“I hope my journey will end when I will be free in my country to hug my mum or my father.”
Abdelilah Alhamoud is originally from Syria and now resides in the Netherlands since 2017. He and Ruhi (RBB Founder and CEO) met when he was stuck in a camp for displaced people in Northern Greece. Despite facing difficulties whilst seeking asylum he wanted to give back to his community and started volunteering with RBB and other organisations. Abdelilah is a key part of the RBB family and organisation, often coming back to Greece to volunteer with us, and today, he sits on our trustees board as vice chairperson.
“I was able to help people, people who needed help just like me.”
In 2015, as devastating war and conflict ravaged his country Abdelilah had to make the difficult decision to leave his life, family and friends in Syria, for his own safety. It was after this decision, that he started what should have been ‘The 1000 Miles Journey.’
The plan was to leave Syria for Turkey, where he would continue his studies. Then eventually he hoped to reach a safe country in Europe such as the Netherlands to continue to build his life. However, the journey from Turkey to the Netherlands was not possible by flight. Holding a Syrian passport meant he was not able to get a visa. His only option was a perilous travel by boat from Turkey to Greece. He travelled with his sister, brother in law and their young children. The dangerous journey took a total of 4 hours, “which feels like a lifetime when you are praying you make it alive,” Abdelilah tells us.
“As soon as I landed, I felt born again because life has given me another chance.”
Unfortunately, Abdelilah became stuck in Greece for 14 months and during this time was unable to move on further. He was placed in a camp between Greece and North Macedonia. He was amongst thousands of people living in terrible conditions at the unofficial Idomeni camp, which at its height was reported to be hosting 20,000 people. Living in a tent, there was a lack of food, basic washing facilities, warmth and safety. He was then moved to a military camp in Thessaloniki which held more that 1400 people in an old warehouse with tents.
Although the conditions in the military camp were equally distressing, they did however, have WI-FI. This is when Abdelilah decided to use his time and resources there to teach himself English via YouTube on his mobile phone.
“You have already survived, now is the time to adapt.”
He went on to use his new expertise and language skills to volunteer in the camp, becoming a translator for doctors and other aid workers. He translated, helped distribute food, assessed reporting the lack of basic necessities and taught English to others in the camp. He also became an important member of the RBB Team and has been a part of us since 2016 – 7 years! Ruhi fondly calls Abdelilah her brother and to him, she is also his sister.
Eventually, Abdelilah was able to apply for a relocation programme that was active at that time period. This relocation programme gave you a choice of seven European countries to choose from. Abdelilah wrote the ‘Netherlands’ seven times! For him, this was the chance he had been hoping for to move there. Eight months after he had applied, he was granted permission to move there.
Ruhi says: “Sometimes we meet people in life who are not family by birth, but become family by heart. Abdelilah and I had an instant connection and he was always with us and by our side. Even after he left Greece he didn’t forget about us and today, he sits on our board of trustees supporting our governance and decision making. I don’t understand why people discriminate in this world or don’t take care of others and I don’t understand why there are ‘anti refugee’ agendas. If we could all open our hearts, who knows the person next to you may turn out to be your best friend or like with Abdelilah – a brother. “
Abdelilah says: “Greece has a special place in my heart because simply Greece was the worst and best experience in my life. WORST, as my biggest dream was to take a warm shower. I had no privacy and I missed the feeling of sleeping on a normal bed. BEST, because I realised good things take extra time, I met many great people from around the world and, I found out I am much stronger than I ever thought. That’s why I always go back.”
Abdelilahs’ story is inspirational and we are very lucky he is a part of our ever-growing RBB family. He is also an excellent speaker and shares his story of home, determination and dreams in a bid to raise awareness.