Syrian refugee volunteers in Greece while waiting to reunite with wife: “I don’t want anybody to lose anyone”

Publié: 12 juillet 2016 12:00 CET

By Caroline Haga, IFRC

A committed Syrian refugee volunteers with the Red Cross at the Nea Kavala camp in northern Greece while he waits to finally join his beloved wife in Germany.

“When I came here, it was a very bad situation. So I volunteered to help,” 29-year old Rawan Abbas says. “The main reason was that when my wife came here she was pregnant so the Red Cross helped her. In the end we lost the child, and when I saw many children that needed help I just went to help. I don’t want anybody to lose anyone.”

Born in the Syrian city of Qamishly, Rawan speaks fluent Arabic and Kurdish. His commendable language skills – including self-taught fluent English from watching movies – led him to become a sought-after volunteer translator over the past four months that he has been stranded in Nea Kavala. He is dreaming of reaching Germany to reunite with his wife of seven years, who he last saw in September 2015.       

“I come here every day to translate for the hygiene promoters; to explain for the migrants about good hygiene. I like to help people. In Syria, I was working with the UNHCR and visited 18,000 poor families to give them help,” Rawan says.

If we don’t care as a community, nobody will help us

The Hellenic Red Cross, supported by international Red Cross teams, is working to improve the conditions in camps across Greece. A key focus is promoting good hygiene and waste management to help ensure a decent living environment for families and to prevent the spread of diseases. Rawan is one member in a team of volunteers who help spread the messages across the camp.

The enthusiastic hygiene promoters gather six days a week for a morning patrol around the camp to distribute trash bags and to check on hygiene and sanitation issues. They teach children the important messages such as dental hygiene and to pick up trash with puppet and clown shows. Most importantly, the team listens to problems and wishes by the community and tries to address them as far as possible.

“We are trying to encourage the situation for the people here because really if we don’t care as a community inside the camp, nobody will care about us and nobody will help us. We don’t care about nationality, race and religion, we only care about humanity. I’m here because I am human, so I help these people because they are human,” Rawan says.

Maybe we will volunteer together for the Red Cross

Rawan dreams of finally joining his wife after almost a year apart. Together, they left Syria four years ago and worked in Lebanon until the situation got too bad and they had to make a difficult decision for the sake of their unborn child. Rawan wanted to follow his wife but the borders closed around him in March.

“My wife is now in Potsdam and she took her status paper. She’s now learning the language and maybe planning to work in Germany. I am trying to reach there so that we can be together again. Maybe we’ll have a small family,” he says.

“I am planning to volunteer with the Red Cross in the future in Germany.  Maybe we will volunteer together, but first of all we need to learn the language so that we can work. Or maybe I will come back again to work in this camp and help people until they leave this area.” Rawan says he wants to help families find safer places to live. “All of them left their countries because they don’t feel safe. They are now in Europe and they need help.”