General Secretary Trude Jacobsen sums up 2023

Dear all Drops!
We are putting a demanding year behind us with the escalation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and horrific attacks against the people of occupied Gaza. The world is witnessing war crimes where civilians and especially children are punished for terrorist acts by adults.

In Greece, we have noticed a large increase in people fleeing from Palestine, but also from Syria and Iraq. Many of these have temporarily stayed in neighboring countries, but increasing threats to return to areas where they are still not safe are forcing them to flee once again.

Unfortunately, more and more people are being forced to flee each year, and with more wars and conflicts, as well as climate change, this trend does not appear to be reversing anytime soon.

The year that has passed has undoubtedly been a journey filled with challenges and many needs that had to be met in order to give people on the run a slightly better everyday life. A total of 91,260 visitors have used our services in Greece, Poland and Bosnia Herzegovina in the past year!

In 2023, we have made several strategic choices. In March, we handed over our activities in Poland to our Polish partner Internationale Bund Polska. With changed needs for the Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, and with a solid establishment of our joint projects in the city, they were ready to take the work forward on their own. We are incredibly grateful for the cooperation, the joint development and for everything we were able to do for refugees from Ukraine who came to Krakow.

In June 2023, we had to make the difficult decision to end our work in the Usivac camp in Bosnia Herzegovina. The decision was made on the basis of falling income, but also because we considered that actors present in the camp would be able to continue meeting the residents` basic needs.

These changes meant that we could focus fully on our work in Greece, where the situation has been demanding and the needs have increased during the past year.

It is frustrating to witness that the situation for those in need of protection, has not changed much since we started 8.5 years ago. Thousands of people still set out in boats and dinghies not suitable for transporting people. Their fate and future are placed in the hands of cynical human traffickers. When they arrive in Europe, they still encounter a continent that is unable to deal with those in need of protection in a dignified manner. Overcrowded refugee camps and lack of basic facilities are proof of that.

In June, around 500 people drowned while fleeing in one of Europe’s largest shipwrecks in recent times. Many of these were children. The incident was quickly forgotten in the media, as 5 billionaires in a sunken submarine quickly attracted greater news value. Through our work, we had direct contact with some of the survivors who had lost their loved ones.

A Drop in the Ocean has been present on Lesvos, in Athens and in northern Greece since the refugee camps there were first established. As we have the approval of the Greek authorities, we are often being asked to do even more and contribute in more places where the needs are critical. We have highly competent and skilled staff who work well together, both operationally and administratively, and across locations. Most have been with us for years now.

The volunteers still count for a very important part of the workforce in all the places we contribute. The resident volunteers who live in the camps themselves holds a capacity that is absolutely invaluable to the work. They have a lot of expertise that is needed within language, culture and security assessments. In the past year, the volunteers in the camps have therefore become even more involved in needs assessments and decisions. We also have international volunteers and interns working with us. They are an important outward voice as time witnesses to a situation the world needs to know more about.

At the end of 2023, there was nevertheless a constantly looming challenge, which also places a limitation on our work; economy. The reduction in donations that started in 2022 has continued throughout 2023. We have spoken to many donors who have supported the work for several years, who unfortunately have to take a break due to personal financial challenges with increased loan interest and increased living costs. After the war started against the occupied territories in Gaza in October, we and other actors experienced a complete stop in donations for work in the refugee camps in Greece. It is becoming increasingly important to have long-term and stable financing.

In the last year, we have already cut where we could. In Greece, we have nevertheless succeeded in continuing/expanding all programs and activities. We have managed to wash 111,174 kg of clothes for those living in the camp on Lesvos. This achievement says a lot about the focus everyone in the organization has on getting the most out of the funds we have at our disposal.

Collaboration has become increasingly important in the past year, and we have a close collaboration with many of the actors in the refugee camps. As organizations have had to close down their work in Greece, the few that remain have had to work closer and smarter to cover needs. In 2023, we were granted financial support for two bilateral projects with Greek organizations through EEA grants.

The artist Trygve Skaug has been an important supporter also during the past year. He came with us to Kara Tepe camp on Lesvos where he got to meet our team inside the camp and at the laundry, where he also performed a live streaming concert. The experiences from the refugee camp were also conveyed in his Christmas booklet and during his Christmas tour in Norway.

This summer it will be 9 years since Dråpen i Havet started an urgent initiative to remedy the explosive increase in people fleeing to Europe. It is thanks to all of you, dear Drops, volunteers, employees and supporters that this has been possible. Together we have shown that even in the most challenging moments, a drop in the ocean can create waves of hope and change. We will do everything we can to continue with that.

We look ahead to 2024 with optimism and courage, but also with realism. We are completely dependent on increased support, to be able to continue helping people fleeing wars and conflicts. It is easy to feel demotivated with all the crisis we face everywhere, but it is important to remember that all small, good actions help create a better world.

Our biggest wishes for 2024 are that the year comes with increased solidarity, end of wars and conflicts and big steps towards our common goal of providing worthy support and hope to those who need it most.

Take care of each other and our common earth. Happy New Year to you all!

With warm regards,

Trude Jacobsen, secretary general Dråpen i Havet