“Volunteering saved my life”

By Georgia Trismpioti, IFRC

Jack is an Iranian engineer living in Greece. Back home in Tehran he owned his own construction company and was surrounded by a close-knit group of friends, colleagues and family. But that all changed one day.

“I had to leave Tehran because my life was in danger. It was a difficult and horrible experience having to make the journey to Greece,” Jack says.

“No one can imagine what it’s like being forced to leave your home, fearful for your life, unless they’ve been through it. I miss my friends and family, my job and the life I had.”

Life wasn’t easy when he first arrived in Greece. He was homeless and destitute. But determined to rebuild his life from scratch, he kept his spirits up by working as a volunteer for various charities in Thessaloniki.

“Volunteering saved my live. Without it I would have lost the will to live,” he says quietly.

Two months after arriving in Greece, Jack managed to enrol in the cash assistance programme run by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“That money gave me hope. The first thing I bought was a tent. Until then, I was sleeping rough in Diavata Camp,” says Jack with a bittersweet smile.

Sometime later he started working as a volunteer for the IFRC. He helps other asylum seekers navigate the Greek system and boost their self-confidence and resilience. ''We are asylum seekers but we can also have achievements.''

Then in November 2019 Jack successfully applied for the position of the Cultural Mediator with IFRC. Being an asylum seeker himself helps him understand better than anyone the everyday challenges people face.

Now he’s waiting for a decision on his own asylum application, so he can pursue his dream of practising as an engineer in Greece.

“Greece gave me protection, so Greece is like my home now. There is no word that can describe what that feeling is like,” he smiles. “Greece has given me freedom and safety.”

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