SolidarityNow, with the cooperation of the award-winning photojournalist George Moutafis, highlights and make known the people and their personal stories which derive from the current refugee crisis. “Listen to My Story” is the photo project that focuses on the everyday protagonists of this unprecedented European refugee / immigration phenomenon.

“The basic needs of the people is a priority. Unfortunately, inequalities are increasing nowadays. Improving the situation requires commitment and organization. Going to offer clothes once at an accommodation structure is important, but the greatest help is offered by the people involved in this, who, unfortunately, are not being paid. These are not the ones who are exposed to the media and are at events with volunteer awards; these are people that are more ‘hidden’.

I do not have a message of solidarity to send. For me, solidarity is an act. And I do not think I can describe it in 5-10 words. ”

Theano Metaxa, actress
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Athens , January 2016

“Last summer I worked as a tour guide in Santorini and saw all that was happening from far. When I finished my work I decided to come and help, as well. We welcome refugees arriving from the islands in the port of Piraeus, almost every day, and we try to support them by giving them food, shoes and clothes.
We are a small part of a chain and we try to make their journey easier because we know that the road is long.

Everyone helps and offers as much and whatever possible, some more and some less. Even the little time spent by someone to come help when the boat arrives, is important. When my children do not have school – mainly on weekends- I bring them with me to help. I am very proud that all of this is based on volunteerism. I believe that these people will make it. Having reached this far, they will find their way again. I am positive.

One day, I heard my daughter say the word ‘solidarity’ and I asked her if she knows what the word means. Immediately, she replied that solidarity is what happens daily in the port of Piraeus. ”

Georgia Dima, Tour Guide, Piraeus
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Piraeus, January 2016

“I just arrived at the port of Piraeus and I’m very happy. I believe that I will not face any other difficulties. I am on this trip alone with my child. I am going to Germany to meet my husband who has already been there for some months.

We left Damascus because we could not live there anymore. We really were in danger. I cannot wait until the moment I see my husband again. I believe my heart will stop beating when I see him. We are looking to find a safe place to live a normal life and raise our child. I do not ask for anything else.”

Haya 23 years old, Syria
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Piraeus, January 2016

“Fishing is my life. I feel the sea sometimes calling me and sometimes not letting me get close. Often, as I am going fishing, I see people who need help. I approach them and I let my mind work automatically. I know that in a few seconds a life can be lost or saved.
When someone is in danger, he/speaks our language and I understand his/hers. There is no time to lose. Solidarity is something different for everyone. For me it means doing what is obvious, without any gain and at sea, it is one of the things one should do without a second thought.

A moment I will never forget is when I went to take a little girl out from the sea. She was dead and lying on her stomach. I turned her over to put her on my boat and saw that her eyes were wide open and staring. I thought she would talk to me. I will never forget the face and eyes of this baby.
None of us had in mind awards, we do not think about these things. It honors as fishermen but I ask you, will it change anything? Let there not have been such awards and people having to leave their homes.

I feel the need to apologize. I feel complicit. Sorry t I cannot do more to stop this happening in our seas”.

Stratis Valamios , Fisherman , Skala of Sykaminia, Lesvos
Candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Lesvos, February 2016

“I came to Greece on a wooden boat 11 years ago. We could see the lights on the island and prayed to get there without having something bad happen. Our boat got stuck a few meters away from the shore and we all jumped into the sea. We were 25 people; women and babies. It was March 2005, a very cold night. I will always remember this night. My feet were swollen and I was hiding for two days in the mountains so that the police could not find me. I was looking for a way to leave for Athens. Back then, there were no volunteers on the coast or rescue boats, like there are now.

I came to Chios to work, I am a builder, plasterer and when I do not have work, I go to the coast to help. I prefer to go for two hours instead of sitting at a café for the same time.
Because I speak their language, I listen to their stories and understand what it means to not have money even for a bus ticket. I help them as much as I can. I talk to the bus driver and he allows them get on.

I remember one morning boat reached the coast and we were not many volunteers. A car stopped and a young couple came to help. They gave blankets and helped us change wet babies. Honestly, I had not seen them before and I still do not know who they are. They just stopped, helped and then left. That to me is solidarity.”

Sami, Egyptian, Builder and Volunteer in Chios 
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Chios, January 2016

“Hundreds of refugees reach Oinousses. Along with Loukia, Eftichia, Annie and Vasilia – villagers and friends of ours, we spontaneously created a small solidarity network. We did not design anything. We just followed our instincts.
These months have changed our lives. We changed as people, we are helpful and sleep peacefully at night. Refugees arrive in remote areas, particularly at night. Many times we hear them yelling, but we cannot find them so we literally have a rescue operation. They’re wet, frightened and many are injured since they arrive in rocky areas. We are not familiar with first aid, we do not have equipment, do not speak their language and yet, we manage to help.

One morning a shepherd called us to go help him. Refugees had arrived in a rutty area. We found them and by almost climbing, we got back on the road safely. This is the moment you see the kindness in their eyes. Several offered us cookies they with them, to thank us.

Once it was very cold and a Syrian refugee took off his jacket and handed it to Elli who was literally freezing. It is not the help we offer them; what’s most important for us is that we learn from their own kindness.”

Eleni and Elli Lignou, volunteers from Oinousses
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Oinousses January 2016

“If you see someone who is hungry you should give him a plate of food. Obviously. But seeing this whole situation makes me furious. Mostly for older people, who wait patiently for their turn to get a plate of food. I look at them and think it might be someone close to me. A friend or relative. I think that we might find ourselves at some point in their position, perhaps.

I am the cook, a member of the social kitchen where we cook almost every day for refugees arriving on the island. Our cooking is based on what the world offers. Ordinary people who come, give food and leave without waiting to hear a thank you. Solidarity is when you can give when and take when you need to.

If the world stops giving us food, then there will not be any food. Our storage sometimes reaches a point where it does not have anything for us to cook. But always at the last moment, as if someone has a magic wand…we manage to find something to put into the pot.

I like to see people come get second plates. It means that they liked the food. When cook with your heart, the food is tastier.”

Nikos Vogiatzis , 33 years old, Cook at a Greek Grill, Chios
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow, Chios

“I’m really happy that I got to Greece. There were 45 of us on the boat and I was very scared about this trip. Fortunately, the weather was good, we were at sea for almost 1,5 hours and arrived safe. I was impressed about how we were greeted by the volunteers on the shore. Volunteers from around the world. To be honest I did not expect this.

They gave us dry clothes and water and soon we were taken to tents to rest for a while before continuing our journey. I finished school in Afghanistan but I’m lucky because I know how to write and I speak English. I think this will help me in my journey. I want to study. I want to go to Norway, I have relatives who have been living there for 20 years. I’ll try to get there via the Balkan route. I know it’s a difficult journey, but I will make it. It’s hard to explain. I’m not searching for a better life, I just want to live”.

Mohamed Taqi 20 years old, from Afghanistan, Lesvos
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | November 2015

“For me, man has value. I do not care where it comes from or where it goes. We have everything and they have nothing. That’s why we decided to help them. We welcome dozens of refugees every day in our village. Our houses are on the beach and people literally arrive at our doorsteps. Thus, a group of volunteers was created that offers them warm soup, tea, dry clothes and shoes. If they arrive at night, they sleep in a place that the Church has given us. We feel close to these people and many of them promise us that will come one day to meet us again.

These people are sailing into the unknown, on a boat called “Hope”. We’ve heard about this but we have not lived it. And I hope we never have to go through such situations. Many call me Mom. Do you know how important it is for a stranger to call you mom? Perhaps it has an even greater value than it does when it comes from your child”.

Anna Thoma, 51 years old, Restaurant owner, Chios
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

“I volunteer because I cannot see people being wet while I am just comfortably sitting. Our house is on the sea and refugees arrive every day. Recently, a boat arrived with 45 people and many babies. I got into the sea, grabbed babies and put them in our home. We turned the radiator on and we gave them milk. I put socks on them and gave them diapers.
The other day I took sea urchin spines off the foot of an adult, they had arrived with their boat behind our house on the rocks and as they were about to arrive at the coast, he stepped on a sea urchin. These people are not familiar with the sea.
My teacher gives me thumbs up for helping but tells me that I also need to pay attention to my classes. The other kids at school make fun of me. They tell me I will get sick. What makes me angry is that several adults come by just to steal the engines of the boats and leave the people helpless.
It is just five of us who help here. At school we have history and religion classes and we are told to love and help our neighbor. But here no one comes to help”.

Hermione Kouimani, 8 years old, Student, Chios
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

“By playing in front of these people, I try to feel alive. It’s a very emotional job and it requires great effort to make these children laugh or forget about their worries, even if that is just for a moment. No one is different from another. We are all the same. Only that now, these people are in need of solidarity. Solidarity unites people and spreads love. This job gives me strength and I think I am contributing to bettering the world in which we live.
Our own world, the world of clowns, aims to make others laugh. These children need to dream. These children need to be able to laugh again”.

Elena Xibille, 30 years old, Clown | Clowns Without Borders 
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Idomeni, December 2015

“When the Coast Guard asks me to go with my boat and help people who are at sea, for me it is a very difficult moment. I do not know if I will find people alive or people that have drowned. Even when I go fishing, I often witness people stretching their hands out, asking me for help. My stomach becomes a knot, as I do not know who to bring aboard first.

I help because I want to call myself human. There is no time to think when you see people in danger. And mostly children, these innocent beings. When even the last person is out of the boat and ashore and before they all continue their journey, several of them turn around to shake hands with me and thank me. They give me their baby children so that I can hold them in my arms for a while and they look at me right in the eyes. As if they know that it was my hands that saved them.

I stand and stare until they go up the hill. I notice them glancing back here and there, and wave goodbye. I know I did the right thing. And believe me, you would do the same in my position”.

Kostas Pinteris, Fisherman, Lesvos
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Lesvos 2015

“Just as the refugees are now coming to Lesvos, so too did my grandfather with my grandmother come in 1922. Exactly the same trip, just that there were no life jackets back then.
Every day, from 7 in the morning, I walk on the shore and pick up rubber boats and lifejackets that the refugees leave behind. It is hard work; it is very difficult to clean the shore. On one day we clean, and on the next, we find even more as people continue to arrive on the island. This mountain that you see with lifejackets, I made myself. Every day I move hundreds with my truck. Seeing the way things are going, I think the mountain with life jackets will be the tallest mountain on the island soon. I cannot figure how many these are. I cannot tell you for sure if it’s tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands. What I will say for sure is that people who were wearing lifejackets are lucky. They are the ones who reached the shore. Others never arrived”.

Stratis Karaeleftheriou, 54 years old, Driver, Employee at the Coast Cleaning Service
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow Lesvos, November 2015.

“I work in the camp of Idomeni daily. I’ve seen thousands of people pass through. I know that their country has been devastated and this saddens me. I just look at them as they pass the border and this saddens me. Especially when children do. Unfortunately, besides working in the camp, I cannot do anything more for them.

Τhey leave in a hurry to cross the border. It is their need and desire to get to their destination and I understand them. That is how I felt too, when I was seeking a better future and left to go to Germany as a migrant. Leaving your home behind is a very bad feeling. Leaving everything behind. Friends, parents and home. The worst is that you do not know if you will ever come back to see them again…”

Christos Bassiakos, employee in the Cleaning Sector of the Idomeni camp
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Idomeni, December 2015

“When I saw them walking in the rain and mud three years ago, I felt like I could stay uninvolved. I talked with friends, with locals and we organized ourselves. We made a triptych with photos showing Greek, German and Syrian refugees in different periods in order to raise awareness among our fellow citizens. The response was great and now we have built a network of volunteers and we provide as much as support as we can.
The needs and difficulties are many, but with the world’s solidarity, solutions are found and problems are solved.
As a volunteer who deals with refugees going through my village, I want to tell the world to not be afraid. They have never hurt anyone. Do not be afraid! Especially here, where most of us come from Pontus and remember our grandparents who were refugees telling us exactly the same stories”.

Vasilis Tsartsanis , 43 years old, Activist
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Idomeni, December 2015

When I was young, I would come to Greece with my parents. We would go to Crete for vacations. I have read about Plato, Thales, Pythagoras and Socrates for the philosophy of life, and I consider them humanity’s greatest philosophers. I was a mountain climber. I’ve climbed from Nepal to Switzerland. My father was a doctor in Damascus.

During the war I went to Homs and worked with many international organizations and with many well-known journalists. In Syria, I got injured during the collapse of a bombed building. I had to make some operations on my head and now I live with a leg paralysis. Throughout the trip my friends and fellow travelers helped me and took care of me. That’s what solidarity means to me. Without them there was no chance of going anywhere.

Many people ask me where I am from. “I am also from this planet”, I answer them. We aren’t different. I breathe, laugh, feel and hurt just like you.

Iyad, 38 years old, University Professor from Syria
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow | Lesvos, November 2015

‘Winter has come and the weather has worsened. Coming out of the boat wet, unfortunately, is something we cannot avoid. We light the fire and wait for them having socks and dry clothes, with other volunteers active in the region.

Things are very difficult especially at night when it is colder. Many arrive on the coast almost fainting, on the verge of hypothermia. It is a very difficult time for us. Just like when you hear children crying and trying to find their parents in the night.

We must stand by these people. We must help them continue their lives with dignity. You must have solidarity in you, feel it, and help without expecting anything in return.
We are twins and we have always been together. We always support each other in everything we do.

After watching the hundreds of refugees arriving daily in Chios, we decided to volunteer and help as much as we can. Once a boat arrives, I forget where my brother is. We are all together, helping each other. Rescuers, volunteers and refugees – we become siblings. ”

Antonis and Michael Vorrias, 47 years oldVolunteer Rescuers
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow

“There is no war in my country but it is like living a war. Believe me, being hungry for days is worse than living a war. That’s why I left! I’ve been stuck at the border. At night, it is very cold. I sleep in a tent. I don’t have anything else of my own. Just my tent. Fortunately, some volunteers and organizations give us clothes, food and water, but I want to continue my journey. I want to go to Germany. I want to work. When I get back on to my feet, I will go back to my country to continue my life there. Despite the poor conditions here, I try to be strong and often give courage to those around me too, so that they can stay strong. I must not fall apart now. I will not allow myself to give up.
I’m in Europe but I’m stuck between police and fences. Why don’t they allow us to continue? Can somebody tell me why Europe started differentiate between people?”

Belonne, 20 years old, Computer Programmer, Congo
©Giorgos Moutafis for SolidarityNow