Stories from Kordelio, Greece

Dec 13, 2016 · 5 min read
Hanifa Shaikhali (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/IFRC)

In Greece’s migrant camps, Red Cross volunteers from the camp community are leading the way in keeping their temporary shelters clean and tidy, ensuring safe access to showers and toilets, providing information on disease prevention and health, and watching over property.

Hanifa Shaikhali

I’m Kurdish, from Aleppo. I’ve been a widow for 15 years, raising my two sons. They are all I have. When the civil war started, I was afraid that my sons would be dragged into the dirtiness of war. When my younger son was called up for national service, we left.

I volunteer as a shower and toilet attendant. I love my job, I really like helping anyone. I observe the showers and toilets, make sure they’re kept clean and well looked after, and that people wash their hands. We have to keep things clean, it’s the most important thing here. It’s like we’re living in the wild.

Here in the camp, I’ve adopted a dog and two cats. In Syria I had two dogs, and we were so sad and desperate about having to leave them behind.

Hailel Mohammed Salim (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/IFRC)

Hailel Mohammed Salim

I fled from northern Syria, Raqqa. I arrived on the island of Samos from Turkey. I took the ferry to Athens, then a crowded train to Thessaloniki, and later a taxi with others to the border. The border to the rest of Europe was open at that stage, but only a few people were allowed to cross at a time. Then the border closed completely, and I was stuck in Greece.

I’ve been at Kordelio for six months. I’m a volunteer with Red Cross here at the camp, working with the “Fun Team”, which makes stories and puppet shows for the children about hygiene and health, giving them the information in a funny way. I love working with the children.

My family is in Lebanon. I haven’t seen them for two years. I have four children, my son is 14 and my daughters are ten, eight, and five years old. They’re with my wife. We get to speak sometimes, but it’s been two weeks since I spoke to them last.

I volunteer. And I also draw. I started when I was 10 years old, without any teaching. My father died when I was 14 years old, and I had to leave school and go to work. I kept up my drawing. Every time I could get a bit of money aside I would buy some books, and continue my learning so I could finish elementary school.

Wessel Saadeen (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/IFRC)

Wessel Saadeen

I’m from Damascus. I miss everything about it: the city and the people are beautiful, the markets are amazing. I left in February and I’ve been at this camp for about six months. My son went ahead to Germany with his uncle. I was hoping that he would be able to continue his studies, but he’s now living in a camp for minors. He’s only 11.

I volunteer with Red Cross helping mothers and babies. We provide new mothers with guidance on how to care for their babies. It’s hard for families living in this camp — we’re living in tents and it’s so cold. On top of that, there are a lot of babies here, and families are split up. We support one mother who is here on her own with four young children. Sometimes she can’t even find the time to take a shower, so we watch over the kids.

Abdulrahman Shubat (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/IFRC)

Abdulrahman Shubat

Life here in Kordelio is really hard. I tried to cross the border and keep going in Europe, but I wasn’t able to. Volunteering with the Red Cross is a distraction from how hard it is to live in the camp. I find it really gives me a sense of happiness. It’s helped me to meet new people and improve my English.

I was studying law in Syria but I had to leave mid-way through. It was my dream when I was young to be a lawyer. Now I want to go to any country where I can get a job and learn the language, start and new life and forget everything that happened to me in Syria.

Charbel Hareqa (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis/IFRC)

Charbel Hareqa

I was a mechanic in Syria, with my own business. Here in the camp I am the volunteer watch man, helping to protect the Red Cross’ health clinic and warehouse. I also repair bikes for my neighbours who live in the tents near mine.

It’s a hard life here. A lot of people are separated from family members who are still in their home country, or in other countries in Europe. There are doctors, engineers, mechanics, social workers, students living here, and they are just waiting. Waiting for any news on if they can move to another country and how long they will be here.

I am hoping to stay here in Greece. When I get my asylum papers, I’ll start work again as a mechanic. I don’t know how long the asylum process will take. It could be six months, it could be a year.

One of the Red Cross’ key priorities in camps across Greece is to promote good hygiene and sanitation as a part of our disease prevention and health promotion efforts. This work is funded by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid operation, and other donors.

Written by


International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

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