On-the-Ground in Samos
Day 5 (Wednesday)
There was something about today where we didn’t just "help 165 refugees from Vathy Camp”, we helped individual people with real and unique hardships. A day when they became a person standing in front of you asking for your help.
It rained all day today. Windscreen wipers on full, deep puddles to jump over, waterfalls pouring down the hillside. A flooded camp. Maybe with the change in weather came a change of mood.
A is married and a mum, but she’s here alone living in a little dome tent, hidden under a shared tarpaulin, for the past five months. She escaped her home country when her husband was taken 18 months ago. She has no idea where he is - only missing, presumed dead. After he went missing her house was burned to the ground... with her two children inside. She carries this immeasurable grief with her everyday without so much as a photo for comfort. She misses her husband, and her children, so much.
B has the saddest eyes that make you feel like you can see into his soul. He comes from a big loving family with several brothers and sisters including a twin brother. But when ISIS came to his town, they killed his mum, his dad, his sister and brother. And his twin. Stuck in Vathy Camp for over a year he doesn’t find much that can make him smile or hope any more.
C is a dad who asked for help today. He’s here alone with his sweet and shy 12 year old daughter. The Greek police had put them both in jail for the past two days, even though it seemed he’d done nothing wrong. That little girl just spent two days alone in a foreign prison. I can’t imagine how terrifying that would have been for her. We got her a few clothes and showed her care and love and helped make her smile a little again. I didn’t feel I deserved the huge hug she gave me and some of the others as she left.
D and her husband have a young baby. They aren’t allowed paid work and the cash cards aren’t enough for their basic needs at Island prices. For the past few days she hasn’t been able to afford baby formula and so she’s fed her young baby water.... She couldn’t afford nappies either. We got her both, but this challenge will only get harder as her baby grows and needs more food and bigger nappies. What happens for them next week or next month?
People who become refugees are from many different places, suffering grief, hardship and tragedy that we can barely imagine. Their resilience, determination and warmth, despite everything, is staggering. And they’re here, standing right in front of us, quietly asking for a little help. Surely we can give it?
Finally, these stories aren’t mine to tell and, to be honest, whilst people around the world want (perhaps need) to hear them, for the people whose lives we share on social media... it’s private, it’s deeply personal, it’s invasive. That's why no names, no ages, no countries. These people have already been through so much. That should be enough for us to show empathy and want to help them however we can.