In 2015, Carcoustics donated a Mercedes Vito minibus to the STAY! refugee initiative in Düsseldorf. Since then, it has been used for many journeys. Six years later, we wondered what STAY! is up to now and whether “our” vehicle is still being used Discover the answers to these and other questions in our interview with Michael Lukas from the aid organization.
Mr. Lukas, what have been the main issues faced by the refugee project this year?
This year we were made aware of the situation in Calais through friends of the association. In these “illegal” refugee camps on the border with the UK, people lack basic necessities such as sleeping bags, sleeping mats, medicines, toiletries, and warm clothing.
How did the Dusseldorf refugee initiative help out here?
We put out a call for in-kind donations in our region. The way it works is that the local organization tells us what is most desperately needed, and we make a call for donations via social media. This might be used clothing, or we publish a list of toiletries that are needed and available in any drugstore. Many supporters and donors then go out and buy these items and bring them to our collection points.
The plan was to drive the donations to Calais in the minibus donated by Carcoustics and distribute them to those in need. That’s what we did at first, but the campaign took off so quickly that we had to rent a 7.5-tonne vehicle to transport all the goods. Once again, we were impressed by people’s desire to help. We have made a few trips to France this year and would like to be involved on a more permanent basis.
What other projects have you started or supported this year?
This year we also used the vehicle for civic education. A group of people wanted to visit Theresienstadt in the Czech Republic to learn more about the Third Reich. We helped out by driving them there. The minibus is also suitable for use as a loudspeaker van – we recently used it at demonstrations about the Afghanistan evacuation and the need to create safe escape routes. We also took it to a rally after the racist attacks in Hanau.
Many of your support services are aimed directly at refugees in Düsseldorf. Can you tell us more about them?
One of our regular jobs is to collect in-kind donations for our clients there, such as winter coats and medical aids. We can also handle this directly through our office in Dusseldorf. Not a week goes by without at least one person calling to offer help in the form of donations in kind. And these things always find a new, very grateful owner within a few days.
For example, we look after many pregnant women with a refugee background who ask us for help during their pregnancy. We try to make sure that they have baby clothes, nappies, and strollers before the birth. We also often pick up the mothers and babies when they are discharged from hospital and take them back to their refugee accommodation. That’s also a great way of using the minibus!
We are also there to help if our clients have to move – perhaps because a refugee shelter is closing – usually they only have a few bags of belongings.
How do you fund your work?
About two thirds of our work is funded by donations. One third is currently funded by the city of Dusseldorf – that´s the money we need for the refugees’ medical care. Medical care is a human right, regardless of their right to stay or asylum status. We are pleased that the Dusseldorf authorities have recognized this and are funding this part of our work.
We are a pilot project in this respect and, as far as I know, Dusseldorf is the first city in Germany to have this kind of funding scheme.
How can people support your work?
As I said at the beginning, we are always happy to receive donations in kind, although unfortunately we can’t accept everything. We post information about what is currently most urgently needed on social media (Facebook @stay.duesseldorf) and on our website. We are also dependent on financial donations, and our bank account details are also on our website. If you have any other questions – or as if you have a used stroller going spare – please get in touch at email@example.com call us on 0211-72139511.