May 17, 2016
1) Loneliness is truly the darkest consequence of this crisis. The Syrian people haven’t only been kicked out of their homes, but were stripped away from their neighborhoods, friends and family via death, destruction, sickness and tough decisions that had to be made to split up loved ones to preserve better chances of survival. We saw many patients today who had no one. No parents, spouses, siblings or children. You didn’t have to have them tell you. You could see it in their eyes. The material aspects of what they have lost are immense, but hail in comparison to what else has been taken away from them. They walk alone in this world.
2) A bunch of conversations I had today with co-volunteers included the word ‘resilience.’ These people are awe-inspiring in their ability to be dealt a life of dirt and turn around and produce a garden. They make tents feel like home, plastic tables feel like a dining hall and a gas station feel like a community. Let me explain that last portion: the EKO refugee camp is literally located on the property of an EKO gas station (see pic below so you can try to understand the absurdity of the inhumanity at hand). Simple camping tents laid out on concrete between and around gas pumps and the stationconvenient store. 3000 people live at a gas station…. 3000! HALF are children (around 500 are under the age of 2!!).
3) A reflection inspired by my co-volunteer, Ammar Idelbi: It is summer in Greece and the weather can get uncomfortably warm during clinic hours which is midday. The clinic, which is an artificial outdoor space between two parked vans with a tarp overhead, occasionally gets a nice gust of wind which carries a taste of coolness that all of the staff members appreciate. We pause and enjoy the air passing through our hair and take a moment to soak it in. The exact same ‘breeze’ we lavish in can be a nightmare for the refugees living in the EKO camp. Even a mild wind gust lifts their untethered temporary abodes off the ground and blows all of their remaining belongings this way and that way. It makes a mess. It is almost a microcosm of their current life realities. They live moment to moment, not knowing if the next ‘thing’ is a blessing that relieves them or a hardship that afflicts them. All they can do is hold on tight and hope they don’t get blown away.