Volunteers are a pillar on which Refugee Aid Miksaliste is built. With their tireless dedication to helping people less fortunate than themselves, volunteers from all over the world have helped Miksaliste become a place which provides help, support and comfort to many people affected by the refugee crisis.
One of these heroes is Jamie, an English volunteer who joined us in January. Originally planning on staying just a week or two, he’s now been here a month – and is, luckily for us, still prolonging his stay one week at a time.
Originally planning to do a flightless trip around the world, Jamie accidentally ended up in Serbia on his way to Turkey. He saw how much work there is to be done here, and simply couldn’t walk away. “I think it’s going to be difficult to be a tourist again after being a volunteer,” he jokes.
Jamie has truly made a difference. He comes to Miksaliste regularly, spending hours teaching English almost every day of the week. He’s even taken it further – having prepared binders to make it easy for other volunteers to teach, as well as using social media to gather and organize people to join the effort.
So what motivates a person to spend so much time and energy on something for which he can never be repaid?
“Mainly I was angry with the way my government treats refugees,” says Jamie. “A way of kind of saying sorry for my government, but we do care about you and we would like you to come to our country”.
Jamie started out as a political activist but grew tired of that, instead taking up volunteering in refugee camps in France and Greece. “I felt I was doing a lot more good for people”.
During his travels, he kept coming across the same problem in different camps. “Often there’s not a lot of coordination,” he says. “Especially in, perhaps France, for example. You just kind of turn up and do whatever needs doing”. His advice for new volunteers feeling frustrated by this? “You kind of have to be your own boss, and figure out where work is needed”. At Miksaliste, Jamie found just that – a place where he can get to work.
One thing that has stuck out to Jamie during his work is the cultural difference between the refugees and himself. He has really taken to learning more about the countries from which many of his students come from, and is fascinated by one particular aspect.
“It’s been interesting comparing dating habits in the west compared to Afghanistan,” he says. It struck him how easily young Afghani men fall in love, seemingly ready to get married at a glance. “We actually started giving some advice, I printed out a ‘What makes a happy marriage’ leaflet”.
“They are very surprised that I’m 41 and not married. They wonder whats wrong with me”, he says. “Maybe they have a point, but I’m trying to explain that men and women can be friends here and a lot of people choose not to marry. I hope they can learn how society works here and find a place and be happy, wherever they end up”.
So what does Jamie get out of all of this? Well, other than new friends and interesting experiences, he has also gained an important life lesson.
“I think I’ve learned a bit more about human nature and the problems of the world,” Jamie laments. “Often there’s no evil boss making everyone miserable, it’s just a lot of chaos and nobody’s taking responsibility”. “I’ve learned that human society is always going to be chaotic,” he concludes.