Providing Aid in Disaster Zones: Stories of Everyday Heroes from Our Media Magnets Trip

During a cold, dark night, a family with five children walked to a Greek refugee camp. They had escaped from their home country amid violence and it would be another nine hours before they reached their destination. The father flagged down a car and IsrAID Senior Director of Programs, Naama Gorodischer stopped by the side of the road. He asked her to drive his wife, baby, and two of their young children and Naama agreed.

During the hour-and-a-half ride, the children cried until they fell asleep, the mother held her baby, not knowing what lay ahead, and Naama’s co-worker softly sang, “Yehiyeh Tov,” “Things Will Get Better,” a Hebrew song, which her passengers did not understand. When they reached the camp, it was mostly dark outside and the mother refused to leave the car.

Naama ran into the camp and found another woman who could speak to the mother in her native language. Finally, the mother hugged Naama and left the car with her crying children. “She didn’t hug me because of anything I did, but because I represented her last feeling of safety. Being in the car was the last time she would feel safe before embarking on a journey into the unknown,” said Naama.

When Naama shared this story to the Media Magnets on the last day of their trip, she did not know that another woman with similar stories sat in the audience. Media Magnet Erin Schrode, citizen activist, social entrepreneur, and writer, has worked in disaster zones and with refugees around the world, from Kenya to Haiti to Greece. In her current role as COO of Chefs for Puerto Rico, she has helped open 20 kitchens around the island since Hurricane Maria and has hired an entirely Puerto Rican staff.

Erin, like Naama, has also helped transport refugees to refugee camps. While pulling refugees from boats in Greece, she suddenly heard Hebrew. She turned around and saw a curly haired man speaking to a woman in a hijab. The woman then spoke in Arabic to a refugee family, who they helped process.

“Meeting Israeli aid workers in Greece moved me on so many levels. They were human beings showing up to welcome families in need. They were Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs working together for a goal that was so much larger than them,” said Erin. “Israelis show up in disaster zones and respond to refugee crises because they possess a human desire to help and to do what needs to be done.”

Erin, who ran for Congress at the age of 25, grew up with the Jewish values of tzedaka and tikkun olam (making the world a better place), and those are the values that have guided her since then. “I believe in the power of service to bring people together and discover common ground,” said Erin. “Seeing Israel’s work and knowing that Israel is doing what needs to be done whether or not they get credit for it makes me proud to be here and to be a Jew.”

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