A man changed his whole way of life to help refugees

Here’s what he had to say about the decision

Andreas Vasileiou owns a hotel on the Greek island of Evia. When the European Union offered money to convert Hotel Rovies into a refugee shelter, he agreed. Now, instead of hosting holiday makers, Vasileiou hosts homesick families worried about their loved ones in danger and their own uncertain futures. Aid workers work on-site, children study foreign languages and Syrian fathers cook communal meals in the industrial kitchen.

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UNHCR interviewed Vasileiou for a multimedia story about the hotel and asked him about his decision to transform his business and his life. I’ll transcribe what he said, but you should watch him say it.

“We give a huge part of ourselves. What we get back is… love. The joy of the children. The relief of the adults. Sometimes I feel that these kids are a ticket to eternity. At some point I had a thought that after 50 or 60 years an elderly woman on a beach in France somewhere or even, hopefully, in Syria will be teaching her grandchildren how to swim for the first time. I like to think that in that moment she’ll think back to where she was when she learned how to swim. She found herself in a beautiful place where people welcomed her and gave her affection. Taught her many things… swimming. And then maybe she’ll think of me as well.”

Full disclosure: I’m working on a UNHCR contract, which brought this story to my attention, but I’m sharing it only because I think it’s beautiful.