He Is Helping Displaced People Heal From Trauma

Meet Yotam Polizer, a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving.


Whether it’s a humanitarian crisis or a natural disaster, IsraAID is there.

The nonprofit, led by Yotam Polizer, provides psychosocial support to displaced people around the globe. Right now, Yotam’s team is focused on supporting Syrian refugees.

“Our first response to the Syrian refugee crisis was in Jordan,” Yotam said. “We partnered with local Jordanian NGOs to deliver aid and train people to help with psychosocial support.”

“In 2015, following the picture of Aylan Kurdi—the Syrian child washed ashore on the Turkish coast—we have scaled up our response and now work primarily on the island of Lesvos. It’s a tiny Greek island and more than 600,000 refugees have gone through in the last few years.”

“From the very first moment,” Yotam said, “we were one of the first groups on the ground in Lesvos. There was a point where five to seven thousand people were arriving every day. Our team was fortunate because many of our team members speak Arabic.”

Yotam shared a story that has stuck with him over the years.

“One day, I was there on Lesvos, and a boat collapsed, capsized, before it reached the shore. I was carrying this cute Syrian girl, maybe four years old, and she was shivering and shaking in my arms. I’m not a doctor, but I could see that she was suffering from severe hypothermia. Our medical team treated her and after a few hours she was okay. When her father saw that, he was shocked—it was the first time he had seen a Jewish person in his life. He was an engineer from Damascus and said, ‘Today my biggest enemy became my biggest supporter. The people who were supposed to protect me back home in Syria are chasing me away.’”

Yotam says he is grateful to be able to do the work that he does: “We have such an opportunity to save lives and build bridges.”

Yotam is a 2018 Disaster Feedback Fellow of the Disaster Recovery Network at GlobalGiving. Learn more about the fellowship.

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