Why I volunteer – in Pam’s own words
AS I LEFT the tea hut I noticed two young men standing on the other side of the fence.
They smiled and said: ‘Thanks for the tea, we really look forward to it twice a day.’
We chatted for a bit and I asked their names and where they came from. They both said Syria – Hamid from Aleppo and Khaled from Damascus. I said I had been there several years ago and what a wonderful country it was.
‘Not any more,’ came the response, and Khaled began to cry quietly.
‘I was walking down the street and suddenly my house was bombed in front of me,’ he said. ‘My whole life just disappeared in two minutes.’
You learn very quickly when working with refugees not to ask difficult questions, but just wait until they want to speak, or not.
Despite my feelings of inadequacy and not being sure whether I was up to the job, I was sure I had made the right decision, aged 71, recently widowed and with ongoing back problems, in coming here to volunteer to work with refugees.
The people who live in the camp, many families with young children, come from a variety of countries – Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Algeria and now Somalia, to name a few, and live in appalling conditions.
It’s normal to see families of five or six living in pop-up tents designed for two people.
Some sleep just under a tarpaulin and in mid-September, when the temperature soared to a scorching 36 degrees Celsius, some were just sleeping out in the open.
Samos Volunteers relies on donations and the willingness of ordinary people, like you and I, to show support by volunteering.
The hours are sometimes long and a flexible attitude is essential but the experience is truly life-changing.
The people you will be working with will inspire you and so will the refugees.
They are people just like us who happen to be living through horrendous and traumatically difficult circumstances.