Volunteer stories: Nuno (Nov 16)

28/11/16

My little contribution to a better world

It was an old desire, and life gave me the right moment to realize it.

On my first experience of volunteering in a foreign country, I was lucky to join the right organization at the right time and with the right volunteers. 16 unforgettable days at all levels at the Alexandreia Refugees Camp with the NGO Refugee Support Europe.

I was part of this team in a period where, among others, two important changes took place: the passage of refugees from tents to ISO caravans and the change of the distribution system on the shop.

The first will help families better withstand the approaching winter and the second allows families to choose, accordingly to their assigned points, what they want to take from the shop accordingly to their needs and preferences, as if they were shopping on an actual store. I had a more active role in this new shop system and it was very gratifying to see the joy and satisfaction of families during the first week of implementation. It was a pleasure to help the families during their shop time, explaining the system and the goods available through gestures and the basic arabic words I learnt on the camp

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But there were many other volunteer activities: between the warehouse and the camp, what gave me more satisfaction (apart from the shop) were the children activities and the purchases from the local suppliers. Alexandreia inhabitants, like on all of Greece, are going through very difficult times, and it’s great how the donations given to Refugees Support are used to buy goods for the refugees on the local shops, helping not only refugees but also local merchants and economy.

I will never forget the refugee families I spoke to, the amazing and emotional stories and the concerns behind each tent wall. They are really good and extraordinary people and deserve so much!

I will never forget the eyes of children and their smiles, despite the unimaginable things they have lived on their short lives and the hard life on the camp. Their inexhaustible energy, their laughter and the constant “ma friend, ma friend” as they called us. The hearts that some of the children drew on my face, their sincere smile and when they seized my legs.

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I will never forget some of the Greeks I met who give jobs to refugees or receive them at their homes.

I will never forget some former refugees who are now helping the new refugees to overcome these difficult times.

I will never forget the friendships I have made with my fellow volunteers, amazing and even greater hearts from all around the world: Spain, Italy, Scotland, Wales, England, Netherlands and USA.

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I will never forget our special van that so many valuables donations and goods carried.

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Many voices and images will never leave my head. Some of those images I tried to save in photos and share with you through this testimonial.

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These families went through something difficult to imagine, had the courage to face thousands of miles on foot and/or boat, in the cold or heat, to find a real future for them. People like you and me, from doctors to carpenters who have left everything behind and where words like “Freedom”, “Equality” and “Opportunities” are struggling to become truth.

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Refugee Support and its volunteers do an amazing and passionate work lighting up refugees’ hard lives, with big and small details that make the difference trying to bring some sense of normality and freedom to those who have an uncertain future and their lives stopped in time, trapped in a refugee camp, waiting for political or bureaucratic decisions.

Refugee Support and its volunteers really make a difference on the day to day life of the refugees and also on the life of Alexandreia inhabitants. For that great work to continue is very important not only the participation of new volunteers but also the money donations that are so well used.

Thank you Paul and John, two inspiring people and founders of Refugees Support. Thank you to the magnificent staff of Hotel Manthos and the Greek people of Alexandria. Thank you to Katerina and her cafeteria where the salads, the falafels and the staff smiles during our lunches gave us energy to continue to our work on the afternoon. Thank you to the wonderful colleagues with whom I shared 16 intense days of work and friendship, and some tears during the goodbye…

My daily thoughts are with the refugees’ families that I met and with the future of their lives!

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