“When the refugee crisis started a few years ago, I knew I wanted to help.
I myself moved from Iraq to the UK as a refugee in the 1990s – I’m now a British citizen and a qualified solicitor here. So I was touched by what was happening and I desperately wanted to do something.
I’ve volunteered for Doctors of the World twice as an Arabic and Kurdish interpreter in Greece’s refugee camps. I went out there for a month in 2016 and another month in 2017. I mostly worked with Doctors of the World’s midwives and I also translated for women who were seeing our psychologists.
Working in these camps in the best thing I’ve ever done. Translating is so important for these vulnerable people – I can make sure their pain and suffering is heard and expressed. Having a female interpreter in the camps makes a big difference too, as many women there need help with gynaecological problems.
I’ve met Yazidi women fleeing ISIS and Syrian families fleeing the war. We’re talking about people who owned land and had jobs, but now they have nothing. We see a lot of people with mental health problems like depression – and it gets worse the longer they are in the camps. People get frustrated because they don’t know what’s happening with their lives.
I know just how hard it is to rebuild your life. I left everything behind in Iraq – my career, my house, everything. It’s a long process to start again, especially when everything is new and you’re not sure if people will accept you. Even after all these years, I still get homesick sometimes.
When I see children in the camps, my heart goes out to them – they didn’t choose to be in this situation. They’re always smiling and giving me hugs, even though their lives are hard.
People often think refugees choose to come to Europe, maybe to find jobs. But this is not a choice. We’re talking about people who have lost everything and had to take impossible journeys. People don’t understand that this could be any of us.”