Behind the label "refugee" in every photo caption is a human being...

Natan social worker, Tal Shami, spent one month at the refugee center on Lesbos Island. Tal  shares her experiences:

Lesbos, Greece, April 21, 2017

I am here as part of Natan's humanitarian aid delegation in cooperation with the organization: SwissCrossHelp, Hashomer Hatzair and Ajyal. As part of the activities here, we're taking part in establishing and operating a community and educational center for refugee and refugee children, a center that is an island of sanity in a crazy reality.

There are thousands of refugees from Lesbos who fled their countries for fear of their lives and left everything behind. Today, too, every month they continue to reach an island of boats laden with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. We see and hear about the situation in the news and see the pictures and the people. Some of us are more concerned and some of us less. It's important to remember that behind every picture and behind each caption reading "refugees" there are people for whom the reality of their lives changed overnight from one extreme to another. From professionals, family members, academics, etc., they became refugees. A word that manages to describe the sharp transition from a full and complete life to a life of despair, uncertainty, pain and sadness. The situation here is not simple. These same refugees live in refugee camps that they describe as a prison, sleeping in overcrowded tents and surviving under difficult conditions.

I have met so many impressive and unique people from a wide range of countries. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria and more. People who yearn for a better future and who simply want to live in peace – people who want what most of us want: family, freedom, livelihood, love, health and life without war, killing and destruction.


To illustrate the depth of the experience, Tal shared this story: 

"The Virus"

There is an informal English lesson that I've been teaching with Sam, an Iraqi refugee who currently lives in Germany and is currently volunteering through SwissCrossHelp.  Gradually, a small, regular group began to meet at the last table at the center every day at 4:00 PM.  In this lesson, we practiced words and terms from the world of medicine and health.  In the class were Anwar from Egypt, Walid from Syria and Muhammad from Algeria. When we got to the word virus, suddenly the atmosphere changed. Walid (in the green shirt) began to call Anwar "You are a virus, I love you, virus, I do not hate you, virus"   We all laughed and then it was quiet for a few moments. Walid told us how he and Anwar had arrived together in a boat and how he almost drowned and Anwar saved him. Later on, he told us that he had been the manager of an oil company in Syria and that his house and his business had been destroyed and that now all he wants is to get out of here.   Between the moments of laughter and learning, reality appeared and reminded us that despite the relaxed and enjoyable situation here, reality is much more difficult.