Shadi Shaddeh, a Syrian refugee residing in Switzerland, has mobilized a network of volunteers in Geneva and Lausanne to grocery shop and run errands for the elderly and the sick amidst the pandemic. The network, birthed from started from a series of Whatsapp messages between friends, is currently comprised of 26 volunteers, who have already shopped for a couple hundreds of people in need.
The group continues to grow each day, fueled by its volunteers and their experiences of surviving alienation and great uncertainty as Syrian refugees.
“We lived, and we are still living, a crisis as refugees,” says Shadi Shaddeh, 34, who is originally from Daraa, south of Damascus, and came to Switzerland in 2013. “That probably places us in a better position to understand that there is a crisis and how to help.”
Standing together from a distance
Switzerland, whose population stands at 8.5 million, has over 11,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it one of the 10 most-affected countries worldwide. Although the nations healthcare system lies among the worlds most effective, these unprecedented times casts uncertainty for all, without exception.
“We know what it [means when] a medical system is down,” Shadi admits to the UN Refugee Agency when speaking on the subject. “We know people who died from little injuries because they received no treatment, and we don’t want to reach that [again]. If we stand together now, we will support the medical system.”
Contagion of compassion
Each volunteer works hard to abide to highest levels of hygiene and social distance, by washing their hands thoroughly, wearing protective gloves and masks, disinfecting shopping bags and keeping a distance with those they are delivering to.
Although their movement runs on a small scale, they aim to spark a domino effect. “I support and encourage people to copy this idea and implement it. Everyone can do this. All you have to do is print the flyer and hang it in your building or in the supermarket,” Shadi commends.