Afaaf with NPI volunteer Paola.
Afaf is one of the lucky ones. Instead of having to live in a tent in one of a number of derelict camps around Thessaloniki, she stays at Elpida. The abandoned clothing factory was turned into refugee housing by a Canadian foundation in cooperation with a private
investor. There are real rooms instead of tents, a community kitchen, as well as showers and toilets. Compared to most other camps, Elpida is the height of luxury.
This doesn't mean that Afaf has it easy, however. Back in Syria, her husband owned a restaurant as well as a clothing store, while Afaf
worked in the public health sector for 24 years. Their lives were turned upside down when the war erupted.
“Because of the war, everything is gone,” Afaf says. “My house was very big. I had a good job. But everything is completely destroyed now.”
Before they fled, Afaf's son, who was 16 years old at the time, went across the street to buy bread for the family and never came back. He had been shot by a sniper and died instantly.
“I lost everything,” says Afaf. My house, my job, my son. But worst of all, my children lost everything, too.”
Afaf lives in Elpida with her husband, 12-year old daughter and 21-year old son as well as her 17-year old daughter in law. Her eldest daughter and son in law used to live with them in Idomeni camp until its demolition but because she was heavily pregnant they
were granted asylum in Germany instead of being relocated to Elpida with the rest of the family. Afaf has a seven months old granddaughter whom she has never met.
Because of her background in public health and good English skills Afaf is working as translator for Nurture Project International, facilitating communication between midwives and new or expecting mothers.
“I don't like to sit around,” she says. “I worked for 24 years before leaving Syria, so I can't just stop.”
Although she has at least a solid roof over hear head, just like those in the more derelict camps Afaf has no idea if and when she will be allowed to move on. Her future is as unclear as that of her peers. She says if she had a choice she would return to Syria in a heartbeat.
“We didn't want to leave Syria,” she explains. “But we had no choice. If there was peace I would return. I really hope I can go back one day."
Afaf with NPI founder Brooke.