Volunteering with us
Working in humanitarian aid means working in an ever-changing environment, meaning that the following description of life working at our clinic is liable to change before your arrival! Nevertheless, it is imperative that you familiarise yourself with the following information before you apply to join us, and again before you arrive on Samos.
Getting used to working in resource-poor settings, and specifically on Samos, means volunteers will have to stay for at least two weeks to be of value. Some volunteers end up extending their stay for several months.
We work six days a week, from Friday through to Wednesday. On Thursdays we are closed. The clinic is open at 7am, and closes when the last patient is seen, usually around 5pm. We try to work in shifts to prevent staff from working very long working hours, but this is not always possible. We ask everyone to be very flexible concerning working times and days off as we are always adapting to different factors. If you are given additional days off, it will normally be at short notice.
A "typical" working day
(Note that for specific roles you should read the blogs at the bottom of Opportunities)
Nurses and medical students generally start seeing patients at 7am, triaging all the patients signed up on our daily lists as quickly as possible. If patients are at the clinic door at 7am, we guarantee to see them that day. It can take up to five hours to triage these patients. Because some of our other services become very busy after 11am, it is very difficult for us to register new patients after around 7:30am, but we make exceptions for young children, serious cases and emergencies. The triage staff decide whether a patient should be seen by a doctor in a longer consultation or whether they can handle the case themselves or with supervision from the reception doctor.
To evaluate the more complex cases doctors start consultations at around 11am, which last around 30 minutes. We have a wound dressing area that runs all day, where several nurses can work alongside each other. The physiotherapists will plan their own appointments with patients throughout the day. The pharmacist will help people coming for a refill of their medication or prescriptions from the hospital. The receptionist coordinates all these processes throughout the day. At the end of the day everyone contributes to the cleaning of the clinic. The day will usually finish around 5pm.
We mostly see common GP complaints such as the flu and other infections, rashes, abdominal pain, gynaecological complaints, musculoskeletal pain, diabetes, hypertension etc. We also see interesting tropical diseases, stress-related symptoms (such as psychosomatic pain, menstruation irregularities and reflux), problems relating to hygiene in the camp (such as rat bites). Some patients have complex chronic problems, sometimes well-advanced due to their previous lack in access to care. Referral opportunities are limited. We see a fair number of patients with mental health problems related to previous trauma’s, for whom referral opportunities are even more limited. Acute sick people overrunning the medical capacities of the clinic can be transferred to the local hospital in Samos through an ambulance. Because of a common misperception that we could help speed-up asylum applications, a number of patients feign or exaggerate their symptoms.
You should be emotionally prepared to deal with consultations on difficult topics. In addition, you should be capable to deal with a certain amount of frustration in your daily work related to working in resource poor settings.
Outside our clinic hours we organise hour-long workshops in other community centres for women regarding health and hygiene. Common topics are sexual health, children‘s diseases, pregnancy, hygiene in the camp.
(Note that for specific roles, including non-medical roles, you should read our Opportunities section)
The team consists of people from different backgrounds. There are doctors from all different specialities, mainly with a general background in general practice, paediatrics, emergency medicine, internal medicine etc. We have many young doctors but we aim to always have senior doctors present.
Our team contains nurses, and generally one physiotherapist and pharmacist, from different backgrounds and in different stages of their career. We also welcome medical students in the final stages of their studies.
Essential to our work is our team of translators: they are the bridge between clinicians and patients. We work both with "community" volunteers (those who are or have been refugees themselves), and "international" volunteers.
We have team meetings every other week to discuss questions, problems, updates and most importantly any ideas you might have to improve the organisation. We alternate this every other week with a meeting for medics to discuss complex cases. Every Tuesday we organise a dinner where volunteers can talk about their highs and lows of the week to connect and support each other with the things we have heard or seen during the week: attendance is completely voluntary, depending on individual needs. Other than that, we often have dinner or drinks together to unload after the long working days.
We have several busy volunteer houses where we try to accommodate as many volunteers as possible. For staying in one of our houses we ask for a small contribution. If these are full or if you prefer having your private space there are many hotels, pensions and AirBnBs available around the city.
When preparing for your stay there are several things to take into account:
If you are not from Europe you may need a visa to do volunteer work in Greece – it is your responsibility to find out what kind of visa you need. Some countries are eligible to volunteer on a tourist visa (90 days) – see the following website for further information: https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/who-needs-schengen-visa/
You will have to cover your own travel expenses to and from Samos. You can choose to travel by plane or ferry. If you are not staying in one of our volunteer houses prepare to pay around 30€ per night.
Other than that prepare to spend about 10€ per day on food. Mobile/data roaming is free in Europe, but if you come from abroad we advise you to buy a cheap prepaid card to access the internet (for example, 15€ with Vodafone).
All volunteers must ensure to have appropriate travel and health insurance. No medical indemnity insurance is provided by Med’EqualiTeam. You are responsible for organising your own medical indemnity coverage and you will be asked to sign a waiver of liability on arrival.
It is highly recommended that your vaccinations are up-to-date (especially Hepatitis A and B, measles and tetanus).
Apart from covering your own expenses you are not asked to contribute financially to the NGO. However, if you would like to fundraise, you are of course welcome to do so! You can choose to donate funds directly to the NGO through our donate page, gather medical supplies at home, or buy supplies once arrived in Greece. We keep a list of medication we are in need of, contact us if you want to know what is most useful to bring!
You must be capable of working long hours in a setting that is chaotic, stressful and emotionally demanding.