My journey to the Syrian refugee camp in Western Greece with Hope for a Better World was my first experience in humanitarian work. Not fully knowing what I was getting myself in for was only slightly disconcerting. But I was really pretty excited. I knew that no matter what happened I would do my best to forget my personal desires and seek to understand how those in the camp truly felt about their situations and how I could use my limited resources to help. After having spoken with a fellow volunteer, Crystallynn, about her experience in various refugee camps in Greece I began to prepare myself as best I could for a war zone of sorts (Her experiences early on in the crisis it turns out were vastly different from my own). I was told that due to the complexity of the refugee crisis frustration, depression, and feelings of uselessness were common among many involved. So I prepared myself as best as I could and off I went.
Upon my arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find that the residents of LM Village had many of their primary needs provided for. They had better-than-average shelter, food provisions, clean water, Wi-Fi, medical and dental care, and while be it a slow process, options for asylum. While it may be a big step down from the standard of living many of the residents were used to, I think it could be said that life in this particular refugee camp is really pretty decent, though far from being all rainbows and butterflies.
Many challenges confronted residents regularly, both emotional and physical. The three factors that I feel complicate the situation most are the fact that many of the residents have experienced severe emotional trauma at various points along their escape from Syria that goes unaddressed, including having lost family members along the way and being separated from family while in the camp. Secondly, the uncertainty of the next step in their journey lends to justified concern. And finally, unemployment leaves many of the men feeling unproductive and unfruitful. I can see how these factors can lead to frustration, emotional volatility, and feelings of desperation for all parties involved.
I sincerely think Hope For a Better World’sb involvement in this camp and others far worse off can work to combat the challenges whether it be contributing to existing programs or tailoring carefully thought out programs to meet their needs. Our time, care, and concern are sorely needed and deeply appreciated. I plan to return as soon as circumstances allow.