I worked as a volunteer at Frakapor refugee camp in Northern Greece in January 2017. While Frakapor is now closed, the camp opened in 2016, and was located in an empty warehouse in an industrial area called Sindos. There was no running water and sanitation needs were served through outhouses and mobile showers. Run by the Greek army, the camp consisted of a cavernous building filled with people’s tents — a village under a single roof.
Frakapor may have been roughshod, but it was a community where people’s lives were deeply intertwined. Families who received upgraded lodgings in town frequently returned to Frakapor to spend their daylight hours with the neighbors they knew. There was open weeping on both sides, as families boarded buses taking them from Frakapor to new lives in other cities.
My intention had been to write this blog as events were happening around me. But we were so busy during our waking hours that it was a relief to go back to our hotel and just sleep most evenings. So, my project remained largely undone. I returned to Europe for a second time in spring 2017, this time working with refugees in France and the Greek island of Lesbos. All this time, however, I could hear the clock ticking on this project.
Frakapor was a world between worlds. The knowledge that these families moved on to asylum, of course, fills me with hope. But for just a short time, these people — most of them Syrian Kurds — lived in a place where they did not have to assimilate. They had their own culture in Frakapor, as rough as their circumstances and surroundings were.
I’m hoping this blog will give insight to other people who want to travel — and to be useful to their fellow man while they are doing it. I think the best way to get to know a country is to be useful in it. Given all the roughness in the world today, any gesture of kindness, no matter how small, is important.
If you want to help, it matters.
If you want to be part of something bigger than yourself, it matters.