the start:
Siret Customs volunteers are preparing for new waves of refugees from Ukraine
“Oscar is a big stuffed monkey who makes the children passing through Siret Customs laugh these days. “Adults cry when they see him. I didn’t understand why, so I asked a Ukrainian mother. He replied that he was impressed that we were doing our best to make their children smile again. He hugged me “, says Melinda Endrefy, emergency psychologist at AMURTEL Romania.
When he is not amusing the children, Oscar sits in the office container where all the work of the Siret Customs volunteers is coordinated. After the first chaotic days, NGOs, volunteers, firefighters, and police began to work as an organised team. Access to customs has been restricted and police have formed filters on the roads so that only those with special badges are allowed to enter. “This was needed because refugees are vulnerable to human trafficking,” said Didi Deshaies, president of AMURTEL Romania.
Melinda is Romanian, Didi is American. In times of peace, AMURTEL Romania cares for disadvantaged children. “But I have volunteered in other countries in crisis situations. In Haiti and Lebanon, for example, “said Didi. “I told a Danish friend what was going on in Siret. The day after we spoke, he was on a plane and arrived here.”
As it turned out, Karl Johan Andersson, an IT professional by profession and a yogic monk by vocation, decided that a website was needed for ensuring good communication between the stakeholders present. “We looked at him, with his white beard, like a gentle Santa Claus. He told us that he needed a few hours to make the site,” recalls an ISU employee at Siret Customs. “We told him: maybe a few days, not a few hours! In the evening, the siret.help website was ready. ”
The siret.help site has six versions, in Romanian, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Polish. It contains a map of customs, useful telephone numbers for various situations, a list of services that refugees can benefit from, instructions for volunteers, and other necessary information for both those who help and those who are helped.