I am a human being, a lover, a doer, a communicator, a storyteller – and there is no story that needs to be told more than that of today’s refugees. This trip to Greece and Macedonia has profoundly transformed me – and it began with one young boy. I ask you to please read these three short paragraphs…
Five days ago, I carried 5-year-old Muhammad ashore on the Greek island of Lesvos, taking the sopping wet boy from a sinking rubber dinghy of Iraqi and Syrian refugees safely onto European soil – and I did not leave his side. I have been living and breathing 24/7 with this one family, now my family, and documenting their harrowing, beautiful, unbelievable story through in-depth interviews and video content captured by Jessica… from the waves of the Mediterranean Sea to craggy Greek shores to the Skala Sikamineas triage center to a car ride up the mountain to Skala camp to a bus to Mantamados transit camp to another bus to Moria processing camp in Mytilini to the capital port to the 17-hour overnight ferry from Lesvos to the island of Chios to another island called Samos to Piraeus port in Athens to a cab to the hotel for but a few hours to an overnight bus to the Greek border to the Idomeni camp to walk through the fence into Macedonia to the refugee camp in Gevgeljia before sending them on their way to a train bound for Serbia.
I do not know how these individuals and families do it, from where they muster such immense strength, what sustains their bodies and souls on this endless, incomprehensibly difficult journey. It is a quest for survival and opportunity, of hope and faith. I’ve only done but one short part of it – aimless movement from site to site, questions unanswered, waiting for the unknown, no food to be had, a night with 15 minutes of sleep, the next on a wet ferry boat, the next on a jam-packed frequently-stopping bus, the next with 30 minutes of sleep, no place comfortable to even relax, not a bathroom to be found, walking long distances, carrying heavy bags, and having to make all-important decisions in between – and I am exhausted to a point of inability to function, all that without the added stress off this being my inescapable reality. I have the most sincere respect for every single human who has ever been forced to leave their homeland and been brave enough to embark on a dangerous journey into the unknown; may you never know how that feels.
So if you are wondering where I’ve been, what has come of my daily recaps, where has my energy has been focused, what is happening on the ground with refugees, here you are some photos… with detailed stories coming soon. I cannot wait to introduce you all to Muhammad, his 3-year-old brother Ibrahim, father Muslim, mother Jasmin, newfound friend 19-year-old Mustada, and the remarkable soul that is Ammar the 21-year-old they met in Turkey, who has been their shepherd, their guide, their translator, their brawn ever since – and now, my dear friend for life. Because these human beings believe, I will find it within myself to believe in and actively continue to work towards a brighter future.