Syrian refugees often offer to help with volunteer services.
Last night at the border.
The first train came and went with the usual hundreds of refugees. We distributed winter clothing. The taxi protest on the Greek border was successful and refugees are allowed to travel from there by taxi again. (The train is old, cold, crowded, uncomfortable, and more expensive.) So some came by taxi while many still came by train. But it felt a little calmer than usual. There were fewer children crying.
After we completed distribution to the first group, we waited several hours for the next train, by the fire with a group of Syrian refugees. When my friends told them what I was doing here in Macedonia, they responded by saying, “Thank you!” over and over and over again, in English and Arabic, and telling me that I was “an angel.”
One young Syrian man, a university student, came later and was talking to me. He asked what I was doing. I explained that I was fundraising to make money to winter clothes and that I came from America to help the refugees. His eyes welled up with tears and he looked shocked. He too began saying “thank you,” over and over. I told him that if the war was in my country, it would be me in his position. I told him that many Americans and Europeans also wanted to help the refugees and that they donated money for this. His eyes teared up even more. He said the American people are good, the people everywhere are good. It’s the politicians that are the problem.
He started to tell me everything. About what was happening in the war. About the hundreds of children that were killed in different cities. About the chemical warfare. How his brother was killed. How the politicians would not stop until every last person in Syria was killed. I just stood there and acknowledged him for as long as was needed. Then we walked around the camp together. He told me how he came. How he had to try many times to get through the border from Syria to Turkey because it is illegal and the Turkish police stop the refugees. (There are no Syrian police.) It takes many attempts and the police shoot at the refugees with rockets. Finally he gave a police man 200 Euros to get through. From Turkey, he came in one of those rubber rafts to a Greek Island, took the ferry to Athens, and then came here by bus and train.
The second train for that night was late. I went with my volunteer friends to the local town to buy pizza for everyone – the volunteers, the police, and the refugees who were around the fire. The other volunteers pitched in and we brought four huge pizzas back to the camp. This made everybody very, very happy.
When we were preparing for the next train, the young Syrian man asked me if he could he could work with us to help distribute the winter clothing. We gave him a quick description of his duties and he was off to a running start. He also distributed apples. It was the happiest I had seen him all evening. His enthusiasm was radiant, and every time I pointed out a child who was missing an outerwear garment, he ran off eagerly to get the matter remedied.
He is on his way to Holland. He asked me many times if I thought he could continue the his university education there. I asked my Dutch friend and she said yes, he could. But he kept asking, over and over. When he gets to Holland, he will contact me on Facebook, and I hope to hear that he is back in school.
Here you see him so happily helping us distribute winter clothing to refugee children.
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