Volunteer stories: Gerry (Jan 17)

18/01/17

I certainly can’t recall how many times I spent holidays out of town but this one is just simply unforgotten, ever. Briefly, in Christmas break 2016, rather than exploring Europe tourist attractions, which truthfully is my first intention even the itinerary has been well set up, I geared up to fly miles away to the south. In the first place it was never be my expectation when I had a usual random chat with my friend about where she is going to spend the break, a shocking answer arose: voluntary. At that moment she told me general overview about the voluntary in which I had no clue about. In order to join it I knew that I have to miss a class and a group work, not to mention spending hundreds of Euro but right after she explained I knew I had no choice but going. I was just so dragged and drowned into it. The voluntary ideally must be done in at least 2 weeks and this is the only chance I got thereafter I threw away my current itinerary and instead booked another flight.

On a sunny Thursday, 22 December I landed in a small city far from everywhere, but seemed like a piece of heaven to a few brave people; Alexandreia, Greece. Here is the place that I knew human can be so evil to drive others in despair yet on the other hand be so generous to share the burden. In short, Alexandreia camp is a home for around 300-400 refugees of which mostly came from Syria. It was opened in April 2016 and a former military base of Greece army. Now, many organizations are working here to help refugees out. One of them is Refugee Support in which I join.

In the first day of voluntary I felt nothing but excited and frankly speaking, a bit nervous. This would be the first contact with refugee and I don’t really know what the hell happened there. Days and days gone since then and I apparently got used to them, so did they to me. It was a funny interaction though since we didn’t speak the same language but always find a way to get understood by each other.

Bunch of amazing things kept coming in there. The hotel owner treated me brilliantly even she arranged Christmas and New Year dinner by her own charge, made me felt like living in my own house. And the best of all was fellow volunteer thoughtfulness and sincerity. I knew they sacrificed a lot by coming here, left their work and family, and it was all done just to make sure hundreds people, who are strangers to them, get their dignity as human back. We definitely need more people like them. It was also a valuable experience for me to befriend with people across the world in such limited time yet managed to have strong ties.

Lot of works must be done there and it’s worth every sweat. In one day, you might be a friendly shopkeeper in the morning but end up being a weird guardian looking after the children swinging and screaming. You can also be a food snob serving a chicken dinner for 150 persons. Or sometimes you’re lucky enough to sort out a mountain of clothes in our artsy warehouse. I can tell though, that is time well spent. That is time which isn’t about you. That is time for strangers in your life, but somehow you keep doing it without even have a logic reason behind it. Perhaps it just feels right, and that’s enough.

I’m citing John, the co-founder of Refugee Support, “we can’t save the world and neither did save all refugees. But we can make life of hundred refugees better. That’s the least we can do. So keep doing it.”

After all, life keeps going on no matter it is good or bad. My voluntary experience sent me a clear message: do not take anything for granted, there might be someone who’s died fighting for it.