Uncertain of what lies ahead, teenagers and young people in refugee camps around the world are looking for positive and constructive ways to use their time. Over the last number of months, our team have met refugees and migrants who are volunteering, setting up sport teams and learning new skills.
We had already been in the Ritsona camp (close to Athens) for a few hours talking to Red Cross staff and as we were leaving the Red Cross compound we saw Amina: a young girl, happy and smiley, enthusiastically showing members of the Red Cross team her half-made scarf. I was instantly drawn to talk to her and she happily shared her and her family’s story as well as showed us her home: a tent.
Teenage, Amina, her mother and her 6 younger siblings traveled together from Syria to Iraq and then to Greece together. They had started said journey 4 years ago. We spoke with the mother and I noticed that while she spoke about her hazardous journey remained calm and serene, even when her smallest child kept wanting her attention while she chatted with us. Amina and her mother told us they wanted to go to Germany as they had cousins and uncles living there but they didn’t know if that was going to happen.
In the tent, both the mother and Amina made sure that things was properly organised and just like a house they had it divided in sections: sleeping area, storage areas and a little reception area for guests with a bench – a sort of living room really. In the sleeping are for example, all the beds were made. The beds were basically mattresses on the top of wooden pallets.
Outside they had a large barrel with wood burning in it as it was getting cold. The family huddled around it while talking with us. We also noticed that there was a little vegetable garden in front of the tent, one of the boys proudly told us he had made it. There were even a couple of scented herb plants to keep a nice smell in and around the tent and block out the smells of the camp. Amina quickly brought little benches and chairs for us to sit on as she showed us more of her knitted creations.
Amina told us about their living conditions “Is really hard. Yesterday a mouse was in the toilet. And when it’s raining water comes in the tent”.
At the camp there are people from all walks of life with different skills. Knowing this, the Red Cross is working alongside the camp residents to get social activities up and running. Creating opportunities for people to utilise and adapt their skills and experiences is a fundamental way for camp residents affected by stress and trauma to become survivors, rather than victims.
In this context, the Red Cross was setting up, among other things, a women’s area where the women living in the camp, can share skills with each other in a safe environment. One of the activities being set up is a knitting circle, which Amina is going to be in so she can share her knitting skills with others.
Please help the Red Cross to care for everyone in crisis this Christmas by donating to the Irish Red Cross Christmas Appeal www.redcross.ie/donate