While thousands of refugees are forced to live in bleak refugee camps in Greece, Destination Unknown campaign member Terre des Hommes is providing families with secure, dignified accommodation. Terre des Hommes’ Tatjana Aebli speaks to one family using this security to make plans for the future .
Twenty-two-year-old Syrian refugee Ahmed holds up his football shirt – the number 17 – and he couldn’t look happier.
Ahmed is part of a local team and now trains three days a week. He cannot play in official matches yet due to his migration status, but this doesn’t matter to him – it’s all about the recognition he got through being offered the shirt.
Ahmed and the six other members of his family are a perfect example of the opportunities which refugees can access after escaping a past they would rather leave behind. It shows how they can thrive and live a life in dignity again.
Their house has enough space for the entire family. It is furnished and clean. But there are no pictures on the walls – no souvenirs. Nothing that would remind them of the past.
They would rather talk about their future – the father about the family’s plan to open their own business, the 8-year-old daughter about her dream of being a ballerina and one of her sisters about becoming a doctor in Greece.
Despite these ambitious goals, the family are taking things one step at a time. “We will have to recover first, until our strength comes back and then start slowly,” explains the father, who suffered a stroke some months ago and can no longer garden – his favourite pastime.
The mother enters the living room and serves Syrian sweets, biscuits filled with dates and cinnamon pudding sprinkled with walnuts. If you close your eyes, you are teleported back to their home country. To their past.
Their youngest daughter Shahad wakes us up from this dream, declaring loudly that she ate 43 walnuts. Everybody laughs, although Shahad’s claim is more than a little dubious. The father looks at his wife and tells us she is a really good cook. I can only nod, still amazed by the food I am tasting. Ahmed shows me his soccer team in Syria from the time he was studying economics on his phone.
Not looking back doesn’t mean forgetting the good memories. Those memories keep the family going. The father wants to realise his dream of a family business now in Ioannina rather than Syria.
“It will be a restaurant, a tavern. We wanted to create a business there – now we will do this here, step by step. The restaurant will serve Arabic and Italian food,” the father says as he sips black tea with fresh ginger. “I love Italy.”
One daughter, 23, finished studying medicine in Syria but will have to restart university in Greece as her certificate is not recognised in the country. Ahmed followed his passion and found a soccer team to train with in Ioannina.
Shahad will be able to start in the local school next week, and her 16-year-old sister can attend high school. Daily Greek lessons they attended in a community centre run by Terre des Hommes and Oxfam have helped to prepare them for these challenges and any other challenges that lie ahead.
There is not always the need to focus on the horrors refugees have fled from. We have heard too many similar stories already and have become deaf to them. We should instead focus on these families as they are now – full of jokes, hopes and memories.
Tatjana Aebli works in the editorial team at Terre des HommesYou might be interested in other: Blog News
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