After two weeks of working as a volunteer for Stichting Bootvluchteling on Lesbos, I’m back in the Netherlands and going on my first run since I returned home. My head is filled with memories of the people I’ve met and the experiences of the last two weeks.
Suddenly I see a young boy sitting near the water, barefooted and wearing flip-flops. Thoughts are rushing through my head and all I can think about are the refugees in camp Moria. Most of them are living in cold, wet and small tents. They don’t have dry clothes anymore and rather walk in Crocs than in soaking wet socks and shoes. At nighttime, the two of us (all volunteers) walk the grounds of Moria. We manage to talk to some of the refugees and hear their stories. Even though they have suffered a lot, they are friendly and ask us “How are you?” They tell us about their hardships, the dangers in their own countries, the journey to Europe, and now the fact that they are stuck in a camp like Moria. They have been through a lot, and still they are filled with hope for a better future. A man from Eritrea tells us: “In every problem there is a gift inside.” I am amazed by their resilience.
A young man from Pakistan offers us tea every night. It’s hot, very sweet, but delicious and given to us by a generous heart. All the refugees in the camp are free to pick up a cup of tea every night. And while we are sipping our tea we talk about cricket and hockey, sports that the Pakistani people are very good at. They also know a lot about soccer in the Netherlands and Europe.
Three nights a week we distribute children’s books in Farsi of Arabic. This will give their parents an opportunity to read with them before bedtime, and tell them bedtime stories. A father, barely speaking English, is explaining in hand gestures how much it means to him. But still he regrets the fact that aren’t many things to do for children on the Island.
I’ve met a lot of special and important people on Lesbos, but sadly most of the conversations ended in “Moria No Good.” Probably because of the harsh circumstances on the Island which shows that help is much needed. I think about all these people when looking at the barefooted young man. I want to greet him and ask him how he’s doing, but he is wearing his headphones and doesn’t even see me standing there. He isn’t a refugee, and the sole purpose of him sitting there is to smoke a cigarette. After he’s finished he can go back inside, to his nice and cozy home. Suddenly I realize that I am back in the Netherlands again, things are different around here.
Text: Trudi Glastra – volunteer PSS-team
Photo: Bas Bakkenes