by Anne Bates, Hull Help for Refugees
People in England were fed-up with the term ‘unprecedented times’. Indeed they were! I had been working with Action for Education since it opened the doors of the ‘Halcyon Days’ project in Athens in the summer of 2018. I was their first volunteer, at the mature age of 68, and worked in the creche until they closed in December 2019.
Volunteering isn't just ‘being in a box’ because you become involved with people, places and things. It can become very emotional and by the time I flew back to England on March 18th, just as the lockdown was starting, I was feeling exhausted and ready for a break. I expected to fly back to Athens within the fortnight, but that didn't happen.
"This really messed up my head!"
Strangely, though I did not fear catching Covid-19, my emotions were on a roller-coaster! I had become addicted to my life in Athens. It was my 'home'. Should I have waited out my time in Athens, where the infection rate was less than in England? But I did need to recharge my batteries!
Listening to the news and reading Facebook comments didn't help. It proved how 'fake news’ can disturb the mind. One day I would be hopeful of travelling back to Athens and then I would read something that said that Greece didn't want the British because they had delayed in taking lockdown. Over 60s will not be allowed to travel... what! That's discrimination as far as I’m concerned, and since I am well above this age, but very active, this really messed up my head!
"I have been proud to become their friend, 'mother', confident and encourager."
Which brings me to this… if a young person wants to follow their hearts and volunteer/travel then do so. Life is short, follow your dreams. Over the past 3 years, while I have been in Athens, I have met many dedicated young volunteers with humanitarian hearts. I like to think that I have encouraged them in their work and admired them for putting their careers on hold. I have been proud to become their friend, 'mother', confident and encourager. I have felt privileged to have been able to host weary volunteers in my humble abode as they transit from the camps and islands on their way home to foreign countries.
While being stuck in England, I have been grateful for my limited computer skills and for WhatsApp. which has allowed me to continue to emotionally support some refugee friends. For me, the lockdown has been a time of reflection, a time for refreshing of the mind. But now I am ready to start new adventures!