Sleepless

It has been 4 days since we left the Bay Area and headed to Lesvos. My total time of actual sleep is about 14 hours (including a few hours on the plane) and I feel that I will probably collapse at any moment. I know that after you read this post you will ask me to get some rest otherwise I will get sick, and you are probably right. However, my excited body and hyper energy won’t listen to y’all, but I assure you, I will be just fine.

Lesvos is a beautiful island and I felt in love with its capital, Mitilini, the moment I landed. Mitilini is one of three major spots on the island where refugees start their journey through Europe crossing from Turkey. Their journey to freedom and a better life comes with a very high price tag; expensive fees paid to the smugglers to cross the water from Turkey to Lesvos, and a high death toll of refugees due to bad weather, defective boats, or wrong landing over a rocky beach.

Local people in Lesvos are very friendly and supportive of the thousands of refugees who cross their little island every day.

My first two night shifts were full of excitement, but also anxiety. I was mainly greeting refugees who had just landed and helping translate from Arabic to English. Most of them were soaking wet, cold, frightened, some injured, and all totally exhausted. I tried to calm them down and explain where they were, because most refugees have no idea where they land and how much further they have to travel. They first need to process their refugee status papers, they need to know what to say to the authorities, and need assistance and direction to the camp’s food, shelter, and warmth.

This is personally one of the most emotional and difficult tasks that I have ever experienced, but it is without any doubt the most rewarding one. Witnessing the changes in the refugees’ energy after hearing my calming and welcoming voice, seeing the grateful look on their faces, receiving heartwarming hugs, and melting in the sweetness of the children’s smiles, were absolutely priceless.

These refugees lost their homes and everything they owned, and many lost their loved ones back home or during their journey to freedom. They took a risk, placed their hope and trust in the hands of strangers and volunteers who met them with warm hearts, open arms, and countless hours of hard work and dedication. These volunteers have restored the refugees’ faith they lost in humanity, and I am very grateful and honored to be one of them.

-Youssef

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