Last month, Chloe Sarshar followed a lifelong dream to devote herself to international relief work. The purpose of her journey was to assist in a Registration Camp in Lesvos, Greece, helping refugees fleeing from the Middle East. Shedoesthecity was so inspired by Chloe’s endeavour oversees that we wanted to showcase some excerpts from her personal travel blog.
Part I: Suck it, over-privileged white man
“You’re the perfect target to be kidnapped and held for ransom,” said my mother.
“You’re too sensitive for that kind of work,” someone else told me.
Doing relief work has always been an ambition of mine, even from a young age. In high school I had decided that international aid was for me, though back then I had no idea where any of this might take me or if I would even get to a point in my life where it could be possible. There were many detractors too; I was constantly told that such dangerous situations were not for “delicate” people like me.
I once had the so-called privilege of meeting a Canadian diplomat whose career had taken him all over the world. I remember finding his story inspiring and knew that I wanted to commit myself to a similar path. When I approached him to ask for advice, he told me that as a woman I would probably find it hard to be a diplomat, especially if I planned on having children. He told me I would be better off working domestically for some international component of government (maybe foreign affairs) if that’s what I really wanted to do, but frankly my time would be better spent doing something else.
I was 17 and completely dispirited. Thankfully now, at 27, I know better than to listen to the out-dated musings of an over-privileged white male who probably spent most of his career perpetuating discriminatory culture more than anything else. The urge never went away and it’s always felt like something else has been waiting for me. So here we are, 10 years later, doing exactly what I was told I shouldn’t even bother consider doing in the first place. Suck it, old white man.
The inspiration for this trip came from a girl I used to work with who had spent the last while working with refugees on the island. I’d been following her posts on Facebook and found myself inspired; she was doing what I had wanted to do for so long.
At first, the idea seemed too crazy. What would my family say about their “delicate flower” running off to some random island in the middle of the Aegean Sea to help people in their greatest moment of need? Luckily, and to my surprise, they were more than supportive. And so with that, I started planning my trip.
The truth is, I still have no idea what I’m doing once I get there. After researching the situation in Lesvos, joining endless groups on Facebook and connecting with people from all over the world, the only thing I have set up is a place to sleep for first few days. My plan is to work in the warehouses, sorting through donations and getting them ready for delivery to various parts of the island. After that, I hope to get in contact with groups on the ground and figure it out from there. The opportunities are endless, from working in the camps (both inside and outside the barricades currently being controlled by the Greek authorities), to translating in the medical tents (though I don’t think my basic Farsi will be very useful there), to greeting people coming off the boats, to collecting discarded blankets and clothes to be laundered and redistributed, to delivering donation items to various places.
I have no idea where this journey will take me and while I’m aware of the situation I’m about to enter, nothing has prepared me for what I’m about to witness. All I can hope for is the mental, emotional and physical capacity to make it through. I don’t expect it to be easy, and I don’t expect to make it out completely unscathed. What I do know is that I’ve never felt surer about an unsure decision in my short and domesticated 27 years.