A Refugee Camp Story…How Bad Can it Be?

| November 16, 2015

I haven’t blogged about this because, truthfully, I have not figured out a way to do so yet.  I don’t really want to get political about the refugee situation, yet I feel like this story itself should be shared.

Two or three weeks ago, I visited a refugee camp here in Germany.  I was there to donate new and used classroom supplies for the refugees, who are being taught German in the camp, as well as toiletries, clothing, a bicycle, and other items of use to the Red Cross and to the camp.


When I drove into the general parking lot, a young mother was walking around with her child, who was 2-3 years old.  The mother kept trying to get my attention, but I did not respond.  After I checked in at the information kiosk, I returned to my car to move it to the dropoff zone.  The woman, her child, and another woman and child walked over.  As the other woman and child excitedly peered at the donations, the young mother got my attention.


She then proceeded to try to get me to take her child.  Please re-read that: She wanted me to take her child.  She motioned for me to take him, and then she wanted to put him in the car.  She wanted me, a complete stranger, to drive off with her baby.


How bad is life where you come from, that causes you to believe that your best option is to leave your home, with nothing but the clothes on your back, for the unknown?  More than that, how bad is life that you are willing to give your child to a stranger?


I left that camp bawling.  I called my husband at work, bawling.  I went home and cried.  When I think of it now, I cry.


I am a mother.  I have tried, for weeks, to think of what kind of situation would ever make me want to leave my daughter with a complete stranger, knowing I would almost certainly never see her again.  If we were on a sinking ship and there was only one spot on the lifeboat, I would put her on that boat with strangers and take my chances with the sea.  An absolute life-or-death situation, where I had to choose my life or my child’s.  That’s it.


How bad is that woman’s situation?  In her mind, life or death.




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Category: In Germany A Broad blog, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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