When I started nursing school and very quickly realized that it was like drinking out of a fire hydrant while simultaneously being on fire and every day involved a mental breakdown, the only thing that kept me going was the thought that once I got this degree, I would have the freedom to travel, the qualifications to do the job I love, and I would be able to help people. I never imagined my luck would take me this far: to the little island of Chios and it’s very big, very chaotic slice of the 21st century refugee crisis.
"I have trusted them to be my mouthpiece and to make me heard in languages I can’t speak. I have trusted such people to keep me safe in environments where I have no control. I have trusted them to see me in moments of weakness or times where I need help... and everywhere I’ve gone, people have helped me far more than I could ever help them. I wish I could do better for them. I hope they know how much I love them."
Tomorrow marks my sixth month out in the world. I left home with a plan in mind and I couldn’t have been further off the mark- while I intuitively knew I’d be spending a large chunk of time in the Greek islands, I didn’t think I’d end up in Chios working near Vial hotspot breaking up fights in distribution lines, dancing dabke, and eating Afghani food; sometimes all within the same day. I didn’t think I’d be fortunate enough to assimilate into a community and be welcomed among so many different cultures and people. I didn’t think I’d inherit a group of brothers from so many different countries and come to love them like my family. I hope they know I would do anything in the world for them within my capacity.
While the good and wholesome moments have been frequent, it hasn’t been easy: I have had many moments where I had to put on my big girl pants and put all of my faith into the universe and into the people around me. There is a great amount of risk in this work and while I don’t feel like I am ever in direct danger, it is important to be realistic about the environment we are in.
My judgement is challenged every single day. We have to carefully calculate every move we make and every word that comes out of our mouths in up to five different languages completely on the fly. Every interaction could be a risky one. Every choice we make here is the best worst decision: both humanitarian and medical aid delivery in these contexts cause one moral injury after another. The best options here are ones we’d probably get sued for back home- there is a deep injustice in the way our hands are tied. I will always be haunted by not being able to do better, even if I know that we did the absolute best we could.
In these crisis zones, there are always people who are forces of light and love. Their capacity to put good into the universe when it has done nothing but wound them inspires me beyond measure.
Their dedication to the people around them and their tenderness in interactions are little glimmers of hope in the darkness we are surrounded by in this line of work. These people are lifelines. We have to do our best to support them and keep their flames burning bright.
I have trusted them to be my mouthpiece and to make me heard in languages I can’t speak. I have trusted such people to keep me safe in environments where I have no control. I have trusted them to see me in moments of weakness or times where I need help... and everywhere I’ve gone, people have helped me far more than I could ever help them. I wish I could do better for them. I hope they know how much I love them.
Sending peace and love from Chios.