Morgan’s Diary – July 28, 2016

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of going back to the communal living area in Gullspång for people that are new to Sweden. Lööf Foundation wanted to donate four large boxes of kitchen supplies to the house. I met Mikaela who is one of four other people that looks after the well being of the house. She does cooking, cleaning and laundry to help the residents. She was very happy to receive our donation and said it would help them out a lot!

Last evening I was invited to Sham’s birthday party. She was turning one year old. She is the same little girl I met when Lööf Foundation donated three large bags of children’s clothing. I brought a Lööf Foundation teddy bear for her as a birthday present. When I first arrived Wafaa welcomed me. She then led me outside where I was introduced to many people, some from Syria while others were from Gullspång. We sat outside drinking tea together and talking until Sham was brought outside. She was so cute all dressed up in pink, with a tutu and headband! After taking many photos of her, we all headed inside to start the celebration. There was a large table filled with lots of food and three cakes! I was impressed when Sham’s father Mohammed told me that his wife made all of the food herself. We all sang happy birthday to Sham and then her parents helped her blow out the candles on her cake. There were around 30 people present to witness this celebration. Even if they were not related, they all came together which I thought was special, as I have never had a birthday party with so many people present before.

After the delicious food was served to everyone Wafaa asked if I would like to dance with her, so I said yes! She taught me an old Syrian folk dance where you hold hands with many people and dance around in a circle. As we danced many more people jumped in to dance with us to a few Syrian songs. However it was very hot inside from dancing and all of the people there so Wafaa and I had to take a step outside to cool down. Then when we came back inside I was asked by an older man to dance with him. I was very nervous, as I was not sure how to properly dance. So many people circled around us taking pictures and cheering us on. It was quite fun!

After the dance I got a chance to speak with Hassan who told me his story about leaving Syria. He had to leave because there were no jobs available as well it was not safe for him to stay with the conflict happening in Syria. He traveled on an inflatable dingy with around 60 other people. All of the women and children got onto the boat first, than the men would get in and sit around on the edge of the dingy. I asked Hassan if he was scared at all and he said no. While in the boat he had two young children sitting between his legs, as there was an older couple who had four children with them. Neither of the parents could swim and Hassan said it hit him then that if something happened to the parents they could not swim and what would happen to their four children? He compared the boat and conflict in Syria to standing on a cliff with a bear running at you. If you don’t jump, the bear will eat you. He felt that even though getting into the dingy could be dangerous, it was a better option than staying in Syria where conditions were much worse. He told me that most Syrians have a close to death story. I could understand that after he told me he has been in situations where there are missiles hitting buildings close to him. I asked how he coped with this and he said that having his friends and people close by to talk to helps a lot. That it is easier to deal with life with many people around you than by yourself. I asked if this is why there were so many people at the party, even if they were not related by blood and he said yes. They celebrate life as much as they can, because they have experienced so much loss. Since being in Sweden there were a few things he does not take for granted anymore, those being bread, gas, toilets and fuel. Basic commodities that I know many people and myself take for granted everyday.

The man that I had danced with then came and joined us to talk, so Hassan translated for us, as he did not speak English. I asked about his experience to Sweden. He said that he also came here on an inflatable dingy, with 60 other people on the boat. He was only a little bit scared he said. I thanked him for the dance and for welcoming me. I then went to give Sham her present and she took it right away and hugged it. It was very cute to see and I hope she enjoys it! Then I went to find Wafaa as I had three bags of women’s clothing donated by Lööf Foundation for her and the other women living there. She was very grateful for the clothes! It felt good to help them out!

I have never felt more welcomed in a place of strangers before. They were all so inviting and open to letting me join in their traditions. I feel very grateful that they were willing to share their stories and experiences with me. I had an absolutely great time with each and every one of them and feel very happy that Sham is able to celebrate her birthday here in Sweden safe and sound.

/Morgan Young
Lööf Foundation volunteer

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