Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Bag Lady's refugee wish

I have made two trips to volunteer at a refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece. My first was in August 2016, for six days. I went with an old friend, Jenean. I learned a lot about the refugee situation and about myself. You can read about that trip on these blog posts:

The second was in October of the same year, for two weeks. I took another friend, Jann. Here are two blog posts about that trip.

Most of the time I was watching and listening and learning and doing, from moment to moment. My head and heart filled up. The experience was not at all about me. It was much bigger.

The day before I left I had a conversation with two refugees, Abdul and Ali. Abdul told me his story in Farsi and Ali translated for him. Here's the blog post about that.

As of today, the post "Abdul tells me his story" has been read 966 times. I know that because Blogger, my blog host, keeps track. But I have no idea who the readers were. If I add the total number of followers of my blog and the total number of my Facebook friends (I post my blog to my Facebook page), I'm short by 450 people. Who else has come upon Abdul's story?

As a blogger, I have a responsibility to honor and care for people I talk about. Abdul and Ali both reviewed my Abdul post before I hit the "publish" button on November 9. Now they are public figures of a sort, through my blog.

I heard from both Abdul and Ali this week. Abdul is still at Oinofyta with his wife and two-year-old daughter and newborn baby girl. He wants to leave camp in the spring and move on. Ali is now in Serbia at a camp there, with his wife and baby and his parents and his brother. His baby has been in the hospital for a week with a chest infection. Ali wants to move on into an EU country in the spring.

Abdul and Ali have both asked for my help.

I still cannot give them money. I can give them my time and my listening ear and my voice. I cannot imagine their circumstances. Abdul was a tailor in Afghanistan. Ali worked for the US government in Afghanistan as an IT professional. Both left their homeland because their lives or their families' lives were in danger. In the refugee camps, they are safer now. But their lives are very, very uncertain. These men have families to take care of, and they are doing their very best with very little.

I am returning to Oinofyta in March. This time I will be there for a month, and I am taking my husband Art along. We volunteer for, a small American nonprofit. The camp manager, Lisa Campbell, was a cofounder of DoYourPart ten years ago. She is a walking wonder, the linchpin of Oinofyta. It is an honor to work with her and to observe the work she and other volunteers do to make the camp a liveable place for refugees, for however long they stay. I want to continue to be a part of that. It has been a life-shifting experience for me.

If you want to help the refugees at Oinofyta, you can contribute at Everyone is a volunteer, so all money is used "on the ground".

I wish I could do more for Abdul and Ali. And all the others. We are all the same. And we are all in this together.


Deb Shucka said...

Your voice for the camp and the refugees is a huge gift in itself.

Sasha + Saku said...

I agree with Deb, by writing of your experiences you are providing a voice for Abdul and Ali, and making their stories personal to the readers. Too often, we think of "those people" and don't realize they really are just like us, but in a far poorer place.

Good luck with your next trip.

Linda Reeder said...

It's hard when you know these people personally, and they ask for help, and there is so little that you, or we, can do.
How do these men and their families move on? I'm asking.

Unknown said...

I wish them all the best... Tanx for a lot for that u share the true information from people who tells u what happened to them.

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

You are doing wonderful work for these people. God bless you and Art on your return trip. Good things will happen, bigger things than you can imagine.

DJan said...

Thank you for all that you do, and have done, for the refugees. I have given money to doyourpart, which is all I can do right now. Thank you for continuing to bring light into this awful situation. :-(

Tom said...

Yes, I remember Abdul's story. You are doing good work, Linda, even if it can be heartbreaking at times.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Isn't it interesting that we are so curious about our readers? I do like to honor those people that comment but those that don't still hold a fascination for me. If we were better hackersw.....

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

I just went to a lecture about refugees. It was quite an eye opener. I'll be back to read more.

joared said...

The refugees have such an unimaginable existence. You're certainly doing all you can do. I'm ashamed our govt has taken the stance they have per the news today. This is not the USA 's values.