Wednesday, 29 March 2017

New, News, All New.

I keep waiting for the right moment to make this post. I think my whole life I struggle with that: the right moment. 

I'm in a home that is not mine (but feels a little bit mine), studying for an exam I didn't expect to be taking anytime during my life, in order to start a job I could only dream off in the last few years, so I can move in with my best friend to a place we will finally be able to call home. 

Life works in funny ways. I wish I could encapsulate all the feelings and thoughts that are going through me at the moment. There's the nerves taking over my whole body, the excitement about new adventures, the fear of not being able to rise up to the challenge, the desire to curl up in bed with a book and live the simple life, the sadness for the heartbreak and realising I went from being in a team to be a solo player. The happiness for being able to read a good book, walk along the river, have a pint in the sunshine. The kind of happiness you only feel when you're truly free, like I know I am. The 3am cycles home after a good laughing session with friends, the 4am ukulele playing sessions, the 5am staring at the ceiling sessions wondering about the size of the world. 

How blessed that I get to live this life. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

Hello 2017

Jack is going back to Greece in a couple days.
I won't be joining him but just wanted to record the event. 

I'm confident that the people he will meet and help will benefit from his kindness, understanding and company. He will make them feel safe and smile. That's an important job.
I will sleep better knowing Jack is someone the people that arrive to the shores of the island will meet. 

I'm incredibly proud of us for choosing to embark on this mission in 2015, but I'm even more proud of Jack for having the courage to continue it. I know I don't.

In 2017 we will start separate adventures, but I will smile thinking about all the past ones we took on together.

Let this year be a preparation year for me. I start it with the same happiness that it's common within myself for the last year. I'm a happy person because I'm free. Free to dream and make it a reality. I try not to take it for granted and am thankful for it everyday. Many people, be it for geographical or cultural reasons don't have such luxury. Being able to be whoever I want to be brings me great joy! 

So let this be my preparation year for the ones ahead. I'll carry the joy and move forward towards my goals. 

I turn 25 in a few days and I question myself about the person I want to be. I want to learn not to rush  through things. I want to take my time to enjoy everything I do. Let this be the year I stand still more often. Listen more and observe more. Talk less. Rush less. Stress less. Let this be the year I learn to be the person I want to be. 

I want to play music. I want to read. I want to walk. I want to meet people. I want to work in the ambulance service. I want to be a humanitarian worker. I want to help people. Let me focus on these goals.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Is it Friday yet?

I was determined that this week was going to be the week when no one would throw anything at my face. It wasn't. Someone got upset because I didn't give him two toilet rolls and, as a protest, decided to take none instead. But why couldn't you just hand it over to me? Why did you have to throw it at my face? 
Some weeks this job feels impossible to handle. This wasn't one of them, but the last one was. I'm eager to write about the details, but most of it is all confidential. They are not my stories to tell. Not for now anyway. It involves human trafficking, panic attacks, suicide attempt, depression, despair... The episodes replay in my head over and over. How I wish I could cuddle all these people in a pile of cotton and sing lullabies... 

I walk around the camp and some people call my name and say "Hi Sara". I think about how sad it is that at some point in their life, when someone asks them "where do you live?" you have to answer "at Moria Refugee Camp". It's not a camp. It's a detention centre. It's sad and dirty and I wish no one had to be here ever. I arrived not knowing anyone around here, I'll leave calling many of them friends, but feeling powerless when it comes to improve their life conditions. I never expected to leave before all these people were gone for good from this camp.

Lost thoughts from a scattered mind. One month left in Lesbos. Probably the last, but who knows. 

Friday, 24 June 2016


I woke up suddenly with the alarm sounds, my heart beating faster than normal. I think Jack felt the same way and even before I asked him to, he was already looking at the poll results. “Fuck sake!” he says. “Don’t bullshit me!” I asked. But no, the laugh never came and so it was true, the UK has voted to leave the EU. I froze in bed, wishing I really knew how all this is going to impact my future. In that moment, I admit I didn’t care about anyone else. All I wanted to know was “what will it be of me?”
I drag myself out of bed and run to work.
I work at a detention centre for people that are trying to achieve a safe place to restart the life they had to pause one day in their country. It’s a shitty place.
My job is to stand in front of a line of people that come to me and ask me for things they need. I have to look at them and make a quick decision on whether or not I will give it to them. In between the “I need sandals” and me saying yes or no, I think of how many sandals we have left. how many people are likely to arrive today, how many people will I have to say no to because I gave sandals to this person who has sandals but they are in bad state? But all they hear is the “no”. Some people understand, others simply can’t object because of the language barrier, and then, like today, some people decide to shout at me. Say I’m the most evil person working at this camp. That I don’t like black people. That some others simply refuse to come and ask for things at this location because they don’t want to look at my face. That I have an evil smile. That I take pleasure in seeing people suffering. That everyone else that works at this place is an angel. But not me. I’m pure evil. I smile and hold back tears. I find a place to hide and cry. I do my best, I do what I can. I take three deep breathes, clean the tears and go back to work.
Later in the day I find a friend crying. She was hiding her face in a room and it takes a while for me to meet her eyes. She’s underage, she’s from Afghanistan and usually a cheerful girl. She tries to stop someone telling me why she’s in this state but I persuade her. “No one likes Afghan people. I feel like a dog. People treat us like animals and we live like them. It has been over 3 months since we arrived to this place. I miss going to school. All I have are dreams of becoming someone. To become a doctors, a lawyer, a policewoman. My father is losing his mind. My sister has a heart problem and she cries every night in pain before going to sleep. No one wants Afghan people in their country, we are the bottom of the bottom. What will it be of my family? Where will we go? We have an interview date for our asylum but that’s in 5 months. I don’t know how to keep living here like a dog. I don’t know how long I can go on being treated like an animal.” What can you say to this girl?
I leave work and head off for an ice cream. As I’m eating a kid comes and asks for money. I say no and smile. Another one comes and I do the same thing. A third and forth little girls arrive and as I’m saying no, one of them starts pointing at me and talking Greek. She repeats the word “whore” a lot while she is poking my shoulder. As she’s walking away she spits on me.

I wish I had the mental capacity to analyse this fucking mess of a day. But I was told that writing helps, so dear reader, I’m entrusting you with my thoughts. Maybe someone will be able to look at this and make some sense of it. Borders, no borders, borders, no borders… politics, race, animals, dreams…

 I don’t know how many more BREXITS I can take this week and how many more personal insults. Thank god it’s Friday. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Sara, I want to volunteer!

I have written much about this topic, but questions and requests don't seem to stop. Here goes again:

This is something you need to think a lot about. Just because you have good intentions it doesn't mean you should come and volunteer, but that is the best thing you can have at the beginning. 

I can give you resources so you can find the ideal place for you to apply before volunteering. 
Here are some links (I will try to keep this page updated). - website with a lot of info about where to start, who to contact, etc. - Information point for Athens volunteers

ps: Thank you for wanting to help! I respect you for thinking about this!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Back to Moria | De volta a Moria

[em Português no fim]

Life inside Moria changes daily, so you can imagine that a lot has changed since we were here one month ago. Before, you could see the hope in people's faces. They used to talk about Germany and the amazing life they were going to have when they got there. They were in a rush. Now, people are stuck here. Some of them have been inside for over 40 days and there's no indication of when they will leave, where will they go, what will happen to them. People lost all hope and live daily in a place that is not designed for them to stay more than a few hours. They have 3 meals a day, they have a tent to sleep and that's it. Nothing to do all day, no schools for children to go to, nowhere to play, nowhere to go and ask questions. I feel like these people have been forgotten here. It's no man's land. I never thought I would return to see this place in such bad shape. 

A vida em Moria muda todos os dias, portanto não é difícil de imaginar que depois de um mês sem cá estar, o campo esteja irreconhecível aos meus olhos. 
Antes conseguia ver a esperança no rosto de quem cá está. Falavam da Alemanha e de como iam ser fantásticas as suas vidas quando lá chegassem. Estavam com pressa de lá chegar. Mas agora não, agora estão presos aqui, alguns há mais de 40 dias. Não há informação sobre quando vão sair, para onde irão e o que lhes acontecerá se esse dia chegar. 
A esperança já lá vai e agora vivem num lugar que foi construído para as pessoas apenas ficarem aqui umas horas. Recebem 3 refeições por dia, dormem numa tenda no meio das pedras, sem colchões e é isso. Não há nada para fazer ao longo do dia a não ser esperar. As crianças não têm uma escola nem nada para fazer, nenhum lugar para brincar. Não há sequer um lugar onde fazer perguntas e informarem-se. As clínicas transformam-se em pontos de informação legal. 
Sinto que estas pessoas foram esquecidas aqui, num sítio que não é de ninguém. 
Nunca pensei que voltaria e este campo e estaria pior do que quando me fui embora. E no entanto, aqui estamos. 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Brief for part III (& a bit of debrief from part II)

And so here we go for part III. 
It's so bloody hard to try and put into words what the last 40 days have been like. 

If you recall, the first time I went to Greece to volunteer in Lesbos it was September. When I returned in December I was thoroughly burn out. I didn't leave my pijamas for 2 weeks, barely left bed, didn't see any friends or family. I eventually had to, when Christmas came, but the inner struggle was ripping me apart. As I said, it's hard to explain, but I think anyone that has gone through burn out understands the lethargy, the feeling of not being able to get up and get on with life. 

When I was preparing to return home for the 2nd time after being in Greece for two months, I told myself I wouldn't let this happen again. I was burn out, yes, but I would fix it. I signed up for work shifts even before I left Lesbos. I made a point of asking to do breakfast shifts at the restaurant where I work, so I could get up early and (maybe) have a productive day. I was determined to not go back to the mental state I was in December. I signed up for counselling a few days after returning. This has proven one of the best decisions I've ever made. I was assigned to someone that has questioned me on why I don't dedicate time to my wellbeing and taught me how to do it. I've spent the last 40 days preparing for the next time I return to Greece, which is tomorrow. 

I've read books, I've done online courses, me and Jack have spent many dozens of hours talking about how will we take better care of ourselves this time. You will probably be surprised to learn that our "preparation" goes from "how can we eat more healthy?" to "did I pack enough clothes to go out for a drink?". I would have probably twisted my nose if I heard this is how people prepare to go and work at a refugee camp. But... the thing is... If I don't take care of myself, how will I take care of others? In the last few months I've heard things I never thought I would hear. Specially those coming from children. Bombs, kidnapping, raping, ... these words weren't part of my day to day vocabulary until very recently. I'm still processing this mess. 

I've found some amazing resources lately, but I believe the most helpful of them all has been Jessica Alexander's book Chasing Chaos
Jessica starts by talking about her time in Rwanda but I swear that if you changed the name to Lesbos I would say she was telling my story. The struggles about fitting in or making friends with colleagues, the cynicism after a few weeks of working in the field, she even says she didn't leave her house for days on when the returned! It made me feel so much better about what I was going through, knowing that this is the same process to everyone. To know it's not just me questioning my motives for doing what I do, for getting upset with all the "you're so wonderful" messages because really, I feel like I do an unimportant job. 
I rarely tell people what to do, but if you are considering a career in humanitarian work or thinking about volunteering (in Lesbos or somewhere else), please read this book. Humanitarian work is messy, it fails, it's hard to tell when it succeeds. But you need to know that before you start. I can't believe I knew so little when I first went to Lesbos. 

I'll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the book (although I have underlined half of it)

As you can see, I am ignoring thinking about what really is happening at Moria Refuge Camp. there's nothing I can do to help as I am home, so I am leaving the time to worry for when I'm there. 

Here I go. Speak soon,