We keep meeting really cool guys from Syria named Omar…

During our first week here, there was a young guy – only 20 years old – who’d arrived at Pikpa around the same time as us. His English was brilliant and his sense of humour irrepressible – he worked with us on a tool shed renovation project.

We went out drinking one night and he amused us with his twenty year old infatuation with every pretty girl who walked by. He’s in Athens now and I’m sure he’s in a bar or a restaurant somewhere right now smiling at a pretty waitress…

He told us he didn’t buy a lifejacket because he knew that if he went in the water, he would be dead. He’d reconciled himself to that before the boat departed. Can you imagine having to even consider that possibility? He sat on the edge of the boat with the older men, the women and children being protected inside, during the crossing from Turkey.  Twenty years old and travelling alone on a dinghy into Europe because he cannot return to his home. The day after he had crossed the water, he was working with the volunteers supporting the more vulnerable refugees. What a guy. I hope he will find a place to make the life he is dreaming of.

In the last few days, another Omar arrived. A 26-year-old physician from the east of Syria.  He’d been abroad studying and had tried to return home, but had reached a nearby town and been advised  it was almost impossible to reach his home town. The territory is under total ISIS control and their checkpoints monitor all people coming and going – if your name is on a list of subversives, you could be summarily  executed.

Omar followed the advice to head towards Europe instead and arrived at Pikpa with other family members. I met him at a volunteer meeting a few days ago. Like so many others, he was at the volunteer meeting asking what he could do to help other refugees. This is the morning after he’d crossed the sea and arrived cold and wet in the darkness. Pretty inspiring stuff. He loves to talk about European politics and music. Always with the iPod asking us to listen to a new song and tell him if we like it or not.

I said goodbye to him last night. His papers for onward travel came through whilst we were in the middle of a conversation about his plan to organise teams of refugees to clean the beaches of Lesvos. He wanted to mitigate any potential ill will the local people may feel towards refugees and make sure the discarded clothing was recycled and used to help those who follow after. He won’t get the chance to do that now and is probably in Athens to by the time I write, but we’ll follow up on his idea. What a guy.

Sorry, no pictures or full names because these guys have too much at stake for that. They’re taking different paths in their onward travel, but we are in touch with them both and hope to meet them again on our way home.

Looking forward to meeting the next guy called Omar…