Volunteer stories: Rob (Jan 17)

When I told people that I was swanning off to Greece to help out in refugee camps for a bit, a few people said ‘Have fun’ then corrected with ‘Well, not fun but you know what I mean’.

Elisa Restelli and I got tattoos this week. My first in over 20 years.

I want it to remind me of the time I was in Dimitri’s bar in Filippiada, at the back next to the fire with volunteers from around the world, some with Refugee Support and 2 from Project Hope and how we drunk and laughed about similarities and differences and struggled to contain that laughter when a Greek Captain Haddock from Tin Tin came and sat with us and how we couldn’t tell if Dimitri was angry or not because he always slams the beer bottles down like that and the amazing beans and the horrible olives and how the conversation inevitably turned to tattoos. That was just one part of one night. There were many more like it.

So bits of it were hard, sometimes physically, often mentally. But still the overwhelming feeling is of fun. It cost less than a two week holiday in Greece and was way more rewarding. And fun.

It started as an in joke on how to use up a no longer relevant tattoo of an ‘A’ but the more I thought about it, the more apt ‘Onion’ as a symbol of my time there became. There was a time in my first few days when I was around the kitchen table in Alexandreia with some volunteers and some refugees. Some I could verbally communicate with, others we relied on smiles and pointing. When the big bowl of onions came out, everybody knew what to do. Everyone understands and can use onions. I was inspired to do this in the first instance because some bad career choices had left me feeling next to useless. This made me feel useful. Like an onion. Like I could find myself anywhere in the world and be useful to somebody. Like an onion.

You don’t have to get a tattoo of (I went with Italian) onion but if you do volunteer, and if you love it, and if you go under the needle, please let Elisa or myself know as we’re trying to start a club. Thanks.

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