Why are you here?
“Well, it’s just a good thing to do.”
This story was inspired by a volunteer that I met on the second day I visited the donation sorting center. We got put into the same area to unpack boxes and, after a while, we started talking about how he ended up here.
“I am an Australian student. I am a traveller. I am a human being. I’m on a journey until I get back to the life that I am used to. I want to grow and see the world, but alone the world is empty. Until last week we two traveled throughout Europe. Do you remember the beautiful mountains of France and how the wine tasted in Italy? Oh how I wish that you were still here, but I have no right to take you away from your studies, your future.
Even before I arrived in Athens I was aware that I was going to be stepping into a crisis, but as I got there I did not feel the pressure of the crisis at all; people sold their products and the restaurants were not full nor empty. It seemed as if life was maybe not running up and well but certainly getting along. Still, I knew what was going on in the middle east and that people were on their journeys to a new home through this country. So I wanted to help – but how? I had never done this before. I typed into google, “refugee help centre Athens.” …. Nothing. “How do I help in Athens, Greece with the refugee crisis?” Nothing.
This went on for about two more days until I found information that at the Elliniko stop on the blue tram line there was a centre for refugees – and so I went. As I got out of my tram I saw two big buildings: a grey one with washing lines and a lot of people coming in and out, and a massive blue blocky building. I walk up to the barrier where a guard smoking cigarettes was doing his duty. I asked, “I am here to help, where do I go?” The guard looked at me and pointed at the blue building. It was unbelievably huge. I walked past the barrier and along a metal fence. I looked the fence and studied where I might be. I turned my head and in the distance saw two huge stadiums.
I walked up to the door of the stadium and greeted the men and women smoking outside of the building. A friendly face greeted me and said: “Welcome, my friend. I am Citirius. This is the warehouse of the Olympic”. I went around and shook everybody’s hand and got their names. Citiruis turned to me and said, with pride, “follow me.” It sounded pretty rad with his Greek accent. I entered a whole new world at this moment: witnessing towers of boxes filled with everything from tiny shirts for little babies to huge blankets. Citrius walked in front of me as I looked in awe at the boxes that were cramped together all around me. The large boxes were divided to create a path and at the end of the path was a barrier that separated the volunteer work from the government work. The government place was empty and very messy.
I knew that I came to the right place that they needed help here. If I didn’t help it might never have gotten done, so I got put into a spot with a few other people from all from different places in the world to unpack, sort, and repack for hours and hours. That was my life for the next week. I’m glad that I didn’t have to spend it alone and that I might have helped to save a life.”
Note: A lot of this story is fact based, but minor details are made up. For example, I don’t actually know if they drank wine in Italy. I listened to this volunteer and remembered that most people do not have time for some crazy adventure of saving the world because they are caught up in their own life’s problems. He could’ve been as well, but he took the time to go to the warehouse during his time off. He showed up day after day to do manual work, to help out. He could have easily laid down all day long and drank beer, but he didn’t. He is an everyday hero, and I hope to meet more people like him.
Written by Miro Sohel