For me one of the loveliest things about working with the refugee community is how much they look after each other. Shameful really, considering how little help they are given by those organisations supposedly tasked with doing so....
This past four weeks or so many of the camp residents have been observing Ramadan. From dawn until sunset Muslims observe a practice of "nothing between the lips" and refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and smoking. The hardships of living in the camp exacerbate the difficulties of this self imposed practice. Luckily the team who provides the camp food adjusts mealtimes to accommodate a pre-dawn breakfast (Suhoor), and the post-Sunset meal (Iftar). My team has donated bags of dates to everyone, as this is the traditional food with which to break the fast.
Many choose not to observe Ramadan, finding their living conditions too difficult to uphold the practice of physical cleanliness as well as spiritual reflection and fasting during this time.
This scorching hot Friday afternoon me and a fellow volunteer were sitting outside the camp office, with a lady and her family. She was one of our most vulnerable cases, with a number of chronic physical and medical issues. Not one of the responsible NGO's on the island were prepared to take responsibility for finding appropriate housing for her. She had been there, with her husband and three children, for several hours and was nearing exhaustion.
At 6pm, dinner is served. One by one each family and individual camp resident lined up to be given their portions of supper and breakfast. One by one, each came back past our sorry little group. Each stopped, said a few words of kindness, and all gave them some of their food. One of the traditions of breaking fast in Ramadan is to share with others, but it would not have made any difference - they would have shared anyway.
Shamefully, we were still there two hours later. Surrounded by a mountain of food but no-where to go. Typically, and finally, we were approached by one of the young men in the camp. His room-mate had left a few days ago, and he was happy to move out of his meagre space in a tent cubicle. We were able to offer the lady somewhere to rest for the night. Not good enough, but something. As usual the most vulnerable had stepped in to help where others with the power to do so had failed.