Brooke Carlton, a sophomore studying exercise physiology, recently took a trip across the world to work with refugees for a few weeks.
She traveled with Youth Refugee Coalition to Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece, where she worked on “Project Elea.”
Most of the refugees Carlton worked with lived in tiny houses called isoboxes, which consist of a small living space with a small kitchen and a bathroom attached to it. Often times, two families are living in the same isobox.
“We would paint their houses…with bright colors,” Carlton said. “That’s supposed to help with depression and anxiety. We did bright blue, pink, green, yellow, purple and red.”
Carlton and her fellow volunteers also taught the refugees some arts and crafts and some sports, like volleyball and soccer. Carlton said they loved soccer so much that they made their team within the camp and everyone would come to watch their games.
She was impressed with how happy and giving these people were despite their living situation. One experience Carlton remembers is seeing one refugee literally give the shirt off his back to another refugee who had complimented him on it.
“One thing I love most about the camp is the sense of community everyone has,” Carlton said. “Everyone looks out for each other to make sure they have what they need … I can physically see the joy it brings them to share and give what they have even if it is so little.”
Carlton said this experience made her realize how much she had taken for granted in her life.
“The biggest thing I took away was just how grateful I am of everything that I have, and everything that I am able to do,” Carlton said. “I take for granted being able to go to school and have a place to live and have a job. All of that is common. It is normal to have, but for them, even just being allowed into the camp is a big deal.”
Carlton said she wants people to know that there are many more ways to help and serve God’s children than they may think. Even if people feel they have nothing to offer, they really do. Whether its painting houses a happier color, playing soccer or just listening to someone’s story, anyone can make the world a better place.
“I really saw God’s hand through everything we did,” Carlton said. “You can tell He is blessing them in their lives and helping them become better people and He gives us the opportunity to help them.”