Journal From a Refugee Camp – 16-18 October

The OHF/DocMobile medical clinic

I’m currently volunteering as a Farsi and Dari interpreter at a medical clinic at the One Happy Family (OHF) refugee community center on Lesvos Island, Greece. In 2015 I volunteered as general labor and later an interpreter at refugee camps Pikpa and Moria and shared those stories here.

To protect patients’ privacy I’ve removed names, genders, nationalities, and identifiable health conditions.

16-18 October

On Saturday night, I translated for IsraAid at Kara Tepe refugee camp, working as an interpreter as their medical clinic. It felt good to work in my specialty the full shift; my work at OHF has shifted mostly to driving and running errands.

We now have two steady interpreters at OHF’s medical clinic. A young Iranian man handles Afghan and Iranian patients, while an Iraqi man translates for Iraqi, Syrian, and the occasional Palestine or Kuwaiti patient. We still scramble when we have French-speaking patients (usually from Congo and Cameroon) or Kurdish-speaking patients from Iraqi Kurdistan, but we have steady, quality translation for 90% of patients for the first time in the three months I’ve spent as an interpreter. I don’t particularly like driving, but I’m glad to help out any way I can and I’m thrilled that my so-so Farsi & Dari aren’t needed for important cases anymore.

I spent these two mornings picking up patients from Moria and dropping them off at IKA, a medical clinic in town which is very helpful with refugees–I always have to lie, cheat, and steal to get anyone seen at the hospital. Our clinic director is able to stay with patients and navigate IKA, which goes quickly and usually allows us to open the clinic on time. When I go to the hospital we have to open the clinic hours late because of the distance at the hospital and the amount of waiting, even after using black magic to get seen quickly.

Back at the clinic I helped translate at the triage station when our interpreter was with the doctor, then occasionally helped him with terms which are different in Farsi and Dari (phlegm, diarrhea, and a few others), but otherwise ran between the nearby pharmacy and grocery stores, looking for supplies (antibiotic eye drops, iron for children, and insulin were Monday’s requests) and helping patients get basic items we couldn’t provide (earplugs we couldn’t find, plus multivitamins and fruit).



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