Trudi (58): ‘I recognized people that I met in January and who are still in Moria’

We are grateful for every volunteer that wants to work for and with the refugees in the camp. It is extra special when we see volunteers coming back to Lesvos who have been volunteering here before. Social worker Trudi (58) took two weeks of from work last January to come and help and she is back!

While Greece is plagued by extreme cold, Trudie arrives for the first time on the island in January. ‘The weather conditions were terrible. On the first morning I opened the curtains and the whole island was covered in snow! It made a deep impression on me to see how the people in the camp were trying to survive in the cold while living in a tent. At the same time I was deeply moved by the way they were handling the situation. They still tried to have a chat with us or even offered us to drink tea with them. While, in my opinion, they should have been angry with us. How is it possible that this can exist in Europe?’

Thinking of Moria

Back in The Netherlands it becomes clear to Trudi that she wants to go back to Lesvos. ‘Together with all the volunteers you are a team. You feel that there are people for you when you need them. We take care of each other and we have fun together. But above all being in contact with the refugees gives me a lot of energy. The interest in each other creates equivalence. Drinking tea with them in their tent, being in contact like that. Hopefully that gives them a sense of dignity, because dignity has been taken from the so often already.’

No change

Ten months after her first visit to the camp the situation still looks the same. ‘I was shocked to see that it has not been getting better, but actually worse. And I even recognized people that I met in January and who are still in Moria. In the meantime I’ve been on a holiday, visited musea and have done so many nice things and they are still stuck here. It is so important that they feel that they are seen and heard. In that way we can make a difference and that is what the Boat Refugee Foundations tries. That approach appeals to me.’

‘I was shocked to see that it has not been getting better, but actually worse.’
As a volunteer in the PSS-team Trudi helps with different activities in and outside the camp. Last weekend she took three families outside the camp for a family getaway and Trudi helps a lot with our building project. With a group of people from the camp they are busy to finish the furniture for the new library.

Make a difference at micro level

I’m staring. Searching for words to describe how the past month has been. While I am enjoying my breakfast af the Ikea in Athens I try to catch my experiences from Lesvos in a few sentences. Impossible!

I’ve been working with the Boat Refugee Foundation in Moria, a camp with more than 6000 men, women and children. The old prison, surrounded by high fences with barbed wire, has only room for 2200 people. Walking through the camp you stumble over festival tents in which whole families live. Newborn babies, children and highly pregnant women are sleeping under a few blankets on the cold hard ground. Vulnerable people, seeking safety, have to survive in a camp with tension and riots as daily reality. The fate of their own future is no longer in their hands. In uncertainty, the days go by very slowly. They are stuck in a natural prison called Lesvos island. A hopeless situation, that for many lasts for more than a year already.

Despite all the misery, I leave Lesvos with a positive feeling. We cannot change the whole situation, but on microlevel we can make a difference! We can make sure that a ‘refugee’ feels ‘human’ again. Simply by greeting someone or by making a chat. The smile after these small gestures is heart warming. The difference can be made by empowering the people by giving them the opportunity to use their talents. Instead of being a refugee, someone is a teacher, carpenter or painter again! That’s the strength of the Boat Refugee Foundation! With all the activities the people from Moria have te lead, we only facilitate. Within one month the strength of these people have led to ”Moria School of HOPE’, where children and adults can be educated by people from the camp. School furniture, benches and cabinets have been made by professionals that live in the camp. I am very grateful that I have been able to contribute to this work!

Text: Teuntje Dijcks

The new school in Moria gets a name

‘Today was the first day since I’ve arrived at the camp that I felt really happy’, says the Afghan refugee teaching the children of camp Moria. We look at each other and quickly blink away our tears of emotion. Months of hard work in setting up the school in Moria comes together at this very moment. Today we are having a teambuilding session with ten school teachers in the beautiful nature of Lesbos.

The camp Moria school has been in existence for a few weeks now. When I say ‘school’ you should think of one cabin with two rooms. Each room contains about ten tables and chairs, made by refugees. These past weeks we have scoured the camp for teachers. Currently, we have a team of teachers and still new teachers are applying.

Me, I have only arrived two days ago and count myself lucky for having the immediate chance to participate in this teambuilding session and get to know all the teachers. This way, I can continue building and streamlining the school and transfer it to the new volunteers.

Above all, it’s a fun day. We have prepared several workshops on things like administration and teaching skills. We start the day by introducing ourselves using cards with images on them. Everyone picks a card and then explain why this card is so typical for them. The stories are heartening because everyone tells about their situation filled with positivity and hope. When a teacher tells that today is his 24th birthday we break out into a spontaneous ‘Happy birthday’ for him. Tears come to his eyes. It’s incredible how such a small gesture can generate such emotion.

The workshops progress well. We are impressed with the teaching skills the teachers have. Just about every teacher was a teacher in his or her homeland. I can learn a lot from them. During lunch, we have conversations about all kinds of subjects. At such a moment you really forget being at a table with multiple nationalities, and that these people are refugees who have come from horrible circumstances. It’s my wish that the entire world could see through my eyes what kind of unity we have here today and that we are all people with hopes and dreams.

Together with the teachers we brainstorm and vote on a name for the school. ‘Moria School of Hope’. There are some doubts whether we should put ‘Moria’ in the name, as many refugees have a less pleasant association with the name of this camp. But, as one of the teachers says: ‘Let’s put hope back in Moria.’