Refugee families long for a return to normal

Author: Kelli Hogan | May 17, 2017

Editor’s Note: Kelli Hogan, a marketing manager at Google, was a member of the 12-person NetHope Team K deployment to Greece and its official mission storyteller.

Lagadikia, Greece — We met Mohammed as soon as we arrived in the camp at Lagadikia. He is an electrician by trade, and when the NetHope team began the assessment to confirm our Wi-Fi installation plan, Mohammed gave us helpful tips about the camp’s layout. He then invited us to sit down with his family and talk about their journey.

Mohammed lives with his wife Manal and their children in a shippng container — a new form of shelter found in refugee camps. Across from them are his nephew, Aham, and his family. They all left Aleppo in February 2016 and wait with uncertainty to find out where they might end up in Europe. Germany tops both families’ lists, but their main objective is to find a place where they can integrate, find jobs, and get their children enrolled in school. They are very grateful for the “fantastic support” they’ve received from the Greek government and people. One day they would like to return to Greece for vacation, but for now, they are ready to move on.

Like many refugees we’ve spoken to, internet is a basic necessity. There’s little to do in the camps without connectivity. Moreover, Mohammed remarks that it is essential particularly because of the conditions. In the winter, it’s too cold to play outside, so, the children need to stay indoors. In the summer, it’s extremely hot, which limits time spent outside, as well. His children depend on the web for games and entertainment, and the adults use it to communicate with their loved ones.

Mohammed and Aham’s families also use the web to learn. Aham is teaching himself English and downloads language tutorials to study. The family watches many “how-to” videos on YouTube. They’ve been teaching themselves how to crochet and use YouTube to find inspiration for different designs and fashions.

The internet helps pass the time, but waiting is very difficult. “It’s easier for the adults,” explains Mohammed. “But my kids are now out of school for over two years. Life without education and work is nothing. We didn’t leave [Syria] to sit down.” The idleness is stifling. They long to return to normal routines.

Read the full story at the NetHope Blog.

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