Canadian aid worker describes hope seen at refugee camp in Greece


Canadian Red Crosser Émilie Gauthier Paré is providing psycho-social support in the Idomeni camp in Greece. Pictured here with a Syrian mother, who is travelling with her family to start a new life in Germany, Émilie says her story is only one of the many: "We are seeing about 4,000 people a day arriving and transiting here. Their astonishing cheerfulness and eagerness to socialize makes the days go by very quickly."
Guest post by Émilie Gauthier Paré

The sun is rising over the camp in Idomeni, Greece, on the border with Macedonia. It’s nearly impossible to keep count of the buses that have been arriving one after another over the last few hours. Each bus has around 50 passengers — refugees and migrants — who undertook a perilous journey in the hope of a better life. Among them are women, men, newborns, elderly people, sick children, pregnant women, people with disabilities…

I often feel overwhelmed by the work ahead, but I take a deep breath: one thing at a time. I’ve been sent here as a psychosocial delegate for one month. Every day, around 6,000 refugees and migrants come through the camp in Idomeni. Sometimes they stay for a few minutes, sometimes a few hours.

It all depends on the flow of migrants on the other side of the border. An important part of my role here is ensuring that people receive the information they need about the camp and what awaits across the border. These people have been through hell and are under extreme psychological stress, something that every bit of information can help alleviate. I also do a lot of psychological first aid (PFA) sessions along the way.

I’ve been deeply touched by so many people since I’ve been here: the Syrian with the sad blue eyes who told me that he left everything behind and no longer has faith in humanity; the Afghan woman who lost her husband on the way from Athens to Idomeni when the bus left without him; the young man who lost his brother during the sea crossing; and the little six-year-old girl with leukemia. Her parents had no choice but to leave a country devastated by war, where medical infrastructure was almost non-existent, to try and reach Germany and ensure their daughter would have access to better healthcare…

All of these people, and all the others here, are an immense source of inspiration for me. They smile and thank me wholeheartedly for the smallest shred of information I give them. Some even offer to share what little food they have with me… I smile, wish them good luck on their journey, and think to myself that there are still people in this world who are able to restore my faith in humanity.

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