“Can you imagine being at home and suddenly hearing an airplane flying over head and having a few seconds to take cover under a table or a bed, not knowing if you will be alive when it passes?”
In 2015 more than a million people fled their war infested countries looking for a better life. The majority of people fleeing came from Syria but I have also met refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. Many of those fleeing arrived in Greece.
It’s not an easy journey. Many travel in rubber dinghies or small wooden boats. One of the families I visit has five children. The youngest one is a little over a year old. She was born on one of these boats. More than 3,770 migrants have died trying to find sanctuary.
(Pictured left, the miracle baby herself, born in a refugee boat)
I share my time between Love Without Borders For Refugees founded by an incredible woman, Kayra Martinez and a community center in Athens. In the community center I teach English to women and help out in the women’s and children’s center. The woman’s space is a safe space. Men are not even allowed to peek inside!
There are many young men who have fled to Greece. When I arrived at the community center, I was surprised to see so many men. I had expected to see the women and children but the single young men without families, surprised me. I soon found out why.
After they finish their studies it is required that men over 18 join the army. Once the civil war broke out many did not want to be forced to pick up arms. As one of my friend explained, he didn't want to fight because ultimately he didn't know if the person on the other side of his gun might be a friend or a classmate.
So they flee. In my one friend's case, he is currently waiting for his asylum papers. Once in his destination country, where he can legally work, he will send the money for his family to join him. The cost of being smuggled out of the country is outrageous. Like others, they have already lost close to everything because of the war and yet smugglers will charge roughly $2,000 dollars per person!
They have to be certain that there is a place for the family to safely land because once they leave their home in Syria, the government will destroy it. There is no going home for these people. They have nothing to go home to.
Despite everything they have been through I have found that most of them always have a smile on their face. It is easy to forget that everyday they wake up not knowing if their families are still alive. They are some of the bravest people I have ever met. They seem to have a light inside them that will not be extinguished!
My name is Sierra. I left my country for Greece for a much more superficial reason. A Gap Year. I wanted the opportunity to give back, learn, and grow outside of a classroom before beginning my college career.
This is Where Two Worlds Collide. I hope to share with you here what I am learning first hand from my work and friendships with the refugees.
For privacy reasons, I do not name my friends or even the center where I spend much of my time. I have been asked to maintain a high level of anonymity due to privacy and safety concerns. I'm sure you will understand.