| Dec 09, 2016
The demonstrations began peacefully in Homs, Syria during the Arab Spring of 2011. And then the bombings began. Caught in the middle, Jigar and his family watched their city transform from a peaceful home to a warzone. In addition to the relentless bombings, soldiers began threatening private citizens into joining their forces. Residents were sometimes forced to shoot groups of people, even neighbors. If they refused, they themselves faced death.
Camp conditions at Diavata in Greece, where many refugees like Jigar and his family fled to, seeking a safer future.
Jigar’s family endured these conditions for over a year before they fled to family in a nearby city. For three months, a total of fifty family members squeezed into a 2-bedroom house. Seeking stability, the entire extended family paid smugglers to transport them to the Turkish border. Facing gunshots, they ran for their lives back to the Syrian side of the border.
In the chaos, the group became separated. Jigar ended up with a group of 15 family members. Later that afternoon,they were able to successfully cross the border. Once in Turkey, they crammed all 15 people into a taxi to a bus station. The 17-hour bus trip took them to a house where Jigar’s grandparents were staying. The house was basically empty - people slept on their bags - but they settled into the next phase of their journey.
One thing that constantly inspires us: Resilience of the human spirit, despite the incredible loss that so many refugees have endured.
It was difficult to find work in Turkey, as they didn’t speak the language. Eventually, a few found jobs as tailors, but money was still hard to come by. Their new neighborhood was dangerous - smugglers, drugs and human trafficking were rampant. Every day the family saw dead bodies on the street.
After living for over three years in these conditions, Jigar’s mother’s health had deteriorated. The family decided to leave and once again paid a smuggler to guide them. This time they were heading to Greece - a journey that promised to be treacherous.
Taken by truck to the Turkish coast, the family, like so many other desperate refugees, was crammed onto an overcrowded boat and sent off to sea.
Scared and abandoned by the smugglers, none of the refugees even knew how to drive the boat.
One was forced to try, as the rest were too terrified to even move in the unstable craft. Mercifully, four hours later the Coast Guard rescued them and took them to the Greek coast.
Jigar’s journey continued - his family got bus tickets to Macedonia but were dropped far from the border. After weeks of being transferred from refugee camp to refugee camp, the group made it to the Macedonian border - only to find it closed and tear gas facing anyone who tried to cross. Their hopes dashed, they were told that the border would not reopen. Jigar’s group turned to the UN relocation program where they were told to go to a refugee camp and wait.
More than 6 months later, when our teams met them, Jigar and his family were still waiting. Their journey is not over - their last 5 years, unimaginable. The family waits to learn what is next for them. But thanks to you, they were not alone at this stage of their travels. Your support traveled across the world - our teams were able to help Jigar and his family. Jigar’s grandmother received treatment for her DVT and diabetes. The family now has one less thing to worry about.
No one ever imagines they will become a refugee. Your support of Medical Teams International reminds refugees around the world that they have not been forgotten. People from around the world are praying for them, and sending their support. Jigar and his family hope to continue to Luxembourg some day soon. For now, they know they are not alone.