Six days in Athens and feeling like I know how to get around just one area of town. Traffic is insane. Today I walked for two hours as I don’t know when I’ll be back. Everything seems so expensive — I wonder how the refugees can afford living here if they get asylum. Valerie Hellermann continues to talk with medical providers and to ask the hard questions; but there isn’t a lot of answers except that the numbers of refugees have increased. One night we met some Afghan refugee friends at Victoria Square for dinner. Valerie and I made 25 sandwiches to give out to any of the kids in the square. We didn’t know how many we would see as rain was expected. Lina and Erlien had told us how they used to take 100 sandwiches to give out. It rained and rained so our Afghan friend gave the sandwiches to many of the single men as they huddled under a cover where we were. No different than feeding the homeless in my hometown except I don’t speak their language.
We have meetings with refugee friends who are now in Athens. It is bittersweet. It is great to see them and reconnect. Valerie has such a connection that they share their stories freely with her. The more I hear about their life experiences, the more I can’t understand how cruel human beings can be to other human beings. Sometimes I feel like it’s a movie and can’t be real life. And yet I know it’s not. It is heart breaking because we don’t know if we will see them again. And when they are in the middle of an appeal, or waiting to get their ID … or applying for family reunification — it is such a long waiting game with little resources or support.
I take pictures of us together to share via email with others on the Hands on Global team so they know their friends are okay. We make sure we have each other’s email address and cell phone numbers for What’s App. We hug, sometimes tears and promise to keep in touch. And I reflect with Valerie each time how difficult it is to leave them and not know what the future will bring. Many of the Hands on Global team members have developed supportive relationships with refugee friends. Their long-term commitment to be a friend has been for years. I feel like a newbie. And yet again … I know why they do it and will do it as well.
What is life without the support of your friends when you are in crisis? And believe me … refugees live daily in crisis.