Guest blog by Alice Carder, Sacred Activist leadership programme participant.
Alice describes some of the impact of volunteering at a camp in Greece.
“I feel so acutely aware of my own privilege, sitting here in this family’s space as they share all they have with me. I am privileged to be here in this camp, scrubbing floors, sorting clothes, painting walls and faces. I am privileged to look these people in the eye, to hold their hands and to hear their stories; to witness their strength, resilience and kindness. I am privileged to be a part of their lives, even if just for a week. And I am privileged I have the freedom to leave, to return to my comfortable home, knowing the people I love are safe.
On the wall in the corridor two doves have been painted above a sealed envelope. “The blue envelope has a message for the whole world,” the artist explains, “We are not poor or needy, we don’t want to come to your country and live like beggars. We don’t want the world’s money; it just perpetuates war — we need peace so we can go back to our beloved lands.”
After I visited Calais in 2015, I struggled to write about my experiences so much that in the end I didn’t. I questioned ‘Who am I to speak up against the status quo?’ Returning from Greece I feel differently. I know exactly who I am. I am a person who believes in truth and integrity and in exploring the dualities of life.
Of course I will only ever be able to tell parts of this story, given that I will only ever experience it through my own lenses, and that the refugee crisis is still very much unfolding. But the camp manager Lisa’s final words of encouragement stay with me: “Tell the truth. Tell people what the truth is. Talk to people. Make changes. You can do it.”
As the faces of those I met in the camp visit me in dreams, I know I will no longer be able to turn away from the pain and injustice I have witnessed. As the empathy I feel permeates my heart, neither will I forget the kindness and joy we shared, enabling us to live for a moment beyond differences and boundaries.
I am learning that to see something in its whole form, to accept life in its dualities, is to be free. Free from the fear of what might be, and free from the paralysis of thinking I cannot do anything to change what is. Because whilst none of us may have the power to single-handedly solve a global crisis, we each have the power to experience life in all of its dualities and to listen to the call of our own heart.”