In the "German Corner" this month, my friend Christiane Goebel from Schwelm in Westfalen tells us how she had the idea and how she arranged the donation of valuable equipment to the Paros Health Centre.
Christiane has been coming as a visitor to Drios for the past ten years and happened to be on Paros last year at the time of the Samina Express tragedy. She told me then how impressed she was to see the outpouring of help and generosity of the Parian people even under such tremendous pressure.
Christiane has been working in Germany for 19 years at the Hospital of the Holy Ghost (Heilig Geist), which for the last four years has been in danger of closing. Finally the decision was taken that the hospital would not close after all, but would be re-organized to provide less extensive hospital services combined with medical financial centre services.
Thinking that this might be an opportunity to help the Health Centre on Paros, Christiane found the courage to ask if some of the surplus equipment could be given away. With the help of her colleagues at the hospital - in particular the Medical Director Dr Peter Lusebrink, Nurses Elisabeth Weiss, Sister Bernadette and Sister Paula, excess equipment began to be collected and stored in what soon became known as the "Paros Room" at the Holy Ghost Hospital.
Then one day, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Christiane, asking how we could check what items in "our" room could be useful to the Health Centre. Of course I said I would talk to our Medical Director, Dr Arkas, and the other doctors at the Health Centre, and that's when Christiane's and my adventure really began! The Heath Centre told me they could use everything and more (of course I asked for it!) As well as many other items, the equipment included two hospital beds and bedside tables, hospital robes, laboratory equipment, an inhalator, bed pans and an electrocardiography machine.
Meanwhile, back in Hagen-Haspe... Christiane was now very busy carefully packing each item, confirming lists and calling me to check on last-minute details. Here on Paros I was still not stressed - that is until we started to try to answer the question of how we were going to get all these things (we needed 15 cubic metres of space!) from Germany to Paros!
I started by asking for help in "Paros Life" and sending an S.O.S. to Vera Dimopoulos-Vosikis of the German Contact & Info Centre. The very next day I got an email from her telling me that she had informed all her contacts, including the German Ambassador, Dr Kuhna, in order to help find a solution for us. She also suggested that I contact Tamara Schmidt at the "Athener Zeitung" (a German-language paper in Athens) and in the next issue, they published an article explaining what we needed.
In all I received something like twenty emails with offers of help. The German transport company Cl?ver told us they would bring the equipment free of charge as far as Athens; a German-Greek travel agency also said they would be willing to arrange transportation and many other people offered to help us find a way to achieve our objective.
Thanks to this amazing support, my first challenge had been solved quickly. Cl?ver were also willing to drive 400km out of their way from Rothenburg/Wumme (in the South of Germany) to Hagen-Haspe (in the North), in order to collect our things before starting on the long journey to Greece. And on Monday 17th September, the Cl?ver van, driven by two friendly, kind and experienced drivers, Christian and Sven, arrived at the hospital in Hagen-Haspe.
But my problems weren't over yet! Now that everything was on its way, I urgently needed to find a way to transport it from Athens to the island. OK, I thought, let me sleep on it. And of course the solution came the very next morning as I sat on the bus on my way to work. Noticing the van parked in front of the transport company Anargyros, I yelled "STOP HERE!", to the bus driver, jumped out of the bus and, without being at all prepared, found Mr Manolis Sarris and started trying to explain the whole story to him. Amazingly, he quickly understood what I needed and immediately offered me the solution of free shipment from Athens.
Next stop Kontostavlos Travel Agents in Paroikia. There Joanna helped me prepare a letter to Hellas Ferries who agreed in no time to provide a free ticket for the truck.
Finding that doors opened everywhere to help us, I eagerly anticipated the day of arrival on Paros and, as the Cl?ver truck moved southwards, I followed its journey in my imagination. The timing would be critical - if the truck did not arrive in time to transfer the equipment to the Anargyros van that Friday, the next one would not be leaving for a week and we had nowhere to store the items in Athens. What if they missed the boat in Italy? I fretted and worried, checked and double-checked all the details, trying to ensure that nothing would go wrong now - so close to home - after so many people had put so much effort into this project.
Saturday morning, 23rd September, the Anargyros van stopped in front of our Health Centre, many willing hands were there to carry the equipment inside and I realised I had had nothing to worry about - it seems that every single person involved in making Christiane's idea a reality had taken responsibility as though it was their own personal mission. I can hardly express the thanks that are due to so many people.
A week later, I attended a "German Week" celebration in Athens and, as a small token of appreciation, took bottles of home-made Parian wine to personally thank Vassilis Katsaris of Hellas Ferries, Hermann Cl?ver, Axel Mathes, Sven and Christian from the transport company Cl?ver and Mrs Vera Dimopoulos-Vosikis for all her help and support, not only with this project, but with our many other activities. And, finally, I rewarded myself by enjoying the Loewenbrau Beer, Weisswurst, Sauerkraut and Brezen!
But I don't know how to begin to thank Christiane and the others at the Holy Ghost Hospital from the town where I was born. I have been so touched by the fact that despite the uncertainty about the future of their own hospital and jobs, they were thinking of us. Christiane, in danger of losing her job after 19 years of service, was busy collecting things for Paros in between running to and fro attending job interviews! Perhaps she was inspired by the memory of the amazing efforts of the Parian people that she had witnessed a year earlier. And perhaps we can all take this as another example of what can be achieved when we put our hearts and minds to it.