Essam Daod

Refugees’ rights
Humanity Crew

Essam Daod is a Palestinian doctor and founder of the Humanity Crew organization, an organization that coordinates efforts and offers urgent professional help to refugees arriving in the Greek islands to contribute to their recovery. He also has psychologists and social workers who speak Arabic to accompany and support families of refugees, especially the most vulnerable refugees who have lost family members or loved ones during this tough experience.

In October 2015, Essam Daod received an email requesting voluntary doctors who spoke Arabic to participate in a humanitarian mission to Greece. Essam, who after finishing his studies in medicine, specialized in surgery and, subsequently, in psychiatry, thought that he fitted in the profile. He called his wife, Maria, to tell her that he was leaving. She, a lawyer, replied that she was going to accompany him.

In November, The NGO Humanity Crew was born. After a month of voluntary work in Lesbos, Essam and Maria had understood that “something lacked” in the attention to refugees. Everyone was very busy in meeting their immediate and urgent needs, but nobody gave them any other type of support. “Nobody spoke to them, hugged them and asked them: how do you feel?” Explains Essam. Since then, Humanity Crew provides medical and psychological assistance to refugees arriving in Greece. The NGO works both on the island of Lesbos and in the north of Greece, in the area of Thessaloniki. In addition, it offers online support, both for crisis intervention and for case tracking.

Interview with Essam Daod

What is your day-to-day life like as a volunteer?

Although there is much suffering, and sometimes death, there is also happiness. It’s real happiness, a feeling you experience for the first time in a situation like this. Through the daily routine, you begin to meet yourself and explore new feelings, deep and true, that you have to learn to manage.

What do you think of the EU’s response to the refugee crisis?

It is clear that the institutional response is shameful. Everyone is aware of it, even the authorities themselves. However, it is necessary to differentiate institutions from people. In this crisis, the people of Europe, the individuals, are being incredible. Their actions and their willingness to help and welcome others are very human and reflect a vital attitude.

In recent times, you have experienced very difficult situations.

I remember a 12-year-old girl, I can’t say why her in particular. I saw her lying on the beach, under a tree, wearing beautiful clothes and the fake life preserver the traffickers had given her. The weather was fine, and the sun shone on her face. She looked alive, but she was dead. I looked at her and didn’t know what to do. I would have asked her many questions: who she was, where her parents were, what had happened to her. I wanted someone to take pictures of it so her story could be told. Maybe we could find her parents or a relative, and she could be buried in Syria. I took her to my car. It drove me crazy not knowing what would become of her. This creature had a name, a future… It broke me, it really broke me. Now she’s always with me – it’s something I have to live with. Why wasn’t he there when her boat sank? Why didn’t I have enough gear? I was feeling so guilty.

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