Tea for 6,000 refugees a day in Croatia

Renato Seifert from Vukovar, Croatia, has been volunteering with Caritas Croatia for five years and started working in Opatovac in September. Here, he shares his experiences of helping the refugees.

Renato Seifert (blue hat), a volunteer with Caritas Croatia working in Opatovac refugee camp. Credit: Meabh Smith/Trocaire/Caritas

Renato Seifert (blue hat), a volunteer with Caritas Croatia working in Opatovac refugee camp. Credit: Meabh Smith/Trocaire/Caritas

“I started working here on the 15 September, when Hungary closed the border with Croatia. I volunteered last year to help during the floods and I wanted to help people again.

“On the first day when Hungary closed the border, we slept here in the warehouse and stayed awake for three days. We had no time to sleep. I was standing all day and drinking lots of caffeine to keep going. We had to plan the logistics for distributing food, clothes and blankets. There were many people coming all at once at short notice. It was chaotic. Now the camp is very organised and established.

“I make tea for the entire camp, 4,000 litres a day and I help wherever else I’m needed because the situation changes from one second to another. We’re expecting another 12,000 people at the weekend.

“What has most shocked me is seeing children rained on with no shoes. One night it was cold and rainy here in the middle of the night and I heard a child crying, a little girl, maybe four or five years old. She had no shoes and socks, was covered in mud and had lost her parents.

“We washed her and when we cleaned her feet they were covered in cuts and scars from walking. This is the worst thing I have seen. It was night-time in bad weather. I got her socks and shoes and found her parents.

“Another day parents came to the camp with a paraplegic child. They had carried the child all the way here. I carried the child for them into the camp. I was very sad, but I was glad that I could help them. We carried him for 1.5 km to get him to the medical tent. We got a stretcher for him and medical care.

“The Syrian people are very kind and polite. I really hope that the refugees arrive safe and sound to where they want to go, but I also hope that one day they can go home, because there is no place like home.”

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