I have participated in two expeditions to Greece with HBW. The first, was our expedition
in August with four other volunteers from America. I didn’t know what to expect going in. There was a lot of nervousness on the part of my family and friends about how safe it would be or whether this was a good use of my time and resources. I had those thoughts in the back of my mind but something told me it would be okay. Our visit was to LM village. It is a small abandoned and rundown beach resort in rural Greece filled with about 350 people, more than half of which are children. It was established as a place for families. It didn’t take long to know I was in exactly the right place doing the right thing. The refugee village wasn’t perfect; in fact, it was a work in progress but I felt like I was needed. We did a lot of physical labor. We chose projects around the village to work on like clearing out rooms to use for school or socializing, we sorted supplies, we cleaned and repaired. All of these services were very important, but the most important thing, I felt, was that we were there. The people in the village had been through unimaginable hardships that, as Americans, we may never have to experience. I feel like it would be easy to feel abandoned and hopeless in their situation. The volunteers, at the very least, help them feel that the entire world is not blind to their suffering.
I was surprised how quickly I bonded with the other volunteers. I immediately felt like I was part of a team. It was not hard to jump right in and get to work, there was plenty to do. I also had the opportunity to make connections with some of the residents which was a rewarding experience. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to both work and connect with the people. I wished that I could have gotten to know each family but time did not allow.
I had such an overwhelming sense that the stories of these people need to be shared. They are sometimes voiceless because of the dangers that social media can cause and often times the Western world just won’t listen to any but their own. I made a choice before leaving Greece the first time, that I would return to Greece to record and ultimately share the stories of these people.
HBW organized a second expedition two months later and I was leading it. I was able to gather two wonderful people interested in donating their time and talents to come with me to film and record refugees throughout Greece. We were able to visit multiple camps and villages and speak with not only Syrian refugees, but Afghani and Iranian as well. Our focus was not on telling the worst and most horrible stories but spreading hope. Our most important question was “What do you hope for?” We started a project I called “The Hope Project” where we simply asked refugees and anyone involved what they hope for. We would then record them holding a board with their message written on it.
The difference between these two trips was the sheer depth of my experience with the refugees. I was able to dedicate almost all of my time to sitting down with families and individuals and really talking with them. I heard their stories but more importantly I heard their hopes.
We want to make change by making hope. It is easy to see the depth of someone’s soul when you can know what they truly and deeply hope for. They become human and real. Hope is the only thing that can keep a human being going through this life at times and if you can connect with a person’s hope, you can connect with anyone on some level.
My hope is that what we do will make a difference in the lives of those we serve and in the lives that we share our experiences with.