„YMCA Europe is a working fellowship to strengthen movements where people grow in body, mind and spirit.“

MARINA RUF - A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE VOLUNTEERING WITH REFUGEES IN LESBOS, GREECE

4th November 2020

We share a touching personal experience from Marina Ruf, 21 years old from Germany and presently a Social Work student in Düsseldorf. Together with Salomé Wiedmer, Marina volunteered at the Greek island of Lesbos and this is part of their inspiring story

marina ruf

Foto credit: Nikolas Schaber


Hello everyone,

I hope you are doing well. I hope you experience the Lord's love every new day of your life.

I am writing this to let you be apart of what I'm currently experiencing and because I believe it is important to share what is happening on this side of the planet - on Lesvos island in Greece to be exact.

This might come surprising for some of you but take this as an open letter, as an invitation to pray for the people here that need support so badly right now.


Alright here we go:

I arrived on Lesvos island on August 25th 2020 and enjoyed one week of quarantine before starting to work as avolunteer in Moria refugee camp in the beginning of September. Last year in November and December I had been here for 6 weeks already and this place grew close to my heart. So I decided to come back and continue to serve the people here. Most of the population in camp is from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Congo and Somalia.

Here I was, in camp again, surrounded by so many cultures. Camp was a special place. It was an awful place. But you could find a lot of hope in the little moments of the everyday hard life. The POC's ("people of concern" as we call the refugees) are people like me and you, fleeing for their life, full of creativity and hospitality.

Why am I writing in past tense about Moria camp?

Well, September 8th and 9th 2020 Moria Camp completetly burned down. You might have heard about it on the news. Almost 13.000 people became homeless. They were held on a street towards the capital city of Lesvos. That's where a lot of them lived for the next week. The first few days were extremely chaotic. Noone really knew what was going on.

Together with other NGO's our NGO started coming up with a plan to distribute blankets, sleeping mats, baby milk, diapers, food and water. It was complicated but it worked out eventually. Prayer and team work is always the key.

Foto credit: Salomé Wiedmer

Foto credit: Salomé Wiedmer


The greek government then decided to build a new temporary camp to get people off of the streets. So with the help of the military and the police a new camp was build within a few days. People started moving in and the greek organisation I'm here with was and is still responsible for housing. Floods and floods of people came in. We worked hard. We were tired but we kept going. The Lord put us in this special position for more than just one reason. "Let's make this camp a better place than Moria was. Let's fight for these people.", our leadership told us.

We have an amazing group of volunteers. Noone complained. We were all united in the idea of at least being there for the people on the street plus in the new camp. The Lord carried us through that's for sure. I have never experienced his energy and patience that clearly before in my life. In the middle of all hoplessness HE is our hope. In the middle of all the darkness HE is our light. He never fails anyone. He sees. He hears. Especially in this time. And especially for all the POC's that once again went through so much trauma and lost almost evrything in the fire. It's tragic. It makes me want to cry and scream. So much injustice is happening here. Most days I just want to tell the POC's "Hey, I see you struggeling. Do you see the hope though? This is not the end."

Being here is hard. It challenges me to lean on the Lord with evrything I am and everything I have been given. It's hard but I am so thankful I get to be here.

moria camp

Foto credit: Salomé Wiedmer


I would like to close with a poem. When I don't find the words I usually rhyme or sth like that : 

"I look into your eyes and all I see is pain

Frustration and hopelessness

This place is a mess,

messy as can be

but never should 

9 months to live here and anyone would want to fight for a better chance no?

Me and you in this place together, forever? Never. That would hurt too much. 

Tell me, what separates us?

What makes me different from you?

Honestly I have no clue. 

All I do know is that I'm human like you. 

I look into your eyes

and I wonder how different life

would have been

if you weren't born in the inbetween

of wars 

But instead in a warm place 

The beautiful smile in your face makes me have faith in better days

It makes me want to jump in joy and pray they would come by 

sooner rather than later 

Simply because you deserve so much better. "


Thank you for reading this far. Thank you for praying for the many helpless people here - on all sides: the POC's, the greek locals, the politicians, the volunteers and NGO workers.

Please feel free to share this email and to email me back if you have more questions or want more updates like this. I will be on the island for another two weeks.

Blessings upon blessings! 
Marina Ruf

donate now


OUR SIGNATURE PROGRAMMES