We met Fahim the first evening we arrived in Athens. He is a professional soccer player, and used to play for the national team in Afghanistan. That was before he started getting death threats from the Taliban. He escaped Kabul with the help of smugglers over two years ago. Now he lives at Skaramangas refugee camp outside Athens and plays on a Greek refugee soccer team; he also coaches young boys at the camp.
We wanted to surprise the boys at the camp with good quality soccer balls and warm outerwear, so we headed to InterSport. Fahim tossed several Adidas soccer balls -and a Barça ball, his favorite team – into a large net bag; and we chose navy and red sweatshirts and pants in a variety of sizes.
When the person at the register found out that we were buying these for children at a refugee camp, he walked us to the bakery next door and bought a big box of cookies for the kids; when the bakery owner learned of the project, he packed a box of savories as a gift. It was the night before Christmas, and we felt like Santa, laden with bags full of soccer balls, track suits and treats.
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Photo: Saanya Ali
Saanya and I planned this trip to Greece in January at the very last minute; it would not have been possible to meet any of the people I’ll be writing about without the help of Kim Malcolm, someone we didn’t even know. Kim lives in California and about two years ago traveled to Greece to volunteer. She formed strong relationships, has been back several times to volunteer, and is doing amazing work to support refugees on the ground, including many of the people whose stories I’ll be sharing. Right now, her focus is on getting emergency dental treatment for people with infections, as well as emergency food supplies to the homeless and those living in squats. She also wants to start a girl’s empowerment and leadership program. Please support her efforts by donating through this link, and indicate “Greece/refugees” in the designation section. http://mionline.org/donate/