I had dinner alone today, sitting in an empty house eating  pasta as I flicked through the channels on TV, idly thinking that my situation was the worst on Earth.

Then the screen was flooded with images of the thousands of refugees trying to reach, in any way possible, Europe and so escape from their war-torn countries.

I was there, eating. Eating food that I like and that I chose from my kitchen.

I was sitting on a chair, with my plate on a table, and watching TV, with a roof on top of my head and sipping on cold mineral water I just took out from the fridge. But still I was complaining.

Those heart-wrenching images came on in a stream. There were babies crying holding their mothers, men and women destroyed by such a long travel on a boat, that wasn’t made for so many people. I wondered if they and their children had even eaten a half-decent meal since the wars began in their countries.

Right now there are thousands and thousands of people escaping from countries like Syria, Afghanistan,  Eritrea, and many others, everyday. They are risking everything to reach Europe. Many of them died while fighting for this hope – but I won’t be speaking about this, because there are so many people who can do it better and can tell direct stories from the ones who endured all this.

I want to talk about hope.

Because in the midst of all this chaos and tragedy, there is still hope.

Everyday on newspapers we read racist comments of those who want the migrants sent back home because they don’t want their countries to become “dirty.” We see the inefficiency of the institutions who should be helping the refugees. We see the criminal organizations robbing and taking advantage of the migrants, and a lot more horrible things – but still, someone out there is doing the right thing.
Those people give me hope.

Like all the Macedonian citizens who created a Facebook group to try to help the thousands of migrants desperate to reach Europe in any way they could. Macedonia, a little country in the Balkans, is definitely not a rich country. The medium salary is about 340€ or $380, unemployment is high, and prices are higher.

But none of this stopped Lence Zdravkin, the Macedonian woman who opened her home to the immigrants walking near the railroad by her house. She offered them as much support as she could, and soon volunteers started to help bringing her food, water, clothes and more resources that helped this amazing woman with what she’s doing.

These people are doing their best to save the migrants from the criminals who could rob them of the few possessions they still have, or even kidnapping them for organ and human trafficking. I wish that were really an exaggeration – but we’ve seen several reports of robberies on migrants, and the situation is likely much more severe than we know since these migrants are terrified to go to police. Migrants are basically ghosts. They leave their countries and travel without anyone knowing their identity, so no one would notice their absence. They’re easy targets for criminals.

But people are moving. They try to help.

Volunteers from local NGOs like LEGIS and NUN try to help daily. Twice a week HERA, using a mobile intervention station, offer free gynecological visits. The Red Cross and UNCHR are all focused on this crisis, where the migrants must be helped before they end up in the wrong hands.

The fact that now NGOs are helping doesn’t mean Lence stopped with her efforts or slowed down. She runs from place to place to help and even forgets about herself. And after such a fulled period, such a stressful one  she still finds the strength to smile. She smiles to everyone and in each photo I’ve seen she has that beautiful smile that gives you a sense of peace.

She quickly became a modern hero to me. And even more when I saw that everywhere in Macedonia, people are trying to follow her example by going to stations and helping the migrants, even if all they can offer is a bottle of water.

Like my friend Mariangela, who takes her little daughters to the Skopje central station, so in their own little way, they can do something to help the migrants suffering, and they will grow up knowing that helping others is the most important thing of all.

But you can find these simple gestures, also in other places touched by the migrants crisis.

Like in Milan, where volunteers decided to help the migrants stuck in the Central Station after being turned away from other European countries and sent back there. Those people are doing what they can to help, bringing food, diapers for the babies, clothes, soaps and everything else. All this just by their own will to help others.

Like the little girl in Ventimiglia, an Italian city on the border with France, who donated candies to those she saw suffering.

Like the many families across Europe who are opening their homes to house refugees in needs.

Those gestures I’m talking about maybe won’t change the world immediately, like the end of all wars would, but they mean a lot.

They mean that there’s still hope for humanity. They mean that we didn’t all get transformed into the capitalistic monsters, craving each day for more money, we hear about. But mostly they mean that someone out there is growing the next generations with the rights values. The love for humanity ones and maybe one day we won’t need to write like this. We won’t need to talk about hope, because we won’t have to live in terrible times like this, we will have learned to not do wars. This might be just something I see and never become true, but it’s what gives me the strength to wake up everyday and try to do something for this so called hopeless world.

There is still hope and it is the light we need in those dark moments.

Albena Mehmedi Kadrija

By Albena Mehmedi Kadrija

Community Fellow

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