General Secretary Trude Jacobsen sums up 2022

Another year has passed by and a new year with blank pages is ahead of us. The year we are leaving behind has been a dramatic year in many ways.

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At the end of February, Russia went to war against Ukraine, which forced millions of people to flee their homes. Many of them crossed the border to Poland and later moved on to other European countries. A Drop in the Ocean had a team present in Poland, near the border to Ukraine, four days after the war broke out. We offered our assistance in handling volunteers and logistics, as well as equipment for local actors.

Together with Internationaler Bund Polska, we established Krakow’s largest distribution center for people who had fled from Ukraine. Only 15 days after the outbreak of the war, we opened the doors to the free shop Szafa Dobra, a large department store where 1,000 people daily could pick up what they needed of necessary clothes and shoes, in a dignified way.

Huge amounts of good clothes were donated to the free shop from inhabitants, shops and factories in Krakow, and nearby regions. In addition to ensuring that people who had fled got what they needed, necessary clothing and supplies were packed and sent to people still inside Ukraine. Hundreds of volunteers have assisted in this work. Many local residents from Krakow, but also many international volunteers who wanted to participate and make a difference.

For A Drop in The Ocean, this was a test of whether, and how, we could handle an emergency situation and quickly put to action the experience, systems and routines we had built up through several years of targeted work elsewhere in Europe. I would say our great teams, both at the head office and abroad, indeed passed the test. Everyone stepped up and gave a little extra to provide quick and good support in a demanding time, and the work in Poland has remained stable and good throughout the year.

In Norway, too, we started supporting people fleeing Ukraine through a new community centre, Ukraina HUB in Oslo, as well as in Tromsø. Ukraina HUB has functioned as a free shop for distribution of necessary clothing and equipment, as well as a gathering place with a cafe, language courses, activity groups, etc. In addition, we have invited a number of other actors to use the HUB for their services.

When we decided to provide assistance in new areas and countries, it was very important for us to ensure that this did not negatively affect existing areas we worked in. The needs are still big for thousands of people in refugee camps in Greece and Bosnia. Actually, perhaps even bigger, as many organizations and donors changed their focus to the conflict receiving the most media coverage.

Many of the previously active organisations in Greece have stopped their work, for many of them due to lack of funding or demanding Greek requirements for the organisations working there. In early 2022, A Drop in the Ocean, after a heavy bureaucratic process which lasted two years, received all the necessary approvals to continue working in the country. This also means that the demand for our assistance has increased, and is needed in more camps.

Throughout the year, we have continued at full strength with laundry for the residents in  Kara Tepe refugee camp on Lesvos, a service which is highly appreciated by the residents who do not have good washing facilities available in the camp. The washing machines run non-stop in our own laundry, where we also assist many other actors, including the medical organisations with washing sheets and blankets etc.

In Athens, at the beginning of 2022, we established a “Community Center” together with One Happy Family. The center is located close to Victoria Square, the area where many people forced to flee have settled. In the centre, A Drop in the Ocean offers English and Greek lessons, as well as computer lessons.

In northern Greece, we are still very active in the refugee camp Nea Kavala, where we have worked in ever since it was established in 2016. In addition to distributing food, clothing and equipment to the residents of the camp, we offer a large range of activities, both for young and old. Our team in Nea Kavala also covers the demand for clothing, food and equipment in another camp in the region, Alexandria refugee camp.

Bosnia Herzegovina has experienced receiving a high number of people fleeing in 2022, and actually even more than those who arrived to Greece. We have been working steadily in the refugee camp Usivak, outside Sarajevo throughout the year. Many people use Bosnia Herzegovina only as a transit country before attempting to enter the EU/Schengen area. The residence time in the camps is therefore extremely short. We know that it is difficult and dangerous to cross the borders to the neighboring countries, and it is expected to become even harder after the neighboring country Croatia has joined Schengen from 1.1. 2023.

Our small administrative staff is located partly in Greece and partly at the head office in Oslo, and has worked steadily with everything that needs to be done from recruitment and personnel follow-up, operational management, necessary reporting, communication work, fundraising and finances.

We expect that the year ahead of us will be challenging, especially since private donors historically have been our main source for funding the projects. We do experience that people are more careful due to higher living costs, and some can no longer prioritize to donate to good causes. We are infinitely grateful to all of you who continue to support our work, either with donations or as volunteers. It truly makes an important difference to people forced to flee. The needs for support are still huge and many drops together may create an ocean of solidarity.

Many companies have shown great generosity and supported our work in the past year. You should know that your support means a lot and help us being able to continue our support for those who need it the most.

To all of you Drops out there, thank you for your support in the past year and we wish you all a happy and healthy 2023.

May the year bring peace and justice in the world to avoid that people are forced to flee their homes.