Who are the refugees?

With a pinch of humor (a lot of it actually), a touch of humanity, forgetting for a moment that they are refugees (purposely or not) these people are coping with their reality keeping a sense of normality, or trying to.

So who are the refugees?

They are the old lady who was in need of winter boots. We found purple ones in her size. But she said: “I’m old, do you have them in black?”

The lady was asking for a warm sweater for her. Then she said for baby. She switched the request a few times and I thought to myself “make up your mind lady”. I went close to check over the barrier to see the kid but what I saw was that she was pregnant. She wanted a maternity sweater. The next time this happened I caught on faster.

The couple carrying a large blanket. They were asking for a little bit of milk. As it turned out they had two newborn babies (twins) in the blanket. They were two days old. They went to the pediatrician tent and got aid. The babies were born while fleeing… Who knows under what conditions. The journey from Syria, Turkey – Greece – Macedonia – Serbia – Croatia – Slovenia – Germany… by boat, foot and train.

In September when the refugees were fleeing on foot, they were met at the border between Serbia and Croatia. And the father of two kids asked “are we in Belgrade yet?”

The little kid who came to our Palestinian team member and said “I’m so cold!”. She grabbed the first gloves in her reach and put them on the kids hands. They were orange. His face lit up. He went and grabbed his sister and asked if she could get gloves too. They were so jolly …just because of some colorful gloves.

The refugees are the mother with four kids, 7 years old and under. Three of them needed newer shoes but couldn’t say what size. Conrad moved to the side and helped a girl take one of her broken sneakers off. I went to find a good pair for her. And she kept her cold little foot on Conrad’s knee as she waited and he helped her put the shoes on. Conrad was so gentle with them. We found shoes for all and they were so grateful. They all said thank you for every little thing they received. And they would not take more than they needed.

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The man who knew what shoe size would fit his sister, at a glance. Because in Syria he owned a shoe-shop.

The teenage girl with a strong opinion about what she would wear or not. She whispered to her mother “I will never wear those pants!” they were the wrong color. My friend who understood the language gracefully offered a different pair of pants (purple). The teenage girl’s eyes lit up and said “Yes! Those!”

Thousands of people passed daily though this very well organized camp. Supported by many humanitarian organizations and police. Everyone was kind, to them, to us.

Treating people with dignity and kindness, regardless of what we assume about their circumstance, will make this world a better place.

We were in Croatia, not far away from the Bosnian border, building transit shelters for nursing mothers. Over the last few months, over ten million people have been in a continuous exodus from their unsafe country. Over the course of the week we saw so many kids. So many!

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first day

Additional note from Conrad

They are people fleeing political or religious persecution—often violent—from Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. They are mothers, children, fathers, brothers and sisters; business owners, entrepreneurs, designers; Christians, Muslims or people who don’t follow any god. They just want to protect themselves and their families. They are humble, proud, confused and in need. They are people just like us, they think the same way, struggle with the same issues, desire the same cars and clothes and like to hang out at the mall.

Many of us have a hard time imagining who the refugees are that are fleeing their homes and spilling into Europe and the US. The conservative media doesn’t help put things into perspective either, often quite the opposite. Just try to imagine if you had your home destroyed (literally in many cases) and were forced to walk for three months into a country and culture that was totally foreign to you. How would you feel? What if you had to flee from your million dollar home in California and sneak onto a crowded boat to go to China, where they didn’t want you, where they irrationally feared you, where your entire life was on your back and your future was so uncertain that you didn’t know what language you needed to start learning to live.

This is the plight of so many people in need right now. Give money or clothes if you can, volunteer if you can’t. The best way to help is to offer your hand to someone in need.