Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

a discussion with Eleni Stamatoukou

“My name is Ahmad, and I’m 30 years old. I come from Syria, and more specifically, the city of Deir ez-Zor, which is situated near the boarder to Iraq. Deir ez-Zor is Syria’s richest city, a result of the oil reserves found in the soil, but the people who live there are the poorest.

In my native country, I worked as a construction worker, and then I opened my own shop, which sold women’s accessories. I arrived in Tilos in March 2017, along with the rest of my family. Before this, we were at Ioannina. I’ve been in Greece for a year now.

I don’t speak Greek yet, but I’m gradually learning. Of course, I try to learn as much Greek as I can from my job. I’ve been working on the island at Michael’s hotel since the end of May as a helper. I managed to get this job with the help and support of the SolidarityNow team. Things are going great at the hotel. When the clients see me, they greet me before I manage to greet them! I have yet to make some Greek friends, but I’d really like to. The problem is that I still don’t speak the language, but when I manage to learn it, I’ll drink yerba mate, a traditional Syrian drink, with the Greek families.

I have no complaints, everything is perfectly ok. I’ve taken the first step. I got a job”!

Ahmad has certain expectations for his and his family’s future.

If he can secure a stable job and a house, he would like to stay in Greece. However, if he isn’t able to find a job, he would prefer to seek out a career and be able to progress in another country. “I just turned 30 years old, and I have already experienced so much. I don’t ask for anything, just that my family is okay, both the one that is here as well as the members that are currently in Turkey. I don’t ask for anything for myself, just for my children. I don’t feel very strong, because I’m far away from my mother and my four siblings. When we are all reunited I will feel strong again!”

Ahmad Alkhalaf is a beneficiary of the Hosting Scheme project of SolidarityNow, and he lives at the accommodation structure in Tilos island.

#ESTIA, the Emergency Support to Integration and Accommodation programme, is implemented by SolidarityNow, supported by UNHCR and funded by ECHO.

Tilos – Community & Integration pilot project

The Refugee Accommodation shelter was created in 2015 by SolidarityNow, in collaboration with the Municipality of Tilos and stood out as an example of a local project through which the local community welcomed the refugees, supporting the smooth integration of those who would remain on the island. The operation of the shelter concerns the provision of accommodation to 50 beneficiaries and has hosted 100 people so far. Watch the BBC tribute to the Tilos program: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-40586229/the-greek-island-where-syrian-refugees-are-welcome.