samaritan 02/29/2016 – Markus Alt, Samariterverein Adligenswil (Luzern, Switzerland)
Help, Wherever It Is Needed
In mid-November, Markus Alt, a member of the Adligenswil Samaritan’s club, assisted on the Greek island of Lesbos in the initial treatment of newly arriving refugees. His knowledge in first aid came in handy as well as his experiences from previous relief operations.
Text and photo: Sonja Wenger
Markus Alt likes the motto of the Boy Scouts: “Be Prepared!” When a friend asked him in early November, if he was able to take part in an emergency operation on Lesvos for a week, he did not hesitate. He knew, that the weather conditions on the Aegean island, which is only a few kilometers away from the Turkish coast, will deteriorate soon. And he also knew, that despite falling temperatures, the number of crowded refugee boats, on which desperate people dared the short but dangerous crossing, would not decrease.
His bags were packed quickly. Soon after, Markus Alt stood on the beaches of Skala Sikamineas helping exhausted, hypothermic and traumatized refugees ashore and to the mobile clinic which the aid agency AdventistHelp had set up in an old bus. He administered first aid, coordinated the doctors and other volunteers on site, mediated contacts, organized tools and lent a hand wherever it was necessary.
Dedicated From an Early Age
This was not the first deployment of its kind for Markus Alt. On the contrary. The Samaritan from the town of Adligenswil near Luzern had been engaged – besides running a family business – from a young age for the welfare of others. He had accompanied his father in volunteer work with their aid agency AfrikaHilfe.
Markus Alt served as medic in the Swiss Army. Driven by his interest in medical topics he became a member of the local Samaritans Club, where he now cooperates the medicals services with the Firefighters of Adligenswil.
Recently Markus Alt converted his calling to his profession. Together with his wife Jane he builds up the European branch of the American NGO GR3 (Global Rescue, Relief and Resilience). The name stands for the global rescue as well as aid and development activities the organization serves in.
For the 57-year old, it is important that any help makes sense and has an aspect of sustainability, no matter whether it is done by a welfare organization abroad or by a
Samaritan’s Club at a local event. “I’m a doer and want to make a difference” says Markus Alt in the conversation with the “samaritan”. We sit in the boardroom of a commercial building in Adligenswil, where many of the donated supplies are store. Here Alt and his team of volunteer helpers pack huge containers to send by ship or truck to where the needs are. Some went to Africa, some go to an Eastern European country. At present they are filling the seventh container, says Alt. “If I see a problem, I immediately look for a solution.”
Valuable Medical Knowledge
He noticed with fascination on his many deployments in recent years and decades, that there are so many volunteer helpers, willing to serve, clear across nations and religions. When the request came for his assistance on Lesbos, he had asked around in the Samaritan’s club, whether someone else would be interested to joining him. “With their enormous knowledge and expertise, the Samaritans can do much on site.” says Alt. “It is precisely first aid which is needed for newly arriving Refugees. And that we learn in our trainings and meetings. There are only a few difficult cases, which actually require a medical doctor.
The echo to his request had been very positive, says Alt further. “Unfortunately the call came at too short notice for most of them. But I can imagine, that for another mission, with a bit more time to prepare, more members of the club would be willing to join in, even if it means going abroad. Here Alt sees himself, thanks to his experiences abroad, as an intermediary.
He himself fortunately has, due to his current professional situation, great flexibility, and that is why he was able to travel to Greece at such short notice. There would be so much work still to be done. Besides the work for GR3 he gives talks on development issues, like water supply, the necessity of a functioning health system or simply about his work in Africa, the earthquake-stricken Haiti or the regularly hurricane stricken Philippines. “And let’s not forget manning the medical aid posts at a local football tournament or the planning of the next exciting exercise with the fire department.” Markus Alt is ready for everything.