Rafik Aziz went on our trip to Greece in April 2018, with his wife, Amber. He got to see the work we’re doing with refugees in Lesbos first-hand. Together, Rafik and Amber raised over £2,200 for this food project. We had a chat with Rafik to hear his thoughts about his time there.
Eman: Salaam Rafik! You came back from visiting our food project in Greece a couple of weeks ago. Why did you want to go?
Rafik: Wa alaikum salaam. It was really last minute actually. It happened very quickly. It was my wife’s idea to go on this trip. She really wanted to go, and I thought this was a great opportunity so I decided to join her.
Eman: Before you left, how were you feeling?
Rafik: A was a little bit nervous. I’d never been before, and I’d never done anything like this. I’d always wanted to though. As I get older, I really want to utilise my time better and get more involved with charity work.
Eman: You went to Moria Camp in Lesbos, where we’re cooking and distributing hot meals to vulnerable women and child refugees. What do you think of the work we’re doing there?
Rafik: Actually, I think the work Charity Right is doing is excellent. You’re on the ground, and you’ve created partnerships with brilliant organisations who can help get this food delivered to the people who need it. I like that Charity Right brings Islam to this camp, without actually talking about Islam or mentioning it. I saw Christian churches had donated so much flour. It’s good that Muslims can be seen there too doing some good work. At the end of the day, there are refugees there from all different religions. And they all just want a better life.
Eman: What did you think of Moria refugee camp?
Rafik: It’s completely different to what you see on the TV and news. There are so many more refugees than the statistics say. The camp has a certain capacity that is not being adhered to. There are too many people living there, and it is completely overcrowded. People are living in tents that you would buy from Argos. They’re very basic tents, and they’re not sustainable - especially in the rain and snow.
Eman: What did you do while you were there?
Rafik: Of course I helped prepare and distribute food. But I also thought it was important to meet refugees, and to talk to them. I wanted to say hello and get to know them a little. And, you know, you could tell they were so happy to just have that conversation.
The majority of refugees there are Syrian, and there are lots of Iraqis, and Afghans too. I also met some Pakistanis, Nigerians, and Somalis. The Syrians would tell me how they felt caught in the middle of a war between their government and various groups. They just want to protect their children and keep them as safe as possible.
Eman: How were the people you met?
Rafik: Well, you know, about 20 years ago I travelled to Damascus in Syria - a long time before the war. So I already knew the Syrian people. They’re the kind of people who are so friendly. They’re not a people that would ever want to beg, but now they find themselves begging. They’re the warmest, nicest, friendliest people I’ve come across. When I was there, everyone got along; Sunnis, Shias - there was even intermarriage between these communities. They were all mixed together like a big pot of sushi [laughs]. They were peaceful. They were happy.
Eman: And what would you say to people who are thinking about going out to Greece with us, but are worried about going?
Rafik: I’d say: you’re not going to a warzone. It’s safe. This is a European camp. Obviously, you have to be careful and take the normal precautions that you’d take when travelling anywhere. And there are lots of other organisations there too. I saw lots of non-governmental organisations there; I saw UN tents, and lots of Christian charities too.
Eman: How can people in Britain help?
Rafik: Donations are important. But I’d suggest that people go there. Go to Greece. See what’s happening with your own eyes. It’s difficult to describe the satisfaction you get from helping people. It’s a unique experience - kind of like Hajj [the obligatory pilgrimage for Muslims]. It’s indescribable. And it’s an experience that’s different for everyone. I want my 21-year-old son to go, and I think every young person should go. It’s an absolute eye-opener.
The other thing I would say is when you visit these camps: be kind. Open doors, smile, hug people, be nice. Don’t ever look down on them. This could be have been us. It could have been any of us. The Syrians are a very educated people. 15 years ago, they would never have thought something like this would happen to them.
Eman: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me today. Do you have any last thoughts you’d to share?
Rafik: Yes. Charity Right is doing an excellent job. Your objective is great. Lots of other charities go to a place, supply what’s needed, take some photos, and then leave. With Charity Right, this is a long term project. You’re cooking for these people. You’re offering hot food. You’re staying. That’s what they really need.
One more thing: don’t forget to supplicate for these people. Keep them in your prayers.
We need your support to keep our project in Greece running. Donate now at charityright.org.uk/donate
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