A team of trauma therapists from Richmont Graduate University has traveled to Greece to assess and respond to the needs of Syrian refugees and relief workers. Their mission is the training of humanitarian workers in compassion fatigue and trauma and also counseling families at the detention camp in Lesbos. Here is an update from Dr. Vanessa Snyder:
As I sit and watch the sun rise over the Aegean Sea, I cannot help but reflect on the absolute goodness of God in the midst of pain and suffering and His great love in the midst of hopelessness.
Our journey began a few short days ago with a small trauma team of six heading to Lesbos, Greece. Our specific task was to work with volunteers and refugees on compassion fatigue, stress management and trauma symptoms. Due to summer holiday in Europe, our team was bumped in Amsterdam with no options but to stay overnight. A few decided to journey through the beautiful city with the help of some local friends who came to give us the tour. We made our way to downtown, taking in a Bansky exhibit and some of Holland’s best crepes and waffles. Finally, we journeyed into the red light district as some had only heard of the windows with red curtains that exist row after row through the streets of downtown, with a beautiful Orthodox church located at the heart of the district. For those of us who work in the trafficking industry, it is a painful reminder that for many, the world is not a safe place.
The following morning we were rerouted to Prague, Athens and then finally to our destination with only two bags missing! Our hosts were gracious and waited as we filled out paperwork, and then piled into the cars for the ride to our hotel. The missionary host works with Conscience International, and is also working in conjunction with Euro Relief to run the Moria camp here on Lesbos. Unfortunately, our work began early as our team witnessed a horrific accident that evening that ultimately ended in a fatality. In trauma work, we realize that even in the best situations we will be affected by what we hear in the stories of those who bare pain and grief. For our team, we began with trauma symptoms of our own and we are grateful for those at home who have prayed for all of us as we continue to process the experience.
Camp Day 1:
Due to the agreement between the EU and Turkey, the European borders have been closed and refugees do not have the freedom to gain asylum from war, terror and famine as they once did. They are now detained in many camps waiting for the government to decide what will happen to them. In Moria, the population of refugees runs anywhere between 2300 and 4000 people living in a four to six block space. Our host manages the living space, food and relationships in the camp. It was only last November when thousands of refugees were landing on the beaches of Lesbos daily, being forced into the camp under inhuman conditions and no systems in place.
Entering the camp, the first thing I noticed was the proximity of tents and the number of people residing in each one. There are no trees in the camp and the sun’s heat is experienced in its fullest. The second thing I noticed was the ages of the volunteers responsible for the camp’s daily activities. The average age appeared to be 25 with responsibilities that are unimaginable. We joined a counseling team that had been there for two days as they ran groups of both children and women. The graciously passed the baton as they would be leaving the following day and we would be staying for five more days. The night ended with debriefing and expectations of a challenging week as we began to join in the lives of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Eritreans, Egyptians and many African groups, as they attempt to find hope in a hopeless situation.