“Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.” —Mercy Corps
Although the war has been waging for years, Syrian refugees have been quite prominent in global news lately due to their massive and rapid emigration. Families are forced to leave their homes without much more than their clothes on their backs. There are no guarantees of safety, shelter, or access to running water and electricity.
My father recently embarked on a business trip to Germany and got to see first-hand how Europe was being impacted by these events. He shared a very inspiring story from his travels that proves to be symbolic of the true value and reliability of renewable energy on a global scale. In his own words:
I thought I had the seat to myself since I was in the back of the train. A young man nervously sat down. His clothes were dirty and threadbare and as he walked towards my seat, I could see that he was asking people something. I thought he might be a beggar because that is quite common on these trips. He sat down in front of me and asked me if I spoke English because he only spoke a little and did not speak any German.
He was from Syria. He had escaped by boat to Greece, then walked, ran, took trains and buses up through Europe until Germany. He was going to see his brother in a small town up in northern Germany. He said that he went through Hungary. I had read that the Hungarian government was cracking down on the refugees and he smiled and said that he “ran from the police”. It was textbook to what I had been seeing in the media.
He was relieved to communicate with someone even though his English was spotty. I told him slowly that his English was better than my Syrian. The glass on his phone was cracked and he was looking to plug it in and charge the battery. Kristin had given me a solar powered battery which I use on my travels to charge my phone when I can’t find an outlet, so I let him use that and he happily plugged in and waited.
He wanted to call his brother to say he had made it. He said that he had to pay $1,200 to get a ride on the boat to Greece to go 17 km. That is only a few miles. Apparently, there are many people preying on these folks.
His parents stopped in Turkey but he wanted to go further to have a new life. He said he wanted to be a dentist. I offered to give him some money. It was awkward and he said “I haf money” and politely refused. Whoa. This guy had only the clothes on his back and he said that they had bombed his house so he had to leave. The last thing I remember he said was that “In Syria, I cannot say anything” he animated by showing his hand zipping his lips.
“Now I can say anything. I am free.”
Free from oppression and free from the grid. I’m humbled to know that a simple solar battery was the key to reconnecting two brothers separated by the disaster. In crisis and in strife, you can count on renewable energy.
Donate to help Syrian refugees here.