Listening, sharing in their stories and offering empathy and comfort are often just as important as providing infant feeding and maternal health support to the mothers NPI works with. In this blog, NPI volunteer Tereza tells the story of a special connection that stood the test of time.
A year ago, I traveled to the Greek-Macedonian border to volunteer with Nurture Project International and support refugee mothers and infants. As I worked daily shifts in the NPI tent providing advice to mothers on nutrition and feeding of their infants, I soon met many mothers in the camp.
I particularly remember one of them, Nina*, a very beautiful Kurdish woman a few years younger than me. She tandem fed her two babies; a year and a half old daughter and a few months old son.
Whilst I encountered Nina nearly daily, this one time she burst into tears. I listened to her story about her unfortunate situation, her dangerous journey, her unsupportive husband and the uncertain future for her children.
All I could do for her was to be there, share her tears and comfort her, even though all the empathy in the world would not help me imagine everything she had been through. Helping people through their lowest points always brings you closer and is deeply rewarding, but this occasion made our bond special.
A few days later as I was parting ways with my newly formed friends in the camp, I couldn’t find Nina. Not only did I leave without saying goodbye, the thought of an empty farewell was haunting me for long afterwards. I was hoping to meet Nina during the three months that I returned to Greece for, but our paths did not cross.
It wasn’t until my last trip in December, nine months later, that I visited a camp where I had never been before. I couldn’t believe my eyes. After staring at each other with astonishment for a few seconds, Nina and I finally had the chance to hug each other.
‘Insha’Allah,’ (translation: God willing) Nina explained. She invited me for a lunch with her family, a great opportunity to catch up. Not much had changed in their lives: Nina still lived in a camp, breastfed both children and looked as beautiful as before. She did speak better Greek than English though. Having spent a few months in an apartment by the border, they were still waiting for their relocation.
Nine months later, I was finally able to leave Greece assured that Nina knows I did not forget her. Whilst I finally said goodbye, I hope that it is only until we meet again. Insha’Allah, next time it will be in a different country and in a nicer place.
*Names in the story have been changed for privacy reasons.