Refugees fleeing Syria remember home as a place they were trying to escape. Now the idea of settling down feels like a broken dream.
August, 2016—Located in Lesbos, Greece, the Kara Tepe camp was just a hill of olive trees before Syrian refugees arrived from Turkey. Now, filling the space between trees, are glistening white shelters connected by lines sagging with clothes drying in the breezes arising from the Aegean Sea.
It’s the kind of place you might enjoy camping at for a night or two before returning to your cruise ship, but for families arriving dangerously on an over-filled rubber dinghy to stay for weeks or months with nowhere else to go, it has been unsettling.
“Where is Home?”
At first Nazir doesn’t understand the question. But finally he says in Arabic, “Home is where my family is.”
He’s found relative safety in Greece—he’s not being shot at, no bombs are falling around him, and some of his family escaped with him. Many of the thousands of other displaced Syrians now living in Greece have become completely separated from both their homeland and families.
This is the challenge Samaritan’s Purse is facing as we respond to refugees whose lives are stalled in Greece. These displaced people have been forced from their homes and have sacrificed everything for their families’ futures. Now they face traumatic memories and frustrating realities.
Samaritan’s Purse has been responding to this ever-changing and deeply complex and growing need since August 2015. We’re working with the Greek government, other relief organizations and local churches to rescue refugees from despair.
“If we can provide a way for them to smile and to laugh and to forget about their trauma for a little bit, we’re happy to provide that,” said Melissa Blauvelt, Samaritan’s Purse project coordinator working on the island of Lesbos, “but our job is not only to provide for their needs and comfort but also to provide them with lasting and true hope.”
During the last year, we’ve provided refugee camps with water and sanitation, food, hygiene kits, shelter materials such as blankets and tarps, and help from onsite personnel.
As we continue to assist the government and organizations with emerging needs, we are also supporting local churches that are engaging the refugee communities through food and clothing distribution and through family activities such as classes and sports camps.
Throughout northern Greece, Athens, and on the islands of Lesbos, Leros, Kos, Chios, and Samos, we continue to distribute food, water, clothing, and items such as hygiene kits and other personal supplies.
People say “Thank you, sir. Here we feel safe and free. We need organizations like Samaritan’s Purse because it’s not only words,” said Stavros Mirogiannis, director of the Kara Tepe camp in Lesbos. “It’s in actions. It’s in the field.”