Well, I wanted to come here over Christmas vacation already, but then my aunt passed away and I just couldn´t miss our family mourning, so I stayed this time. But since the situation hasn´t had changed that much, I still had that feeling that I was somehow needed. I just wanted to give that little drop of my help in the ocean of all help. I wanted to be part in that awesome volunteer group and give my part. And I wanted to do something useful during my vacation time, and not only sitting somewhere on the beach, in the dessert or elsewhere.
Susann Schober :: From Germany :: Age 38 :: arrived on Lesvos Feb 25th
What do you do back home ?
I´m a trained nurse, but quit working as a nurse some years ago. Now I´m a university teacher at University of Potsdam.
How long were you there
My stay on Lesvos was 13 days long, just my vacation.
Did u come alone or with friends
I came by myself, but left with many new friends.
What reactions did you get from family and friends before coming
I got mixed reactions. Most were very appreciative. Most of my friends and family seem to be proud, somehow. (They tell everybody about my trip). Even the stewardess at Athens airport was appreciative, she gave me that special look and said, it´s so great what we´re doing and that I´ll see some very sad things too. She wished me all the best! One friend, a quiet close one actually, gave me that “what the fuck are you doing look”, he did not understand at all, giving some humanity back to needy people. He even seemed to be discussed of my idea. Some were worried about my health. They gave advices on meds or vaccinations I should take. Some gave me money to take something, what ever needed, with me. Others wanted to join desperately, but just didn´t have the time.
What did you know about the place before arriving
Well, I didn´t know anything about Greece or Greek or Lesvos at all. The only things I knew were the informations I got via social media or any other news programs on the issue of refugees.
An influential / defining moment you had on the Island
There were some. I think the first one was while I was sorting socks. Nothing special, I know. But while I took this pair of adult socks to straighten it, kids socks fall out. (I have to admit that these socks weren´t washed yet. So straight from the beaches from refugees feet). And for me the story behind it was, that the adult socks were given to a kid, which simply didn´t have another pair own socks to were above, and some parent gave his or her socks to the child. That was very heartbreaking to me. Later I took care of some kids in our camp (Lighthouse refugee relief camp, Skala Sikemnea). First there was this teenaged boy. Who was carrying a little baby and was very shy. I started talking to him but he seemed to be very traumatized, not responding to anything, just carrying the baby. After a while, I was playing with all the other kids, he gave his baby in my hands. So he was free then to walk some steps around. I think by then, I got a first smile from him, which made me absolutely proud! I kept playing with the kids, meanwhile he was changing himself. At the end, we were kind of battling in playing JoJo. He was then laughing with and at me, that was real fun! It´s always the stories about traumatized kids, who stare at walls with no reaction in their faces when they come straight from the boat, and finally develop to laughing and playing kids, just as kids are.
Another moment that had a great influence on me was when “my first boat” arrived and I took care of the children´s room and a mother came, holding her baby to me, asking, if I could take it for a while. When I took it, I saw the relief in her eyes and in her behavior. She felt her baby safe. Wow. Since I don´t have children and am not very experienced in infants, that was a great moment for me. The trust of the mothers in general to me, I appreciated a lot.
what did you learn new about life and people
(: well, I think I´ve learnt again, that we´re all humans, that there are many of my kind, who spend their vacation on volunteering, and that the life we live, is a very privileged life. )It could have been us, searching for refuge these days). I learnt, that one don´t need language to play with kids all ages or to say “welcome” and “thank you”, that thankfulness is a value due to all societies, but also that I sometimes have to step back to make room for others, volunteers or refugees, and their opinions and ideas, which are also very ok. That a random group of almost all nations, can make incredibly things (like a wonderful shelter for refugees or can install a system of infrastructure which is totally supportive to boat arrivals). That there still is humanity within the people, even if their governments are fighting each other. That a spirit of humanity can carry a lot of people and tasks!
Have you experienced moments of crisis or trauma
Well, I think we were all very tired and overworked. But this is just the way it is, I guess, when you work during the day and then a nightshift as well. Then the next day, and yes, with a couple of hours sleep, the next night you´ll sit again at the fire place in the camp by lots of great people surrounded.
Do you remember anyone in particular among refugees
Unfortunately I only have few names to even be able to remember. But the ones I have I will remember for sure. There was this guy from Syria, Isad, who fixed my phone, which wouldn´t switch off anymore. The Syrian man, who looked like a university professor and his wife and his mother, who were very polite and well educated. And the kids of course, who I played with, who I carried around and who I try to calm down after their journey. Plus a load of new fb friends, who were also volunteering, my very nice landlords, who took care of very kindly.
I made a picture of things I took:
- freshly made olive oil, given by my landlord
- some shell I found at the beach
- some herbs and fig given by my landlord and
- the left overs of a passport (might be Arabic or farsi) I also found at the beach while cleaning it up.