By Madeline Kane
“Marwah, Mufidah, Rafif, Nour,” Shirin names each of her children as she pats their brown curly hair. “Family,” she says in English. The canvas walls of Shirin’s tent shift and stretch against the wind, and the five press closer together.
Shirin gestures toward the other children in the tent, who giggle as they clamber to touch my hair, hands and camera. The right English word escapes her. “Jar?” I ask, offering one of my few words of Arabic. “Neighbor?” Yes, she grins, these children are neighbors from the next tent. We both begin to laugh. We’ve exhausted our mutual vocabulary after just a couple of words.
A few weeks ago, I took a break from my day job as a marketing manager at Google.org to volunteer as NetHope’s documentarian in Greek refugee camps. During my time there, I began to feel like a neighbor to many whose words and photos are featured here. Syrians and Iraqis like Shirin, Atallah and Zayd welcomed me into their tents to share their tea and their stories or, when no one could translate, just their smiles.
If you’ve been following these stories, you know that it is critical to have Wi-Fi in refugee camps so that residents can find information, contact family and apply for asylum. Personally, I was awed each time I connected to camp Wi-Fi and could instantly share refugees’ personal accounts with other people, whether they lived half a world away or in the next town. It fills me with optimism to know that technology can help us identify with our global neighbors across lines of difference and distance.
This post is part of an ongoing series of stories from NetHope's work in Greece to provide connectivity to refugees.