A Different View of the Ocean

Laurette Bennhold-Samaan writes from refugee camp in Greece

Courage is the ladder on which all other virtues mount― Clare Boothe Luce

The gift we can offer other is so simple a thing as hope- Daniel Berrigan

I love the ocean and always have. It gives me a peaceful sense and an appreciation of nature. My dream has always been to retire at the ocean someplace sometime. I now look at the ocean in a different way.

Yesterday I learned much more about the EU/Turkey deal the end of March in which the EU paid Turkey to accommodate more refugees however many of the refugees would prefer to be reunited with various family members in other countries. In 2015 when there were hundreds of refugees arriving daily, to Samos, they were sleeping on the streets as there was no coordinated location to house them (no refugee camp). Last night at dinner, I spoke with a Greek owner of a bed and breakfast and she just opened her doors (and gave up her income for a long period of time) to house families who were arriving literally at her shore. As you can imagine they were so grateful for this hospitality. Most did not have the luxury.

Last night we were called to meet a refugee boat arriving. They tend to arrive in the middle of the night as it’s harder to be spotted by night but some have arrived in the daylight. The call was made and a few people went down to meet the boat. We aren’t given much time once the boat arrives as the local authorities need to start the long paperwork process. While the refugees try to use satellite navigation sometimes they don’t really know where they have landed. I heard through a volunteer once that a refugee woman thought she had landed in Germany as that is what the smugglers had told her. Oh, my…

It was a surreal event, the dinghy arrived loaded with people and the coast guard, police and lots of other officials were there. Some were crying, others silent and all stunned to some degree. They made it. Some had been traveling or hiding for days so it is not only the boat ride but the traumatic days prior. We distributed aluminum foil wraps for warmth and each person gets a kit. The kit (which we assemble at the warehouse from donations) contained sweatpants, socks, underwear, t-shirt, and sandals (in summer), a nutrition bar and hygiene items. We handed these items out as my mind wanders about their past journey, the camp and their futures. It’s was a numbing event. Ram Dass used to talk about life being scary and it made no sense not to hold hands as we go through it. I held on to some children’s hands thinking of this. What did they need after their immediate physical needs were met? Hope? An orientation of the spirit? Reassurance of their future? To express their grief or not? Normalcy? All I could be was a witness to hold the space and listen, provide comfort, immediate reassurance and safety for the moment.

I can barely write more. The ocean will never be the same for me.

 

3 Comments

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  • Thank you so much, Laurette, for what you are doing and writing with such detail about the refugees. It so easy for me to ignored the plight of reguees and particularly the children, and you bring it home in a very passionate way.

  • Brain and heart conjoin here. Over 65 million persons are considered refugees now. Lands and animals that they tended no longer have them.

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