3/3 “I always wanted to learn how to play basketball so I googled: How to play basketball? in Arabic. I only got English search results so that is when I realized I needed to learn English. Since I only had an education until the age of 9, a lot of basic things like reading and writing or knowing how to use a computer is really difficult for me. I found out about free classes at the Migrant CommunityCentre in Beirut. I took English and Computer classes and I met a lot of people from different backgrounds. One day I met a volunteer. She was a therapist and I told her my story. She offered me free therapy sessions. For three months straight I would see her every week and I would talk to her about my past. She helped me a lot. All my life I was raised to believe that I was a ‘’nobody’’. It will take a long time before I can feel that I am ’‘somebody”. I don’t need to be better or smarter than other people, I just want to feel that I am equal to others. Learning English has given me a lot of confidence. I have found a nice place to live and I made a lot of friends her at the Migrant Centre. I know that my life will improve, all I got to do is keep on educating myself’’
(Beirut, Lebanon)

(2/3) “My friend told me that my youngest brother got murdered. He got into trouble with a group of criminals in Aleppo and they killed him. I immediately packed my stuff and I went back to Aleppo for the funeral. The next day, after the funeral my father and grandfather came up to me. They told me that I needed to take revenge on the men who killed my little brother. They had already arranged a gun for me. As much as I was hurt, there was no way I was going to kill anyone. I told them: ‘’If I do it, there is no difference between me and the criminals who killed my brother.’’ That night I left Aleppo and I decided to never come back. I got back to Damascus and someone had broken into my room and stolen all my money and clothes. I have never felt so lonely in my entire life. I couldn’t ask anyone for help. I went back to work and tried to survive and rebuild my financial situation. In 2011 the war started and the situation in Damascus became unstable. A few years later I got drafted in by the Army. Again I didn’t want to fight so I postponed my service and left Syria. I came to Lebanon and the first thing I did was trying to find a job. Once I found work I was tried to find shelter. I went to the UN office because someone told me that Syrians could apply for refugee status which can give you benefits. When I arrived at the UN office there was a huge line and people were treated horribly. I realized that it would take days for me to receive some sort of help. I didn’t want to risk losing my new job as a tailor. So even though I fled my country, officially I am not a refugee.”
(Beirut, Lebanon)

“Until this day I still don’t know why she left. I was three years old when it happened. She took my little sister with her and left me and my two brothers with my father. I was nine when my dad remarried. My dad’s new wife would hit and punish us a lot. She never wanted us so my dad ended up putting the three of us in an orphanage. The first night in the orphanage was horrible. The supervisor would yell at us if we cried. I was separated from my brothers. I shared a room with a lot of kids and we were all scared. At night they would turn off all the lights. Until this day, I don’t like to sleep in the dark. Every day in orphanage I would cry and I would barely eat out of stress. After six months I could not take it anymore and I walked away. When my dad found out that I escaped he was furious. He took the three of us out of the orphanage. He rented a room in Aleppo nearby where he lived and that became our new home. He took us out of school and he said that from now on we needed to work and make money. We started working as tailors. The money we would earn we needed to give to our father. At the age of fourteen I decided that I wanted to be far away from my family so I moved to Damascus. I found a place to live and I worked there as a tailor. One day I received a phone call. It was one of my friends from Aleppo. He said: ‘’I only have a few minutes to talk but I have some bad news. You have to come home right away..” (part 1/3)
(Beirut, Lebanon)

I realize that last week’s stories were different from the regular Humans of Amsterdam stories. I also understand it’s hard to “like” a story that is so emotionally charged. I really appreciate you all for sticking around and taking the time to read these charged stories. For those who missed it, since October, 300 kilometers from Amsterdam about 3000 refugees have settled in to an illegal camp in Dunkirk, known as “The forgotten Jungle”. The fact that these kinds of camps even exist in Europe is madness to me. Besides Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) there are no humanitarian organizations or governments involved. Conditions in the camp are inhumane. Due to the weather conditions the entire camp side has turned into one big mud bath. Access to drinking water and proper sanitary provisions are scarce. Refugees in the camp are fully depending on the goodwill of volunteers who operate individually. To me these volunteers are a ray of hope within these circumstances. Again thank you all for supporting and spreading the word.
– Debra Barraud

“In Iran I was working as a model and I went to an international high school. Because of the rough political situation my brother and I decided to leave. We imagined Europe to be a safe haven. Our final destination is and has always been Britain. We have family there. We left when I was 18 and now I’m 20. We have done most of our journey by foot and it has been extremely rough. We experienced terrible things on the road. We have been kept in prison in Macedonia for 20 days with barely any food. Also the Belgium police have arrested us because we tried to get to Britain by truck. When they found us they drove us 68 kilometers from this camp and dropped us in the woods. They took away our money, our two cellphones and our coats and sweaters. It was raining and we couldn’t stop shivering from the cold. We just kept on walking until we found our way back to this camp. I have many more stories but I’m saving them. One day I will write a book about all of this.”