You have been working as a logistician for Cap Anamur for 15 years now. How did that happen?
It was 1979 and was in the middle of graduating from high school but I can still clearly see the pictures on television in front of me: Cap Anamur was sailing the Elbe and tons of people on dikes were welcoming Vietnamese refugees. It was the time, wen Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Albrecht, who has set the political course for this in his day unique action. I was very touched by that back then and so felt the desire to work for Cap Anamur sometime. However, 23 years passed until my application. But then I went to Afghanistan after only a short application period. Operations in nine more countries followed until today.
How do you provide assistance in a war zone?
This is a very special challenge because there are always different groups with heavily diverging interests. Keeping neutrality is like dancing on a volcano. Suspicion and bureaucratic barriers are put in your way like huge stones before you can even reach the people in need. With time and experience you develop your own concept in order to overcome roadblocks. Most of the time a clear address helps, sometimes barking, sometimes silence but never does paying help – that only leads to further conflicts. After you managed to install a site, when everyone sees what you do, when transparently pursuing your humanitarian interests, then the trust people have in you, your reputation, the acceptance and thus security rise.
What kind of experience has influenced you the most?
The first months were very hard for me. The sparse accommodation and innumerous experiences with strokes of fate of mine victims, seriously ill and dying people have put a strain on me. But in return there are countless positive emotional situations: the laughter of children at their school opening, the spirit and pride of the workers on the construction sites for the hospital, the thankfulness of the population and the new friendships.
Earthquakes, hurricanes, floodings, tsunamis or famines have on thing in common: they affect everyone. This is why a certain social cohesion emerges. Mostly, the journey to get there is already complicated and when you arrived, you are all in this together with these people. You won’t be asked what your political opinion, your religion or clan membership is. Help will be given and people set their hand to the task. These are the goosebumps moments that no one can take from you.