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Nowhere To Turn


No Where To Turn

As thousanads of refugees streamed into Berlin, they strained the health care system. Rotarian and physician Pia Skarabis-Querfeld spent the last three years building a network of volunteer doctors to help those in need.

By Produced by 

The Rotarian, a medical doctor, wanted to help, and she gathered a bag of clothes to donate to the refugees staying at a nearby gymnasium.

What began as a single act of charity eventually evolved into an all-encompassing volunteer project: Over the next three years, Skarabis-Querfeld would build and run a network that, at peak times, would include more than 100 volunteers helping thousands of refugees at community centers, tent camps, and other shelters across the city. 

Today, her nonprofit, Medizin Hilft  (Medicine Helps), continues to treat patients with nowhere else to turn.

That day she went to the gym was a few days before Christmas 2014. Skarabis-Querfeld had been busy with work and preparing for the holidays. She was looking forward to a much-needed break, and she thought clothes for the refugees would be a kind gesture befitting the spirit of the season. 

When she arrived at the gymnasium to drop off her donation, Skarabis-Querfeld found sick children, most of them untreated because hospitals in the area were overrun. Helpers were not allowed to give out pain relievers or cough syrup due to legal constraints. All they could do was send people to the emergency room if they looked extremely ill.

Seeing this, and knowing about the treacherous journeys the refugees had just made across land and sea, Skarabis-Querfeld, who is a medical doctor and Rotarian, returned that same afternoon with medical supplies and her husband, Uwe Querfeld, who is a professor of pediatrics and a Rotarian. 

The couple spent most of that holiday treating patients in the gymnasium. 

“The suffering of the people, their bitter fate, it wouldn’t let go of me,” says Skarabis-Querfeld.

‘You just don’t forget’

In 2015, the German ministry in charge of refugees received more than 1 million applications for asylum, straining the public health system.