At home, I often meet people who think the refugee crisis is over. Because media doesn’t cover the situation as much anymore, we hear less about it. People shut their eyes and ears and pretend the crisis is non-existent – or perhaps they simply wish it were.
As a volunteer you can speak up about what is actually happening in the refugee camps, here in our Europe. My opinion is that one of our most important tasks is to be the eyes and voices of these people, and last but not least to listen to what they have to tell us.
You meet the most incredible people. Some are highly educated, others are passionate about their sports, some speak up to four, even five different languages or are talented artists. During my time as a volunteer I’ve met an Olympic swimmer, a professional dancer, teachers and lawyers – they were all once an important resource for their home country.
Some people come from nothing and have lived an entire life as refugees, others are ill and should have been receiving good healthcare. They have sold all their possessions and fled to Europe. They know the road here is dangerous, but they are desperate for a chance to live and start a new life. Who wouldn’t be?
Our first trip to Chios was in January 2016. One month later, we were back on the island. This was also when the borders of Europe became stricter and closed. Meanwhile, the large organizations pulled out from the camps. Children, adults, elderly, ill and pregnant people sat behind wires and fences with no access to food, water or baby milk. This was two years ago, and today this is still the situation for many here in Greece. I’ve met several of those again in Nea Kavala.
Here in Nea Kavala, A Drop in the Ocean has started different projects. The goal is to create a worthy life as possible for those who live here. Some of the activities are bicycle training for men and women, bike rentals, a laundry opening, repair & build groups, sewing classes, handing out vegetables and a Drop Shop where they receive «drops» which they can use for shopping every week.
This is an incredible system that activates people – so they can do something productive through their days. In the midst of the despair, this creates some zest for life. Without these opportunities, the days become much longer and harder for many of the residents.
At home, Easter is often celebrated with family and friends. You enjoy yourself a little extra, whether it’s in the cabin or at home. Many associate Easter with skiing, the Norwegian chocolate “Kvikk Lunsj”, oranges and some lovely hot cocoa in the Easter sun. Some of my best memories are solving crime puzzles on television and from my milk carton, going Easter egg hunting in the back yard and spending the days in the mountains with my friends.
This is not the case for many of these children – they cannot create their own holiday memories. Some of them actually do get schooling, which they really enjoy. But school is out during Easter here as well. This means the children have nothing to look forward to these days, which is why it’s great to have volunteers who can arrange some activities for them.
As a volunteer you work side by side with volunteers from different countries. What you do for a living, whether you’re a student or retired is of no importance. We all have the same goal to be fellow humans and we become an extended family. We work together, listen to each other, laugh and cry, and comfort each other as a community. We share this experience and create strong bonds.
When you come home from a trip like this, you often get questions like «how was it?» and «tell me more!» You try your best to describe what you’ve seen and done, but it’s not always easy for people at home to actually understand what you have experienced as a volunteer.
While most have a super vacation filled with activities, countless people are living in fear for what tomorrow might bring. I think it’s important that we talk about this and appreciate what we have in our lives.
I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer for A Drop in the Ocean. I have followed the process of the organization and experienced the accomplishments A Drop in the Ocean has made. You learn so much on these trips, gaining knowledge and growing as a person.
My goal is to continue contributing where help is needed the most. I will continue to speak out about my experiences when I’m at home so the refugee crisis will not be forgotten or silenced.
Perhaps someday some of my friends will come with me and volunteer?
Nobody can help everyone – but everyone can help someone. Like A Drop in the Ocean.