Civic Imagination

The doctors' team of the Aegean sea

The story is about a team of volunteers and doctors, who cross the Aegean Sea in Greece, with their 11 inflatable boats and their one ambulance- boat, in order to reach border islands and help the people in any way the can, mostly by examining them medically. They do this once a year, for the last 20 years, starting from 1995, while in this period they have medically examined more than 25.000 people. Over the years, they have created an nonprofit nongovernmental organization in order to plan in a better way their missions. In Greece, the boarder islands are really cut off and separated by the mainland Greece, due to their huge amount and the lack of proper transportation as they ferry reaches the boarder island once a week. In this way, their work is very important because they substitute the Greek state in several cases, due to the lack of hospitals and medical facilities. Actually, they are filling an existing gap, saving the lives of thousands of people, improving in the same time the quality of life of those people. The team is composed by 60 volunteers, while 25 of them are doctors. They travel to about six or seven boarder islands at a time, staying two or three days at each island. Their trip is about 500 miles in the sea per year. The teams carry medicine to the local communities, they bring computers and books to the schools, and they help the locals to build desalination projects.

As a member of the sailing club in the other side of Greece, I first heard about their actions by one of my instructors, who had met them. One year later, there was a reportage by a channel in the Greek television, showing part of their trips and their work. There were also interviews of the members, as well as interviews of the local communities and the local authorities, who were speaking very emotionally about the work of that team. Comparing to who I was then and now, this story has still the same huge affect on me, as it is an existing example, proving that people can help their fellow citizens, overcoming very serious issues, like the sea or the weather. In Greece many people know about their actions, but the story could be even more broadly known, so as to strengthen their efforts through some possible donations. My love about the sea, as well as my constant interest to help other people connects me strongly with that story. I have spoken about this story several times with my friends or at lectures and academic courses, as I strongly believe that they example has to be shown, and even more volunteers could help them to turn their vision into reality, which they already do for the past 20 years. What is more, they have proved that they do what they do, only because of their own moral principles, while they do not care at all about the money or publicity. At the end, the moral satisfaction is what they get in return for their efforts, while they have to try hard, as they leave behind their families and their homes. This five hundred miles sea trip that they do every year, helps them remain humans that care about the others, humans that are making every single year their childhood dreams come true.

This story is truly inspirational and motivational, especially for young volunteers and young doctors to participate. Since the start back in 1995, the team has gone bigger and bigger, and still it has space for others. Actually, in my conversations with other people, we have found the huge impact it had and still has on local communities on boarder islands, helping them to improve the quality of their lives. Its role is really exemplary for other volunteers across Greece and across the world. For the local communities of the boarder islands that the team works with, the provided help is not only useful but also irreplaceable, is it fills the gap between the central state and the local people, through volunteering.

Greece, Aegean, volunteers, islands, border, local communities, help

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