These stories will introduce you to refugees we worked with in the Greek camps. We are following their journey and to let them know they have not been forgotten.
SH – 36 year old, family of four from Afghanistan
From Afghanistan they traveled by car to Iran, stayed only one week in Iran and slept in a park. From there they walked seven days to Turkey on mountain trails carrying their children on their backs. They stayed one month in Turkey before traveling by raft with 14 others on the Agean to Samos, Greece.
November 2019, Hands On Global met SH in Samos. Their young son, who was medically fragile, required constant care. The HOG team helped them while they lived in a tent for two months. SH talks of all the help Doctors Dan and Lucia, NM in Part 4 and Tama did for his family.
They left Samos and lived in Athens one year. Their asylum application was pending in Greece. They were hoping to be accepted for asylum from another country which could help their son. Germany refused and France accepted their family as refugees.
While waiting for asylum approval, their medically fragile son died in the hospital in Greece. They had to bury him at a place which was a 10 hour drive from Athens. They expressed how much they miss him. It has been three years since their son died.
They have lived in France for two years in a one bedroom, four story walk up, with no light on the stairs at night. There is a local market for everyday needs. To get Afghan food, they must travel 43 km. While SH was at work, we took the wife and kids to the Afghan market. Huge bright smiles and conversation was exchanged when they walked into the Afghan store.
SH’s job is sewing for a company that makes bags, shirts, and other clothing. His wife takes care of their six year old son and their nine month old daughter born in France. The baby has a very small hole in her heart. Their doctor said the hole will close in five to six months and she should be ok.
The French government does not provide as much assistance as Germany. Parents in France must pay for schooling. As refugees the government pays for their six year old son to attend school and partially subsidizes their rent. Their residency permit is for four years. At the end of the four years, the French Government can decide to let them stay or not. After learning the language, working and paying taxes, making a stable home for themselves…..waiting for this decision seems cruel.
The entire time we were together we used Goggle Translate, which never worked so long. We switched between French, English and Persian. In spite of the language barrier, they spent the evening showing us pictures and videos of time with their families and friends. They shared pictures as well of the hard times on the trails or sleeping in the park.
Our time with this family brought smiles, laughs as well as tears. Time with them was short but will always be memorable.
Tama and Cathy, Hands on Global, reporting from the road.