Elena, 33, started helping the refugees after a visit to the Idomeni border camp last year. She says: ‘I could not not return there. The conditions the refugees were living in, were so miserable, I felt an instant urge to help. So I volunteered. I worked in Idomeni for 5 months. I used to get up at 7am, drive to Idomeni, work there all day, come back around 7pm, prepare for the next day and go to sleep. It was exhausting. But also very fulfilling.’
Idomeni saved my life. I was lost before – 2015 was a bad year for me. I had personal issues, no job, no money, I was going through a break-up and had to go living with my parents again. In Idomeni I found meaning, purpose – and love. Some of the people I met there, volunteers as well as refugees, became my best friends. They are like family for me. I deeply love them.’
After the Idomeni camp was cleared in mai 2016, Elena found a job in the refugee sector. In the evenings, she still works as a volunteer. That is where I met her, in a ‘Help for the helper’ session at Social House Oikopolis in Thessaloniki.
Elena’s story is one of the many volunteers stories I listened to here in Thessaloniki. They’re all different, and yet the same. Each story shows that solidarity, helping others, in a certain way also helps the helper. Not only the refugees receive their portion of hope, meaning and love. The helpers do too. Solidarity is not about we helping them, solidarity is about helping each other – solidarity is about us.
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*The picture is part of the artwork explaining trauma on the Trauma Tour Bus. Take a look!