The post below was written by one of our volunteers, Raafia G. Thank you for sharing your experiences and photos Raafia!
My first few days here have been a mix of emotions. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the ongoing crisis and am witnessing firsthand the struggles that the refugees are enduring every step of the way.
The city of Molyvos is a beautiful romantic honeymoon destination with quaint charm on every street. It has now been infiltrated with NGOs from all over the world volunteering to help. It is the first point of entry for thousands of refugees. Before I got here, I was trying to prepare myself for what I would witness, but words don’t do justice to the emotion that is felt for each and every individual. Every person, man, woman, young, old, has a story and has their dreams. Some want to head to Switzerland, some Sweden, and some don’t care where they go as long as it’s better for their family. Even still, most are living day to day.
The island is split into four sections and different NGOs have different responsibilities in their assigned region. As the raft boats filled with people come to shore, the lifeguards help pull them to safety. Then a NGO, Starfish works to register all of them dealing with exhausted people and language barriers, while Drop in the Ocean and Team Humanity are responsible for providing clothing. SCM is the primary medical group, but we currently only have one doctor who’s doing an amazing job attending to everyone in need. We have quickly learned that everything is a group effort.
The refugees have been mainly from Damascus and some from Afghanistan. As we help pulled the boats to shore, almost everyone was crying. We formed a chain of volunteers to help the children off first, to change them into warm and dry clothing. Once the adults came off, we rushed to help them change, provided food and water, and handled any medical issues. They were hypothermic, weak, in shock, and some even had injuries. What broke my heart today was seeing grown men sobbing, happiness that they made it with their family to Greece alive and safe, but filled with sadness and anxiety for the rest of their unknown journey.
Every single person that I helped was grateful. They were hugging me and kissing me and sending me prayers and love. The language barrier has been an obstacle, but once I smile and say Salam, a level of trust if built and they become attached just as much as I do. All of the children are beautiful with smiles that melt your heart. Their giggles ring in my ear as they player with the local cats, or from excitement from the toys or lollipops we gave out. Mothers and father and grandparents hug and kiss you like your own when you help them or their family. The teenagers wanted to take selfies and keep in touch via Facebook. There is an indescribable bond.
“11 year old Salwa became my best friend as I helped her and her two younger brothers change into dry clothes and calm their anxiety and tears. Before she left for the bus she came and gave me a huge hug and kiss and said that she wished she had an address so I could write to her.”
But not everything went smoothly. There was a 8 month pregnant woman who came off the boat having contractions. She, her husband, and in laws thought it was better for her to risk all of their lives on the boat then to stay in Syria. Just think about that. Would you put your pregnant wife, daughter, or sister on a dinky raft boat through treacherous waters through the night in hopes for a better life. Would you spend thousands of dollars for your family to take the boat ride over, knowing that they could die at sea, in hopes for a better life? Would you leave your home, your friends, your pets, everything you’ve ever known, to come to a whole new country, not knowing your next move? Is it worth sleeping outside in the cold, eating one meal a day, and spending your life savings in hopes for a better life? This is happening and I am witnessing it every day with my own eyes. All
I can do is help them make it a tiny bit less burdensome, make them feel human and welcome, and pray.
I think about myself, my family, my friends. We have been so lucky and are so blessed. But these people are just like us. Their life is not fair. They have worked hard to provide for their families, only to flee in the most tumultuous circumstances. Mothers and fathers worrying about their children. Babies attached to their parents. Children singing songs and saying they can’t wait to go back to school. They ask for so little, yet are so appreciative when we provide basic human needs.
In this short time I have already seen a need for Arabic and Farsi speakers and translators. They will feel more welcome speaking their own language and will be provided quicker medical and humanitarian care if we can understand their needs. If you can help with that in any way, please do so. #SCMHelp4Syrians