The “Heroes in Red” help create a better world for refugees

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Scouts and Guides contributing to refugee support activities in their local communities in Europe (40): a story about the activities run by the Scout Association of Macedonia at the border in Tabanovce (MK)

After thousands of kilometres on the road, in dinghies and boats, in buses and overloaded trains, frequently moving form one means of transport to another, and often walking for days, refugees and migrants “finally” arrive at the border crossing in Tabanovce. Thousands of them, each with their own story, why and how they left home, determined to get to their final destination, which they quite often do not know where it would be.

It is in Tabanovce, where Scouts from Сојуз на извидници на Македонија (SIM), the Scout Association of Macedonia, have been involved in refugee and migrant support activities aver since the flow of people began seeking better futures elsewhere. Quite early, they got organised and formed a special Scout Emergency Team, which coordinates the different support activities.

“With each bottle of water, warm meal, pair of socks we hand to them whilst getting off the train, it felt like giving them strength to go on”, says Milan Petrusevski, one of the Scouts.

Working with volunteers from other organisations, the Scouts are doing everything that is in their power to help the refugees and migrants during their transit through Macedonia in a safe and fast manner.

So far, members of the Scout Emergency Team have provided medical help to refuges and offered moral support. They have put up road signs to direct them towards the border of Serbia, so that the transit is easier and securer. In Tabanovce, the team set up an information desk, where refugees and migrants can find answers to their questions and seek advise. The Scouts helping out at the Info Desk are easily recognisable with their red jackets.

“While preforming our everyday routine, assisting those who come to the food stand, I could not help but notice one of the children hunched nearby. The boy was alone, no one around him and shaking from the cold. I approached him, gave him some food and water. But I could not leave him like that so I gave him my hat and my gloves, too. He whispered something to me, but I couldn’t understand what he said, so one of the older refugees translated it to me. The little kid was thankful for the “heroes in red”, recalled one of the members of the Scout Emergency Team.

In order to ease the refugees’ transit through the country, other Scouts have dedicated their time and help run various activities, such as collecting food, clothes, toiletry articles and toys. Across Macedonia, many local Scout Groups are involved in this type of refugee support activities. They are also helping bringing the collected items to the different distribution centres, through which refugees and migrants pass on their way to the Serbian border.

“These activities demonstrated that both our Scouts and the local communities across the country are ready and willing to support”, comments Viktor Petrusevki, from the Scout Emergency Team, “The biggest reward we get is a “Thank you.” Two small words, uttered with a mild smile, but with eyes full of fear of what has happened, the horror they have lived through and the uncertainty of what might lie in front of them.”

What had started in 2015 for the Scouts of Macedonia as spontaneous organised volunteering in support of refugees and migrants, with a clear focus on logistical and coordination activities, has since become a daily routine. It is all for that one cause: helping to create a better world!

“And as the days go by, the river of refugees keeps on flowing. The cold and rainy days fail to keep us away from our tasks, so we keep on being there: we continue meeting thousands of new faces, brief encounters that leave huge impressions.”

“Sometimes we find the joy and beauty of volunteering in places that cannot be seen with the naked eye. At the end of the day the most important thing is to keep that spark of hope each one of us feels burning and give more reasons to keep it lit.”

(c) Picture and contributing authors: Angjela Nikolikj, Vlatko Kostovski, Сојуз на извидници на Македонија