In 2015, more than 800 000 refugees came by boat across the Mediterranean to Greece. At that time, it was mainly local Greeks and volunteers who assisted the boat refugees, distributed food, and clothing, and carried out life-saving work. One of those present on the Greek beaches was the mother of five, Trude Jacobsen from Bærum, Norway. What Jacobsen saw and experienced in her meeting with the boat refugees, changed her life radically.

Trude Jacobsen on here way to Lesvos

Shortly after she returned to Norway, Jacobsen established the voluntary humanitarian organisation A Drop in the Ocean, with the help of some good friends. She is currently the Secretary General of the organisation and has been since 2016. The purpose of the organisation was to make it easier for ordinary people, such as Jacobsen, to travel to Greece and assist people forced to flee.  

Time Witnesses 

Jacobsen wanted to coordinate volunteers “on the ground” so that their efforts were as effective, responsible, and sustainable as possible. A Drop in the Ocean sent its first team of 16 volunteer field workers to Lesvos in September 2015 and has since then coordinated more than 7,000 volunteers from 70 countries. Many have described the importance of sharing knowledge about the refugee crisis, by being ‘time witnesses’, and regards this as one of the organisation’s most important tasks. 

Photo: Paul Jeffrey

Change as needed 

A Drop in the Ocean wants to make it easy to support displaced persons, and the voluntary field work of the organisation has changed according to the present humanitarian needs. During the first initial years, A Drop in the Ocean worked mainly in the front line. Field workers scouted for arriving boats, helped the refugees land safely and calmly, and handed out warm clothes, blankets, and drinks. Eventually, the organisation took the responsibility of creating activities for children and distribute food and clothing to displaced persons on the islands and in several places on the mainland. The organisation was quickly assigned key roles inside several official refugee camps on the mainland. Since 2016, volunteer field workers have been responsible for a variety of activities, including language classes and non-formal educational activities, distribution of clothing and food, laundry service, bicycle rental, various activities, and social gatherings for adults and children. 

Photo: A Drop in the Ocean

A Drop in the Ocean collaborates with volunteer field workers, with established aid organisations, different NGO’s and with the Greek authorities. In recent years, A Drop in the Ocean has increasingly focused on the importance of communication and political advocacy. At the organisation’s annual meeting in May 2018, it was decided to add “convey information about the life situation of refugees and migrants” in the organisation’s purpose clause.