Isn’t it really tough going? I don’t think I could do it….
That’s the most common reaction when I’ve spoken about my time volunteering at the camp. In answer to the first – no, I didn’t find it overly ‘tough’. In fact in volunteering with the refugees – people who had undergone such trauma and hardships (and continue to do so) – the surprise was that I didn’t encounter behaviours that were ‘tough’ to be around.
I’m known for my honesty though – and it was definitely a bitter sweet experience… weighted towards the sweet absolutely…
the welcome from the refugees,
the other volunteers (real friendships made with quality individuals from around the world),
the dignity with which things are organised and carried out,
the satisfaction in suggesting an outfit in the boutique and getting it right first time,
when a young boy with limited English says he doesn’t want the top because it’s ‘too girl’,
when a refugee insists they share their bread with you,
when you ask what the bread is called (a really delicious flat bread) and you are told ‘bread!’ (we fell about),
seeing things improving,
the teamwork and camaraderie,
the humility and humanity,
that you’ve been part of the something that is making a difference…
but the bitter…
for me was unexpected, and took me by surprise…
It wasn’t seeing the (many, many) young children for the first time, or encountering people displaying obvious signs of ‘trauma’ that I had tried to steel myself for … which I didn’t really encounter…
It was the young unaccompanied teenage boys… During an early morning delivery of Greek tsoureki (Easter Bread)… It was when I opened a tent and found them asleep. Initially their slumber made me feel like I shouldn’t be there, like I was being somehow inappropriate, and then a wave of sorrow came over me… that even as I write this, I cannot intellectualise or analyse fully. Just a feeling of wanting to help protect them in their vulnerability and hour of need …
And as for the ‘I don’t think I could do it …’ we started with, I hope my ramblings have served to prove – you can! You don’t have to be an extraordinary person, I don’t believe – just ordinary with a bit of extra to give – extra elbow grease, compassion, time or money… (or secret option d all of the above!)
As the quote goes, do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
John, Paul and Sarah however, well they might just qualify for the extraordinary title…
Over and out x
(Though it’s neither – I’ll be spreading the word over social media to help collect funds, and out again to do my bit)