This blog post is particularly special for me; I am going to tell you about a Syrian man who I first met at beginning of the year.
Ahmed immigrated in the late 1990s from Aleppo to Greece, where he worked as a baker in Athens first, and then Thessaloniki. When the global financial crisis hit in 2007, Greece was struck especially hard – a reality which remains today. Greece is almost alone in Europe in facing a continued economic struggle. In the years following the crisis, Ahmed, like many others, lost his job and he decided to go home to Syria in 2009. No one could have predicted what would happen in Syria in the years to follow. The civil war, now in its devastating sixth year, forced Ahmed in 2014 to flee again to Europe. Once again Ahmed arrived to Greece where he was relatively fortunate to quickly get asylum and a residence permit. And yet this fortune was accompanied by a subsequent ineligibility for humanitarian aid and support from the Greek government and NGOs. The inevitable happened; Ahmed in his mid 50s, migrant, unqualified and unattractive as working force slipped into poverty, ending up on the streets. For more then two years Ahmed was homeless in the derelict spaces and streets of Thessaloniki. For the past month, this is no longer the case.
The first time I met Ahmed, I was distributing food with “Soul Food Kitchen” to homeless and precariously housed populations of the city. It was early 2017 and still winter. I was moved by his story and sought to help him. Thanks to the language skills of our new Syrian Robins, I was able to contact Ahmed again, and invite him into the “Pame” project. What does that mean? I am overjoyed to tell you that since the end of May, Ahmed has lived in an apartment in a small town north of Thessaloniki, where he is also working. Thanks to collaboration with the Spanish organisation “Acción Directa Sierra Norte“, who runs a bakery for refugees, Ahmed not only is working, but is able to use his expertise as a baker, earning money and ensuring a continued roof over his head. “Be a Robin” pays half of Ahmed’s salary, and the Spanish pay the other half.
I want to use this opportunity to thank all the people behind “Be a Robin”. Only as a result of your donations, effort, and compassion am I able to help and support individuals living in the camps and spaces of Thessaloniki, who find themselves on the fringes of society. Thanks to your support I can fully commit myself to my work and seek a continued positive influence on the lives of these people.
In deep gratitude,