Volunteers doing tremendous job in flood relief effort
After the devastating floods hit swathes of Slovenia almost a week ago, tonnes of aid are coming in from everywhere to help those in need. Coordinating and distributing aid poses a tremendous logistical challenge, but volunteers are doing a terrific job.
Warehouses in Ljubljana managed by the International Police Organisation (IPO) and the Red Cross are buzzing with activity as volunteers collect, record and repack material. Currently, cleaning supplies and dehumidifiers are the most sought-after items.
Everything has to be packaged into smaller packages and weighed to be fit for helicopter transport. The supplies are then loaded onto trucks and vans. Several tons of material aid have already been sent out, the head of the IPO warehouse Črt Slavec told the Slovenian Press Agency.
The warehouse where they operate was provided by the company ISO Glass to collect, sort and distribute material aid.
The work starts at six in the morning and goes on until three in the morning. Every day volunteers clock some 25 kilometres walking around the warehouse. They are tired but positive and ready to help.
When asked about his tasks, volunteer Matic Novak says that he does it all. "I help with packing, logistics, organisation, wherever I am needed," he says. "I believe when something like this happens we have a duty to lend a hand and give our time to help those in need."
Novak is also a member of the IPO, an organisation promoting the professions of police officers, soldiers, paramedics and firefighters. Its members were the ones that gave the idea to collect material aid. IPO was then able to spread the word with the help of influencers and their warehouse is now likely the largest in Ljubljana.
"On the first day, there was a lot of help, on the second it was enormous, the third day it exceeded all expectations," says Slavec.
Many famous Slovenians have lent a hand, including musicians, athletes and former President Borut Pahor.
Foreigners are also volunteering, like Stephanie Garneau, a Canadian teacher, who has been helping in the warehouse for two days. Before, she helped clean in Škofja Loka. She has lived in Slovenia for five years and considers the country her home, "that is why we immediately started looking for ways to help," she says.
Her friends and family abroad are also following the developments. "They send me money so that I can donate to humanitarian organisations on their behalf," Garneau says, adding that there is a lot of support, even from overseas.
Companies are getting involved as well, some providing transport, others food for volunteers and packaging materials. Individuals are also constantly bringing cars full of supplies.
It is important that we supply items that are needed at the moment, warehouse coordinator Petra Aršič says. "Every morning we call civil protection hubs and mayors to check what they need and then we supply it." When stock in the warehouse is low, they inform people, also via Instagram. Aršič asks that people check what is needed before bringing supplies.
"We mostly deliver to the most flooded areas. Most food went to the Savinja Valley, at the start also to the Koroška region," Aršič says. Now cleaning supplies, tools and protective gear are the most delivered items.
She explains that when they made a delivery to Luče, a settlement in the north of the country that was hit hard by the floods, the locals were so happy with the aid they would not let the truck drivers go.
The Red Cross logistics centre had a more relaxed morning on 10 August as it was expecting a delivery of dehumidifiers from Germany. Most food that they packaged the day before was already delivered.
"Our storage and distribution capacities have been in places damaged by the flood, so we only take in items that can immediately be sent forward," Cvetka Tomin, Red Cross Slovenia secretary-general, says. "Otherwise the place would be packed to the brim and when we needed something we wouldn't be able to find it."
The centre also receives aid from Red Cross organisations abroad. The delivery from Hungary included toiletries, cleaning supplies, towels, diapers, as well as canned food and quick-prep meals, according to Red Cross employee Slavko Hiti. Polish colleagues sent toiletries, cleaning supplies and detergent.
As the centre receives help from Slovenia and abroad daily, volunteers and family members of Red Cross employees are always ready to help if needed, Hiti says.
There is still demand for rubber boots, gloves and cleaning supplies. "We are still looking for dehumidifiers," Tomin says.
The centre also responds to specific requests, "such as a request for yeast so that they can make their own bread".
"It's wonderful to see how resourceful people are in these difficult times, how they organise themselves and we try to support them in their efforts," says Tomin.