Lending a Hand in Lesvos
I'm home, in Portland, for a week. Whoa. That's the longest amount of time I've spent in Portland since early November, and the last time I'll be here for that long for the foreseeable future. <That's just sinking in now.> After 20 months of funemployment, I've accepted a job. I start training mid-February (that I need to pass before I officially am back in the workforce again). I was originally supposed to start training in a week, but it got pushed out, which means I had an extra month and a half of time given to me. I hemmed and hawed about what to do with that time; do I spend it in Portland, getting ready for my next step while also freelancing to make as much money as I can in the meantime? Do I head somewhere warm to top up the consistent bronzed glow I had built up from trip after trip to a warm destination? Do I check something off the bucket list--specifically I was thinking about taking a dance-cation to Cali, Colombia and work on my salsa and Spanish skills? Then I saw this post in a travel group that I'm in on Facebook:
I'm not in Europe, but I had time to spare, I had been poring over recent news coverage of Canada welcoming refugees, and then this opportunity came along--something about this just felt right. I reached out to Sojourn, we chatted a bit and before I knew it, I found a cheap flight from the USA to Greece and I was going to go volunteer. I'll be going to Greece from January 7 - February 4 to the island of Lesvos in the northern Aegean Sea, off the coast of Turkey. The Moria Camp is serving as a temporary home to migrants and refugees with several hundred people arriving daily by boat. These people arrive with nothing except the clothes on their back or minimal possessions that survived the boat ride, and hope for a better future. I don't really know what it's going to be like. I don't even fully know what I'll be doing. But, I'm going. The last time I had gone on a trip with the sole purpose of giving my time and energy to a cause was back in college when I went to Ecuador for 3 weeks with a volunteer student organization. Those three weeks were transformative for me: they were challenging, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I emerged better for it. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. That's how I feel about going to Greece as well.
Truth be told, I'm a bag full of feelings.
I'm excited. I have the opportunity to make a difference. I've always been in awe of people who roll up their sleeves and join humanitarian efforts after any type of crisis or tragedy, like the earthquake in Haiti or the tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Katrina's aftermath in the south. I've always regarded them with the utmost admiration and respect and told myself that I, too, would one day jump in like they do. And now I'm about to? Unreal.
I'm nervous. I have been Instagram stalking the hashtag #lesvos to see real-time photos of what's going on and follow stories. I have a few friends who are involved, either on the ground in Greece or in Canada providing support for refugee families, and I have been poring over their posts to soak up as much as I can. I'm reading articles about volunteering in a crisis and how to take care of yourself and how to make the most of your time. I'm trying to prepare but honestly, nothing can truly prepare me for what lies ahead. I'm nervous that I won't be able to handle what's coming or that I'm not able to do enough or that I'm more of a hinderance than help. But I'm trying not to get in my head too much.
I'm vowing to share. Part of giving it all that I have is sharing. Sharing my experience while I'm there, to show you what I see and tell you how I feel. Sharing the possibility for others to do something similar; to give you the good, the bad, and everything in between so you can decide if this is something you too want to try. And sharing the opportunity for you to give vicariously through me. Help is needed in the form of people, service and basic items (which can be purchased through monetary donations). I am paying for my own expenses but I'm reaching out to my community if you'd like to contribute to the cause. Your monetary donations can help buy a pair of shoes for someone who doesn't have any, giving a child a blanket to help keep them warm during the night, build up the camp with tents and toilets so a family can be safe and stay together or help hire medical professionals or translators to create a safer environment. If you'd like to make a donation, it helps the island's economy and I can personally make sure it goes towards basic goods and other items for the refugees. (Whether you decide to donate, send me good vibes, share or anything else--thank you, for whatever you do. Every bit counts and is appreciated.)
So, here I am. My last full week in Portland. The adventure of a lifetime is on deck with the bittersweet end to funemployment in the hole. I never planned for this, I didn't expect this, but that's usually how the best things happen.