Volunteer stories: Suri (May 17)

It has been the most awesome two weeks I have ever spent, volunteering in Alexandria refugee camp. The greatest treasure I take away with me is the knowledge there are so many beautiful souls in this world, irrespective and despite of cost, venture on a journey so as to make a difference

, no matter how small the difference may be to the life and circumstances to people in most dire need of respect, dignity and normalcy. I feel such a strong bond between us because of this. Working side by side with you all, especially seeing how tirelessly John and Paul work, inspire me to continue on this crusade.

The cost of this journey is not only financial. Anyone planning to volunteer in any refugee camp must be aware of the emotional cost involved. How do you say good bye to fellow volunteers you have developed such a strong bond that I feel our souls are intricately and inexplicably intertwined.

How do you turn your back and just walk away those people, those seeking a safe haven for some respect, dignity and normalcy, the very reason for your journey, the same people who greet you with a smile and laugh with you even though some of the conversations are lost in translation? Until recently smiles and laughter have been a rare commodity with them.

How do you tell the children you play with everyday and never tire hearing them call you “my friend, my friend” that you won’t see them tomorrow or after tomorrow because you’re catching a train tonight to continue your journey? Someone like “Mullet Man”, the camp favourite, barely two years old, who I imagine has spent all his life in refugee camps and escaping the horrors of war. The same boy who trustingly takes my hand every time he sees me and lead me to the playground.

And the young men who help in the kitchen. I think they are very tickled to discover I was born and raised Muslim, and even though I haven’t practised Islam for many years, I can still recite part of the Quran. This journey to Greece has cost me around A$3000, but when I see Omar, Muhammad, Ahmed and Imad smile, they always have a smile for me, I know the they are wearing that $3000 smile; it’s been worth it.

Even though I said I had no expectation going into this refugee camp, this journey has been a very special journey in more ways that I can explain rationally. I think Kirana has told some of you that I lost my wife last October to cancer. We’ve been together for 45 years, a greater part of my life.

When my daughter Kirana invited me on this trip, I knew she had my welfare at heart. She knew I was totally devastated over my loss, and the trip would help to heal this old heart of mine.

That you all have helped me on this journey would be an understatement. The camaraderie and joy of doing all the fun things we did in and out of camp have helped eased the pain and helped me take another step forward on this journey of being whole again. Towards closure. And for that I am eternally grateful.

My great wish and hope is that our paths may cross again.

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