The Raw Truth of Refugees and Volunteers By Molly Hock
My original intention was simply to share this well-written article with you, which speaks of the vulnerable and raw truth of both refugees and volunteers… A page later, my emotions continue to pour from my mind. The words appear on my phone screen faster than my brain can consciously process them. I recommend reading this article to gain an understanding of the lack of mental health care and attention for the refugees. If you are a volunteer, I admire you and your continued resiliency. Please take time each day to care for yourself, and remember that if we don’t care for ourselves, we can’t care for those around us. What we are experiencing isn’t always easy… If you are like me, you feel incredibly loved, compassionate and energized while among our new friends… But this isn’t always the same feeling as I close my eyes for the night (or early morning). I ask you to remember your self-worth and your essential need for self-care… Our community of refugees and volunteers need your continued strength and support.
As this article states, mental health support isn’t being addressed by our governments… It isn’t being seen as an essential necessity, and is thus being overlooked. This neglects the overall well-being of the refugees, the communities they are living in, and the future generations. I meet friends who struggle to get through each day, who have given up hope, who have decided to return home (where they are sure they will be killed), who are angry, exhausted, and lost. I have friends contact me on their last straw, saying they have given up on life. Some days I feel confident in supporting my friends, other days I realize I am in over my head, and find myself at a loss of words as the tears fall down my cheeks.
This is heart-wrenching to witness and experience each day. Like this author states, it is impossible to witness this, and not take on some level of suffering. I feel strongly rooted in my spiritual ability to channel the suffering through me… But trauma is trauma. One story after the next, one crying child after the next, one crying mother and yelling father after the next. In order to be fully present and engaged with each being, with each story, with each emotion, requires an energetic exchange. A willingness to be with the people and to feel their pain with them. Zoe once told me, sometimes nothing is more healing than to cry with the person you are with.
I will never forget the anger, the sadness, the intensity I experienced with the ‘stranded buses’ last February. Each moment of those days appear in my mind as clear and bold images, as if it was just yesterday.
Men hitting themselves with rocks in the face, protecting bloody babies, yelling at women and children to get back from the riot police. Being yelled at by people we had spent days providing support to, building trust, and developing a loving connection. Listening to threats of men burning themselves alive, reasoning with police officers, earning trust of the police chiefs.
I see many of the same faces here at Oreokastro Camp in Northern Greece. When our friends recognize us, they share hugs, smiles, photos of us, food, tea, and continued love and trust. I wouldn’t change my experiences here in Greece for anything… I have no regrets, and no burdens. I simply ask the global community to value the mental health of these people who have experienced war and genocide, who have risked their lives to arrive to safety in Europe. I ask our governments to develop compassion and understanding for the reality of each of these precious beings, and to recognize the long-term effects of the lack of mental health care.