In these unique times of social distancing and closed borders, empty schools and virtual workspaces, we are experiencing a form of separation that most of us are unfamiliar with. In order to keep our loved ones safe from the novel Corona virus we have been asked to distance ourselves from our extended family, friends, roommates, colleagues and vulnerable members of our community. Unable to leave the confinements of our homes but for necessary errands, our worlds have shrunk dramatically in these past two months.
For RPM, which aims to connect people from different cultures and backgrounds on a level where they can meet, learn from each other and become friends, this new reality has been a challenge. Many of our volunteers have left Maastricht and are now studying from home in e.g. Germany, Greece and Belgium. Where we previously organized close to 10 activities a week at COA/AZC, The InnBetween or at other locations (e.g. for our elderly project), we now had to come up with ways of connecting digitally and move our existing activities online.
The pandemic, which threatens the already compromised rights of refugees abroad, also required us at RPM to reflect on our existing tasks and responsibilities. The dire situation in the overcrowded refugee camps in Lesbos for example, has been further exacerbated by the lack of medical care and the continued unwillingness of European countries to dismantle the camps and take in refugees. RPM operates from a place of power and privilege. How can and should we use this position responsibly? When Maastricht municipality is unwilling to join the Dutch Coalition of the Willing and provide shelter for 14 unaccompanied refugee minors, should we stay silent? How far does our circle of care go?
In the coming months, RPM will continue to create a digital community of care, while embracing our newfound responsibilities. Our new Blog aims to inform, to engage and to connect – by sharing stories from our volunteers, the refugee community, experts and guest writers we connect RPM to the wider world around us. Because if the Corona virus has shown us anything, is that our community of care does not, and should not, stop at the border. We are all in this together.
I invite you warmly to read and contribute to our new RPM blog.