One of the most important things I’ve learnt from working on the ground is that I don’t have all the solutions…

Often we work in countries that are foreign to us, with people who have different cultural practices and languages that we might not know or understand. As much as we strive towards unity and community, and although we make great progress with the use of hand gestures and facial expressions, obstacles such as language can sometimes limit our effectiveness.

Our partnership with Refugee Volunteers of Izmir (ReVi) taught me how important it is to work together, with others, to find the solutions.

We’ve talked before about how ReVi work incredibly hard to empower refugees themselves. They work to provide ways for refugees to use their own initiative, skills and interests to create opportunities and find solutions.

For example, ReVi have many Arabic-speaking members of staff, many of whom are refugees who volunteer as translators.

These team members are invaluable. They help bridge the gap where we fall short in our language abilities and cultural understanding, allowing us all to strive for this sense of unity and community we are constantly working towards. They have risen above their impossible situation of forced migration and often dire living condtions, as well as exploitation at the hands of Turkish employers, to continually reach out and help their fellow humans by working with ReVi.

I have seen these refugees go over and above in their work with ReVi, and their modesty and sincerity in doing so is humbling. They give Arabic lessons, host dinners and organise activities, all with the aim of creating as comfortable and natural a community environment as possible. More than anything, they become friends, not just with the refugees we visit and support, but with the other volunteers, myself included.

They do this work this with many of thier own hopes and dreams on hold. Some have had to pause their education or leave their careers, some have attempted many crossings to Europe, some have started the long and arduous process of asylum claims in other countries… They each have a story of pain and obstacles behind the positive, inspirational exterior.

ReVi would not be able to do what it does, or be the organisation that it is, without these volunteers. At all times we, as volunteers and especially as international organisations, must recognise the fact that we come into these places as foreigners, and there are often gaps in what we know! But this is the beautiful thing, if we come in willing to adapt, to learn and to collaborate, together we see the most beautiful results.