How Can We Help? An Interview with Arnold Geiger
How Can We Help? An Interview with Arnold Geiger
Mar 10, 2022
Arnold Geiger. Photo @Jutta Benzenberg
What is the environment like in Germany right now? Are people afraid of the conflict spilling over?
What I see is a tremendous willingness to help. People are really wanting to help refugees in this humanitarian crisis. I found a register of available beds and rooms for refugees and, one week into the crisis, there were already something like 200,000 places in Germany listed.
I wouldn’t say that people are afraid, but there of course is a deep concern on anything that indicates a nuclear incident. Many of us still remember the Chernobyl accident and the impact it had to our lives. For Germans, we drive longer to go on a vacation than it would take to drive to Ukraine. It’s close for us.
What do you find yourself thinking about with regards to this crisis? You experienced the refugee crisis that took place during the Kosovo War in 1999.
I feel tremendous compassion and concern for the Ukrainian people, of course—for the human suffering. What they are going through is terrible, and I hope that this war will turn out to be limited, and that it will end soon.
I want to say this carefully: it’s important to have compassion for everybody. It’s not just the paint that makes the product. The passport doesn’t make the person. So our compassion shouldn’t be limited by nationality.
I think about the other wars in the world. This is not the only terrible armed conflict of this century, and I do think we need to have awareness of that and keep people who are suffering in those conflicts in our hearts as well. As I said, the passport doesn’t make the person.
I remember, in 1999, after the fighting seemed like it had stopped, we made an advance trip to the villages the Kosavar refugees we hosted came from—to examine the conditions for their return. We met some ethnic Serbs there. They were very afraid, and we helped them to get to the border with Serbia so that they could find safety. They weren’t war criminals, just people. We are all just people in the end.
How do you see this situation impacting Albania?
Well, in the Balkans I think everybody is still aware of the Kosovo situation.
Albania is certainly affected, as whole Europe is already affected. Inflation was already a problem due to the pandemic, even before the war started. Russia and Ukraine export wheat and petrol to Europe, so there will be shortages, and prices will go up. Albanians spend at least about 40% of their money on food—that’s a rough number, and I think in some places it is more—so when the cost of food goes up, they feel the pinch quickly.
Albanians are tough, though. Because so many of them can remember the poverty of the communist years, they know how to deal with things that we in Germany and the US would consider a crisis. For example, If the electricity goes out for a few hours, it is inconvenient, certainly, but not a big deal.
What is NG doing to help with the Ukrainian refugee crisis?
It has always been our practice to work with reliable partners —people we have known for a long time and know to be trustworthy. NG doesn’t work in Ukraine, so what could we do ourselves there? It works much better to let somebody who is on the ground provide the help, and to help by supporting them. Because they know the language and the culture and understand the infrastructure, they are positioned to be most effective. Our partners are Bamberg:UA e.V., run by a former apprentice of NG, arthelps in Stuttgart and Nehemia Team Fürth, and we have already contributed to them as an organization.
Additionally, we have provided specific aid when asked. For example, we have made a couple of rooms available at the Lindenhof Hotel and in Nuremberg and have donated surplus blankets and bedding that was specifically requested.
For now, I would say that NG is hanging back and not becoming directly involved, but we don’t know how this situation will progress and there may be a time when our specific areas of expertise are needed. Our hearts are always open to people in need.
What would your advice be to people who want to help?
Donate money rather than food and other goods. Organizations that are helping refugees find donations of money much more helpful and easier to manage. Money does not expire and is not heavy to transport—so if the need is greatest six months from now, your gift will still be good. And the organization has the latitude to use the money where the greatest need is.
If you want to support Ukrainian refugees through a donation to NG, we will be happy to pass your donation along to Bamberg:UA, arthelps, and Nehemia Team Fürth. Or you can support them yourself, here.
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