Angela Gorman sings in a choir in South London. One of her fellow choir members talked to Angela about the work they were doing in Greece to help migrants. Inspired by her friends’ work with Kos Solidarity http://www.kos-solidarity.com/ Angela took a week’s annual leave to go and help. I am proud to have the opportunity to publish Angela’s observations on her life changing week. Here is her blog:
I felt that I needed to write about my recent life changing experience. I spent one week ( that felt like a month) volunteering for Kos Solidarity on the Greek island of Kos, very close to the Turkish coast.
I will never forget seeing people of all ages, arriving at our volunteer station near the harbour at night, shivering and in shock, with only the street lights to help us to see them and let them breathe out when they realised we were there to help. We gave them dry clothes, blankets, water and biscuits. There were children to help change to dry clothes, because the parents hands were too cold to work properly. There was wet hair to dry, cuts to tend to and little by way of rest places, only the concrete curb on which we would lay a blanket, if we had them to spare.
Because of another charitable effort, we were able to place most families in a local hotel, and if they were without means, that would be free of charge with free meals for a couple of days. So I got to meet several families and help them in different ways.
The Syrian father Hassan, travelling only with his 3yr old daughter. I noticed that she was very shy, and unlike the other children, she would not make eye contact for long, and would not smile. I’m not trained in counselling anyone, let alone children that have come from a warzone. It was so sad to see her like that. Hassan told me she missed her mother and brothers who were back in Syria, and that she couldn’t sleep well. Thankfully, the next day when I led a walking convoy of around 20 adults and 10 children from the hotel to the old town square for a clown show, they both came along. During the show, we both saw his daughter smile, a big genuine smile. And in his broken English, Hassan told me that was her first smile in 8 weeks.
An Iranian couple and their daughter were so grateful for my help, they invited me to join them for a bit of food. We ‘talked’ using google translate, about their lives. He an Electrician and she a Beautician with a degree in architecture! They had to leave their home, car, jobs because the husband was a Christian, and was at risk of being hung. How odd that the enormity of this knowledge was then contrasted by playing some Michael Jackson videos on YouTube and seeing their faces light up as they’d never seen these and rarely heard the music. The wife danced with me….there was joy in the room ! I’ll be keeping in touch with them.
I helped another couple by taking their sickly baby to the local hospital one evening, when the tent with MSF Doctors was no longer open. The hospital of an evening in Kos town was severely understaffed, with one Doctor seeing her way through the crowed corridor of patients. Eventually, with some insistence, I got them to assess the baby and all ended up fine. Again, a very polite and unassuming family, just wanting safety and a better future for themselves.
There was a young man from Syria, staring out over the sea one day. I asked if he was ok to discover he spoke English well. He had left Syria to live in Lebanon 5 years earlier and told me all his family were in Syria but he could not return. I knew this meant he would be killed if he did. Perhaps he had been active in opposition to Assad ? He missed his family terribly. I found myself trying to give him reassurance that he could build a good life and that his family would be proud of him.
Every refugee I met had the same human emotions as you and me, hopes and fears, joy and pain. But they had seen and felt so much horror and pain, and were grateful to be alive and safe.
How long can this continue where heartless people smugglers are profiting from this desperation to leave war zones and oppression ? How many people like you and me should die or suffer unnecessarily?
Discarded dinghies in Kos harbour which have up to 60 people crammed into them by smugglers.
Refugee children have some moments of joy watching volunteer clowns from Sweden.
Angela Gorman blogs at https://gormanangela1.wordpress.com/ where you can find more photographs
Details of the charity Angela worked with Kos Solidarity can be found here http://www.kos-solidarity.com/