March 5, 2017
Today was beautiful with clear skies, a bright sun, flat sea, every terrace was bustling with patrons drinking coffee and basking in the beauty of the day. For most a more perfect day could not be had, but I found myself struggling to contain my emotions. Today was my last day in Greece. I had first began my mission of volunteering in Greece during December of 2015. Bidding adieu to the island of Samos was painful, it had been my home for 10 months.
I have been held captive on this island by the amazing people who I have had the blessing to surround myself with. The volunteers I worked with are of the highest calibre of people, willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to improve the lives of others. The refugees who I was here to help are the sweetest people, who taught me much about myself and the world around me. The local Greeks who accepted me and shared food, drink, and laughs with gave me the most exquisite Greek experience. The community volunteers who came to Samos as refugees, gave more than any people I have had the chance of encountering. All of these people inspired me, challenged me, and to all of them I have the utmost respect.
I had returned to Greece in June to volunteer with Samos Volunteers. I over-extended my visa to finish the mission of filling the gaps until the government-organizations could take over. A secondary reason I stayed was to remain for the community volunteers who had seen volunteer after volunteer leave them. It still tears my heart apart knowing that I left three in Samos who still had not received positive answers: Mohammad, Nour, and Abdullah. Yet I was able to see the majority receive positive answers and/or leave Samos: Abdullah, Mustafa, Danial, Mikail, Raneem, Jana, Reem, Ziad, Jonathon, Adams, Majida, Mahmoud, and Muneeb. I will dearly miss them all, the one’s who called me Bapa/Papa; I will see them again, inshallah, for we have a book to write.
This last week I was able to step back to observe and advise. The Safe-Passage groups I worked with are now handed over to long-term volunteer coordinators who will carry on the task of helping refugees cross safely. Volunteers have begun putting clothing from the warehouse on pallets to ship to other locations where people need help. Medin is now distributing additional clothes to new arrivals and the transition of the hygiene window went smoothly. New arrivals that arrive wet, have babies, or specific needs will have their immediate needs met by Samos Volunteers. The daily chess and backgammon matches have re-commenced which I am immensely happy to see. A volunteer purchased three guitars, assorted musical instruments, and all the extra accessories to aid in our music classes.
On Friday Samos Volunteers were invited to participate in the Medecines Sans Frontiers annual field discussion. Only one other group was invited, the lawyers from the Greek Council for Refugees. It was an immense honor to be apart of this, this was an internal meeting, and we were asked for our input. The international president of Medecines Sans Frontiers, Joanne Liu, was in attendance, as she was visiting Samos. As we introduced ourselves and what Samos Volunteers did, we were able to paint a picture to the highest “officer” of Medecines Sans Frontiers. I forsee stronger collaboration as well as the networking possibilities.
It was difficult to say goodbye to everyone as I was about to board the ferry to Turkey. Even the sunglasses I had on could not hide the tears streaming down my face. Tears were coursing down the faces of many of my friends. It was a blessing to see the amount of people who came to send me off and wish me the best of luck in Uganda. People from the camp were walking by as I was boarding the ferry and even they stopped to wave and reach a hand to their chest as a token of gratitude. Samos has been one of the biggest blessings and tests of my life.
This is the last update I will have centered on the Greek Refugee Crisis. The blog will now transition to the refugee crisis in Uganda. As I end this chapter, I need to express my gratitude for everyone who had a part of this. The volunteers I worked with, thank you for all you have done and will continue to do. The donors who sent deliveries of clothing, toys, and hygiene items thank you for meeting an immense need. To all the funders both to myself and to the group; you are unsung heroes. Had it not been for you, those of us in the field would not have been able to meet needs or to continue volunteering. Thank you all, the world is full of angels that help the world’s angels. With much love and gratitude, goodbye Greece, on to new missions.