Today all three of us set off to the convent where the refugees are housed in our village. Over 40 women and children. By coincidence I had met the day before some young women on the street and shared numbers, I asked the priest for permission because the convent is closed for visitors and I didn’t want to cause an inconvenience. The priest is one man and has to handle all the needs of his community plus the responsibility of these women. Every moment of the day someone wants something from him. I wonder what he prays for when he finally lays his head on his pillow at night.
The mission is simple, we are available for all who want help to find work, we take their details and their skills down and try to point them in the right direction to find work.
As soon as we arrived people started coming and a couple of hours later over 20 people had signed up.
Every woman here has a story.
One woman has been to the North Pole and travelled far and wide doing all sorts of jobs. She says she kissed the polar bears.
Another, a nurse, said this is not the first time she’s a refugee, she fled Donbass in 2014 to Kyiv and here she is now again with nothing. Her daughter is a medical student in Barcelona.
A few women are already way past their retirement age but they want to work. When I asked whether a part time job would be enough they said, no, they need to work full time.
The eldest woman there is 75, she too has signed up and wants to do fruit picking and craft work, in fact she’ll do anything as long as she can keep busy. She said she wants to be independent.
One woman said she’d rather not have to work but recognizes that she has to provide for her son and so here she is looking.
There are doctors, teachers, beauticians, cooks, cleaners, engineers. A wide range of skills and stories.
They tell me that today was the first day of school for the children. Some younger children play in a playroom nearby.
I tell the women with craft, art and cooking skills that on the 1st of May there will be an event to help them and there will be an opportunity to decorate the place and sell their wares. The perk up and look excited by the prospect.
At the end of the session we were given a tour, the convent is a beautiful and very peaceful place. The women keep it in an immaculate state. There’ single rooms for solo travelers and twin rooms for mother with children or people who want to share.
Donation boxes are plenty. We wait for the children to come back from school to identify needs that go unmet.
We leave to go home encouraged that these are not helpless people, they are motivated to work and help themselves.