June 6, 2016

Interpreting Love to Refugees in Greece

Trans-European Division, with Corrado Cozzi

Meet Lina Shalabi.

She works for ADRA’s Serbia branch as an interpreter at the Petra refugee camp on the foothills of Mount Olympus, Greece. She provides translation services in the medical center for 1,000 Yazidis, 480 of them children.

She says she serves because she cares.

Shalabi, born to a Syrian father and Serbian mother, has lived in both cultures.

“I know how these people feel,” she said. “I know how they lived before, and it’s very difficult for me now to see how they live. They didn’t choose to live in tents.”

Shalabi first worked with refugees in Serbia last year as they poured through her country on their way to seek security and a future elsewhere in Europe. She has a degree in political science, but at the moment her satisfaction in life comes from serving this community of Yazidis trapped in Greece. She has heard their horrific stories. She says they have no safe home to go back to in Syria or Iraq, and feels frustrated that at the moment they are marooned on a remote mountain side in northern Greece.

She especially feels for the children — and spends a lot of her free time playing with them, singing their songs, learning Kurdish, and sharing love.

“Actually, it’s enough, their eyes,” Shalabi said. “Sometimes they speak with their eyes because I don’t understand them.”

Looking on, it is clear the children — and their parents — understand Shalabi. They are seeing love in action.

Shalabi is one of 15 ADRA staff members working with other nongovernmental organizations and with the Greek authorities to help the residents of the Petra camp.

Her commitment is not unique. Travel to Oinofyta, an hour’s drive north of Athens, and you will find another interpreter, Myriam, volunteering for AdventistHelp in a smartly run, smaller camp mainly for Iraqis and Afghans. Myriam is 13. Her family helped her escape the dangers of her home country after she was told she would be married to a 65-year-old man. It took her four months to walk to Turkey and catch a boat to Greece. However, as with the other refugees, she found the border closed.

Myriam taught herself English and is rapidly learning every other language from the Europeans volunteering on the site. Every day she is providing translation services. The clinic depends on her. However, ask her about her future and you will see a tear in her eye. She knows she wants an education. She knows she wants to serve. At the moment she does not know what that service will be — except to the service she is giving now.

Meet Lina Shalabi, who works for ADRA Serbia as an interpreter at the Petra refugee camp in Greece. (TED)

To find out more about ADRA, visit the ADRA website for your country or adra.org. AdventistHelp, a project run by lay members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church working in close cooperation with the church and other nongovernmental organizations, also needs volunteers and donations for its work in Oinofyta. Visit its website for more information or e-mail [email protected].