All Else Failed: The Unlikely Volunteers at the Heart of the Migrant Aid Crisis 
Dana Sachs

‘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

About the author

Dana Sachs is a journalist, novelist, and cofounder of the nonprofit Humanity Now: Direct Refugee Relief, which supports grassroots teams providing aid to displaced people. A former Fulbright Scholar, she is the author of three works of nonfiction, The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in VietnamThe Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam; and All Else Failed: The Unlikely Volunteers at the Heart of the Migrant Aid Crisis, as well as the novels If You Lived Here and The Secret of the Nightingale Palace. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the Wall Street JournalNational Geographic, and Mother Jones. Sachs lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.