About three years ago, on the nightly news in Berlin, Rotarian Pia Skarabis-Querfeld saw refugees arriving in Berlin after fleeing war, persecution, and poverty in their home countries. Wanting to help, she gathered a bag of clothes to donate and headed to a nearby gym filled with refugees.


When she arrived at the gymnasium to drop off her donation, Skarabis-Querfeld found sick children, most of them untreated because hospitals in the area were overrun. Helpers were not allowed to give out pain relievers or even cough syrup due to legal constraints. All they could do was send people to the emergency room if they looked extremely ill.


Seeing this, and knowing about the treacherous journeys the refugees had just made across land and sea, Skarabis-Querfeld, who is a medical doctor and Rotarian, returned that same afternoon with medical supplies and her husband, Uwe Querfeld, who is a professor of pediatrics and also a Rotarian. The couple spent most of that holiday season treating patients in the gymnasium. 


“The suffering of the people, their bitter fate, … wouldn’t let go of me,” says Skarabis-Querfeld.  “You just don’t forget.”


What began as a single act of charity eventually evolved into an all-encompassing volunteer project: Over the next three years, Skarabis-Querfeld would build a nonprofit organization called Medizin Hilft (Medicine Helps) and run a network that, at peak times, would include more than 100 volunteers helping thousands of refugees at community centers, tent camps, and other shelters across the city.  Today, her nonprofit continues to treat patients who have nowhere else to turn.


The Rotary Club of Berlin-Nord was quick to support Skarabis-Querfeld’s nonprofit. National media took notice of her efforts, and other Rotary clubs, including Rotary Club of Berlin-Tiergarten, joined the effort.  A Rotary global grant of $160,000 made it possible for Medizin Hilft to run an open.med clinic as well as information campaigns.


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