Abdoulaye is discussing with asylum seekers at the medical reception area of the temporary camp on Lesvos island. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios
Growing up in Cameroon, Abdoulaye Amadou was a mover and shaker, studying business management at university, earning a bachelor’s degree and then opening a rice import business. As his business prospered, he moved to the western part of the country, but then, he says, he and his family landed in the sights of a militant group.
Abdoulaye fled to Nigeria in 2018 and after being on the move for more than a year he reached Lesvos in November 2019. He lived in a tent at the crowded Moria camp for many months, feeling lost and depressed after what he had experienced.
Most of the time he kept to himself inside the tent, but as he reached out to the NGOs in the camp, a psychologist with the International Rescue Committee helped Abdoulaye overcome his trauma. As Abdoulaye came around to feeling like he could re-engage in society, he felt the need to do something to improve the services in the camp.
“In Africa we say that you have to give back the kindness that you receive, so I decided to put my skills to work to help improve the dire conditions in Moria,” Abdoulaye says.
Growing up in a country that is bilingual, with French and English being officially spoken, as well as many other dialects, Abdoulaye was adept at languages and started volunteering as an interpreter for medical groups. But with his business acumen, Abdoulaye’s organisational skills stood out.
“If you want to solve a problem you have to start from the ground and work your way up,” Abdoulaye declares. “I saw many gaps in the management of medical services and began making proposals that could immediately improve the situation and the collaboration among volunteers, medical experts and interpreters.”
He briefly worked as an interpreter at Mytilene hospital as well, where, within a few months he was appointed coordinator of interpreters and had the opportunity to make friends and get in touch with Greece’s culture and everyday life in a way that most asylum seekers in the island camps cannot.
“Many of the interpreters were complaining about the lack of coordination and poor collaboration with Greek doctors and I said to them, ‘you have to stop complaining and see how you can improve your work, the rest will follow’,” Abdoulaye says matter-of-factly.
Abdoulaye with his colleagues from the CMA clinic team providing services to asylum-seekers at the medical reception area of the temporary camp on Lesvos island. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios
Abdoulaye with his CMA colleagues at the pharmacy of the medical hub in the temporary reception center of Lesvos island. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios
Abdoulaye Amadou and Dr. Radwan Fashtol, CMA’s Director, at the medical reception area of Lesvos’ camp. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios
“If you want to solve a problem you have to start from the ground and work your way up,” Abdoulaye says. © UNHCR/Marios Andriotis - Konstantios
Crisis Management Association (CMA), one of the medical NGOs supporting Greece’s health service (EODY) found Abdoulaye a shared apartment in nearby Mytilene town, enabling him to move from a tent to living a normal life living amongst the locals.
Now Abdoulaye works as a local coordinator for CMA at the temporary camp that was hastily erected after the fires that destroyed Moria reception centre in September 2020.
But despite his success in managing others and finding employment, Abdoulaye’s future remains uncertain, pending the determination of his asylum claim.
Amidst the uncertainly, Abdoulaye perseveres, continuing to coordinate CMA’s clinic team and the medical hub’s pharmacy which is housed in a UNHCR-donated container. He is also busy sensitizing refugees about COVID-19 vaccinations and prevention measures, encouraging camp residents to follow COVID-prevention protocols and offering advice to community representatives on subjects related to health and other issues.
Dr. Radwan Fashtol, CMA’s Director and founder of its EODY support programme, is impressed with the way Abdoulaye has managed the group’s services.
“Abdoulaye is one of the most professional people I met on Lesvos, with his business studies and strong motivation, he made his way up from translator to clinic team leader and is now the coordinator of the medical reception area and the pharmacy in the camp’s medical area,” Radwan Fashtol declares.
“Seeing how much effort he put into bringing people together and how he maintains a high level of diplomacy and professionalism in such a stressful and multicultural operation is impressive,” says Fashtol. “I’m proud that I have had the chance to work next to Abdullah and I’m looking forward to see him joining CMA’s management.”
So, once again, Abdoulaye has some good news on the horizon, even if his long-term future in Greece remains uncertain. Nevertheless, he works to foster opportunities for asylum seekers and refugees and promotes togetherness.
“The message that I want to send to policy makers is that they need to empower refugees and make them part of the solution.” And of his fellow asylum seekers and refugees, Abdoulaye says, “If we work together with the authorities, the aid workers and the local population, we can achieve anything.”