All Else Failed
The Unlikely Volunteers at the Heart of the Migrant Aid Crisis
by Dana Sachs
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Pub Date 23 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 3 Jul 2023
‘This people-first, intensely researched, deeply personal, and altogether devastating call to action tells us that when all else fails, volunteer’ – Booklist
As hundreds of thousands of displaced people sought refuge in Europe, the global relief system failed.
This is the story of the volunteers who stepped forward to help.
In 2015, increasing numbers of refugees and migrants, most of them fleeing war-torn homelands, arrived by boat on the shores of Greece, setting off the greatest human displacement in Europe since WWII. As journalists reported horrific mass drownings, an ill-prepared and seemingly indifferent world looked on. Those who reached land needed food, clothing, medicine and shelter, but the international aid system broke down completely.
In a way that no one could have anticipated, volunteers arrived to help. Dana Sachs’s compelling eyewitness account weaves together the lives of seven individuals and their families – including a British coal miner’s daughter, a Syrian mother of six, and a jill-of-all-trades from New Zealand – who became part of this extraordinary effort. The story of their successes, and failures, is unforgettable and inspiring, and a clarion call for resilience and hope in the face of despair.
War had shattered people’s lives. This is what happened next.
‘Dana Sachs chronicles what happened in Greece when Middle Eastern refugees and volunteers from around the world converged, imperfectly, often chaotically, but with empathy and generosity in ways that mattered and ways that moved me. Sometimes these impromptu communities fail in the end, but the fact that they succeeded for a time, against the odds, can teach us important lessons.’
-- Rebecca Solnit
‘Dana Sachs’s vivid, passionate book will shake any faith you once had in international aid organizations. But it will move and inspire you, and bring a lump to your throat, by its portraits of big-hearted women and men from many countries who jumped in to help fellow human beings caught up in one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our time.’
-- Adam Hochschild
‘An urgent, deeply researched, and tender account of the helpers: refugee crisis volunteers (often formerly displaced) who arrive when those responsible for the chaos have turned their backs. Vital, and often infuriating, it is at once global in scale and absolutely singular. This is a story about the drive to nurture and care for our fellow humans, one that stirs us all.’
-- Dina Nayeri