When I left Bosnia in 2020 - after spending 5 months volunteering in Calais, Serbia and Bosnia - I wanted to stay involved in the sector, but volunteering in the field isn't possible full time. So I searched for something that I could do remotely. More than three years later, Are You Syrious is still part of my life.
Are You Syrious is based in Zagreb, Croatia, and like many organisations that still work today, it started in response to people fleeing the war in Syria in 2015. Hence the nifty play on words. The News Digest was a way for different groups of people helping in different countries on the so-called Balkan Route to communicate and stay informed with what people needed, where people were still needed to help out and for people-on-the-move to know where they could find practical support.
- On the ground, practical support for people in Croatia. This includes a free shop where people can come and find clothes, shoes, toiletries and much more as well as language lessons.
- Advocacy work, campaigning for change on a local, national and Europe level.
- The Info Team. We collect information from groups and news agencies concerning all of the EU external borders. This is published three times a week as the News Digest.
I started as a volunteer editor. This means that I used information gathered by someone else and formulate it into digestible sections. The format is always the same: a feature, followed by news from Search and Rescue vessels in the Mediterranean and Aegean oceans and around the Canary islands, then news organised by country. Next comes EU policy and Europe-wide news. At the end is a Worth Reading/Listening section of longer articles or podcasts perhaps about migration in countries outside of Europe.
Back in 2020 the Digest was published every day, with a Special released on Sundays. Due to a reduction in the number of people volunteering, we’re now down to three times per week, plus monthly Specials. Most volunteers commit around three hours a week and pick which day suits them. Since the team has got smaller, I have taken on more responsibility and now co-ordinate the rota, organise meetings, make social media posts and try to recruit new volunteers. For this I now receive a stipend, and I continue to write or gather information as a volunteer.
What I’ve learnt during my time with AYS is that change is slow. The situation for people fleeing war and persecution has only worsened in many places, overt racism is evident in how people from different countries are treated, the warm welcome and special treatment of refugees from Ukraine being the most obvious.
But there are some successes, the opposition to the Rwanda scheme, individuals who thrive in their new countries. Most of the time, it’s depressing. Reading, digesting illegal and inhumane acts against people in need takes an emotional toll on me every time I write. The reason I continue is that nothing will change if no-one is looking and holding others to account. We will continue to write about every shipwreck, every pushback, every abuse of human rights that we can, in the hope that the lives of some people are somewhat improved.
How you can help
You can read the latest News Digest at our page on Medium where you can also subscribe to get it sent straight to your inbox.
You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Join the team!
Can you spare around three hours a week? We are always interested in hearing from people who want to volunteer. The three different roles available are info gatherers who search for information, editors who write the news and publish the article and proofreaders who check the English of the finished product. Alongside this, we have meetings to chat about new ideas, potential topics for Specials and to keep in touch. Full training is provided as well as regular workshops from professionals in our field. Please get in touch via the contact form if you want further information.
Do you think it’s important to keep updated about these topics? How could the Digest be improved? Comment below!