My friend, a young, passionate woman I have mentored and known personally for many years. The last two years have seen radical change in her life. She started a blog two years ago Not All Who Wander.
Capture readers have read her story here in many different ways, but today I have asked her to write a guest post about a real story, an everyday story from Greece, where she is working with women who have been trafficked into prostitution.
Her story is our story.
Be prepared to be wrecked.
For the past two months I have been in Greece working with churches and aide organisations. For the past two weeks I have been in Athens teaching English and documenting the stories of Refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
I am a story teller, a bower bird collector of human tales, a seeker of truth and I have been on a journey that has changed my life.
I have heard stories of boats being turned back to sea and people left to paddle with their shoes, I have met a teacher who has lost his whole family and remains on The Taliban’s wanted list for daring to bring education to village children in Pakistan, I have seen the scars left from bullet holes on a mans head who took shelter with an American soldier in Iraq.
I have cried. I have prayed. I have felt guilty for never caring to know. I have planned the ways I want to help. Ways to help when I get home, when I have more control over the variables. When it is safe.
Wednesday last week my time in Greece had come to an end, I was leaving the next day. I had my stories, I had my pictures, I would do with them what I could.
And then it happened, a woman, my friend walked in with a baby on her hip and told me there was one more girl who wanted to tell her story, I wasn’t prepared, I almost said no.
How could I have said no?
It was her birthday, 24 years old, a year younger than me; a refugee from Afghanistan who had travelled across three countries in the back of a truck with 17 other people, no food or water, and then boarded a boat to Greece.
Once in Greece her smuggler locked her in a room and told her he wouldn’t let her out until she gave him all her money (she had saved 16,000Euro), she was free’d into the streets of Greece with nothing.
Over the next five years her husband had formed a heroin addiction and left her with three children, two under the age of two. After he left she was kicked out of the room they were renting.
For 2 months she lived in a park with nothing but a blanket to call her own, she would often be arrested by police for living there and then released the next day completely unheard when she asked for help from them. She now lives in a basement room where her baby gets sick from the mould and she pays the same amount each month as a whole apartment would cost if she had the right tax number to rent herself.
She has no food and no money for diapers or baby things. To try and make rent she wakes up every day and searches through the trash from 5am, hoping to find things to sell. She does not make enough; she is racking up a debt to the owner; soon she will be kicked out again.
“When I ask people for help, the men tell me they will help me only if I do something for them.” she looked me in the eye.
“Do you understand?” she asked.
I understood. We were living in the red light district, more than ever, I understood.
“I heard that you were here and I have come to you because nobody else will help. Please can you help me?”
Without thinking I heard myself promising I would help her.
Three generous friends, a bunch of flowers, a hamper full of baby items, and a purse full of money later, and we stood singing her happy birthday.
“This is the best birthday I have ever had,” she said. I couldn’t fathom that either.
We swapped contact details and I watched her leave. I was completely wrecked. I had not done enough. I could never do enough. I get to walk away. I get to go home, she doesn’t. Her children don’t.
And so I didn’t.
Myself and six people from my team of 17 decided to cancel our flights and stay for 10 more days to make good on my promise to help.
Over the next two days we met with her twice and yesterday we went to see where she was living. We now know she wants to learn English and Greek so she can get a job and her children can get an education.
Tomorrow we are going to a real estate agent to find her an apartment and rent it for her so she can come to English and Greek lessons and not have to spend her days searching through the trash.
But the story does not end there. It does not end with her, it does not end with me, the story can continue with you. And so I will extend the same invitation to you that she originally extended to me.
“Will you help me?”
Renting a house requires more money than I have, and maybe more than you have, but it is not more than we have together.
You can be part of the story by donating below or by sharing this post and extending the invitation to your friends.
Written June 9th 2014, Greece.
(Photo one of Beth by Ellie Youngs, Photo of Beth in Warehouse by Ely Terriquez, third Portrait photo by Kirsten Sejersen)
To all my readers here on Capture30days.com, you can contribute straight to this family’s situation today through Paypal and all monies will go straight into this situation.