While in the camps, I met many people. In Oinofyta camp, situated not far from Athens, a woman in her sixties, who fled Syria, was using all her effort, to push a discarded wheelchair on an uneven sandy terrain. The man in the wheelchair, who was missing 2 legs, was one of her sons. She had to leave her other 2 sons behind since one of them was missing and the other one had been killed by a land mine. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she had no good prospects. She had been living in the camp for months and has no idea when they we’re finally going to move her out and give her the opportunity to start rebuilding her life. While still living in the camps, it’s impossible to start processing everything you’ve been through, ranging from living in a war zone to losing loved ones. To the horrifying journey to another country, arriving and realising the challenges that lie ahead and often a combination of all of it and plenty more.
It’s easy to forget that these are all things we never have to go through, and for this we should be thankful.
The first and most important thing to understand is that people don’t choose to be a refugee. They leave their entire life behind, their homes, their jobs, their friends, often even their families. They travel a long, dangerous and exhausting journey.
They arrive in a country, hoping to be able to rebuild their lives. They are willing to put in the work and to get jobs in order to be able to live like us, but they’re either not allowed to work or are situated in a country where finding work is almost impossible. Many among them are highly educated or have amazing skills, and could easily contribute to society. But to most people, they’re “just refugees”.
The only difference between us and them is that they were unfortunately living in the wrong place at the wrong time. We could all be refugees at any moment.Would you want our systems, policies and governments to let you down the way ours have failed to support them? You need to remember that those people are victims of the war, even though they’re often being treated as criminals. War is the one thing they’re trying to escape. They didn’t start the war, they didn’t ask for war, they don’t want to fight the war, they want to survive the war.
Once they finally arrive in one of the few countries who still let them in, Greece for instance, their nightmare is not over. I’ve heard people saying the camps are worse than the country they fled. They spend months or years in those heartbreaking situations, hoping they’re going to be placed in a somewhat decent location over time.
In the camp I went to, there’s nothing to do. There’s no school, there are no activities, no library, no toys. Kids have no other option but to watch their childhood fade away before them.
I’m sure you have plenty of good memories looking back at your childhood. Put yourself in the shoes of one of the millions of refugee children. If they’re going to look back at their childhood in a couple years, their memories are not going to be summer camps, travelling, playing outside with their friends, birthday parties, going out for dinner with mom and dad. It’s going to be sharing the little food they had, camping in tents in horrible weather conditions, being packed on a boat for days, trying to survive and leaving behind family and friends.
For governments to fix the countries they fled is not easy, if not impossible, but helping people to create good memories, helping them to start rebuilding their lives here is possible.
What we can do is make the best of their horrible situation, give them love and show them that they’re welcome. There are tons of people out there who want to help, and there are also tons of projects and organisations recruiting volunteers. Those organisations charge hundreds to thousands of euros a week to go and help refugees. This is ethically incorrect. If they’d really need the help, they wouldn’t charge volunteers those amounts.
Indigo Volunteers is a charity that recruits volunteers and connects them with humanitarian projects across the globe. On their travels they have found that small grassroots organisations often do not have the time or resources to find volunteers that keep their projects running. Indigo was founded to challenge the exploitative practices of for-profit volunteering agencies that charge extortionate fees and seem primarily concerned with selling exotic experiences, rather than considering their actual impact.
Indigo needs donations in order to keep doing what they’re doing because they’re not getting any governmental support. They’re heroes and need our support.
This summer, Greece is seeing the highest number of arrivals since the start of the crisis in 2015. If you ever considered volunteering, now is your time. Projects are in urgent need of volunteers. Head to indigovolunteers.org and they’ll find the perfect project for you. Fee free I might add.
Sketches below (and banner and avatar) are made by me and based on real photographs.
Feel free to take a look at the sketches since the website portrays them very small and deforms them.
We are a unique charity set up to ensure humanitarian projects around the globe have the volunteers and support they need to keep their a...