During the first days as a volunteer field worker with A Drop in the Ocean on Lesvos, it was hard to actually focus on the place itself, the people in the camp, and the kind of situation they are in. All my energy was spent learning how to do the laundry service; how to enter data into the Excel worksheets; how to write the right names on the labels for each family; and, how to make sure I remembered everything I was being taught. I forgot what I thought it was going to be like and got on with my tasks because the team and the camp residents needed it.
As days passed by and I got familiar with the tasks and got to know the wonderful people in the camp, the adrenaline rush disappeared, and my mind became calmer and more comfortable with the plan of action. I started to look around. I looked into peoples’ eyes before anything else – to connect and to feel welcome. A few ill-pronounced words in a previously unknown language and a smile were enough to communicate.
A cup of tea has a whole different taste when accepting it means I was making someone else really happy. Sitting on the dusty ground felt like the right thing to do when everyone else was also doing so. Hearing, and saying, ‘thank you’ a hundred times per day became a habit that is very difficult to break. The looks of respect and understanding from fellow community and international volunteer field workers after a hard day’s work are the priceless rewards of being part of something so deeply human.
There is so much to say about the refugee situation. There is so much to debate about and to get angry at. But we must also cherish all the good and impossible that is happening every day, and the endless drive that some people have which makes them try, endlessly, to create change.
From time to time, while walking around in the camp, we raise our eyes and see clearly what is in front of us: despair, injustice, loneliness, and a general feeling of hopelessness. But there is much more to be seen, if you look a little deeper: resilience, hope, family, superheroism. I never knew one place could fit so many superheroes.