Samantha Mangovski is from New York, but has Macedonian roots. She was part of an internship program for Macedonian diaspora with partner organization Macedonia 2025. She shares her Project HOPE experiences here.
During my day spent with the Project HOPE volunteers in Tabanovce, Macedonia, I learned that they provide more than just medical care.
On the morning of Aug. 9, 2016, I was preparing myself for a day spent in a transit center observing medical staff receiving and caring for displaced refugees from Syria. What I found was a lot more.
The first face I saw that day was of Aleksandar Jordanovski, a Project HOPE volunteer, as he beckoned me to the vehicle we would share. On our 45 minute drive from the heart of Skopje to the Tabanovce Transit Center near Kumonovo, I waited in the car as he made a stop around 8:30 in the morning.
As he opened the door to get back in the vehicle I noticed he carried what appeared to be a whole cooked chicken. As I joked with him about being overzealous for lunch, he revealed to me that actually the food item was not for him, but for one of the refugees. He then divulged a story of a man he had befriended who arrived at the camp after four days and nights of walking. The man had been separated from his wife who was prayerfully awaiting his arrival in Germany. This man also had four children whose whereabouts Aleksandar did not know.
Aleksandar stated this man had walked straight through Greece without stopping or resting for four days and nights consecutively. When he arrived at the center his feet were largely swollen. He was hungry and exhausted. Within the days to come, Aleksandar took the man into the city to see an ophthalmologist as the man needed glasses. He also makes a point to bring him his favorite foods from outside the transit center. Sometimes something as simple as a familiar meal is enough to provide a hint of normalcy when everything around you is unfamiliar.
For the refugees who have traveled far and wide on foot,
with and without shoes, in the rain and heat,
who have gone weeks without a hot bath or decent meal,
Project HOPE volunteers give more than just medical care.
They offer pieces of humanity.
As I was walking back to the ambulance I saw a male refugee exit the small facility. I politely asked if everything was alright when Angela Trposka, the resident doctor in the Tabanovce Transit Center, stated the gentleman suffered from depression and wanted to talk. I realized in that moment that when a crisis of this scale occurs the attention is naturally placed on treating physical health ailments first. I personally had forgotten the victims would require emotional support as well. But not Angela. In addition to her constant presence there to provide medical attention to the refugees, she also takes time out of her day to sit privately with individuals about emotional issues, depression and grief concerning the abrupt life change they experienced.
Throughout my day I witnessed acts of kindness that were not required of the volunteers, but given freely. For the refugees who have traveled far and wide on foot, with and without shoes, in the rain, and heat, who have gone weeks without a hot bath or decent meal, Project HOPE volunteers give more than just medical care. They offer pieces of humanity.
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