I'm sorry & I love you - inspired by: Lesvos

Volunteering in Moria - a refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, has been the worst, best and most significant experience of my life. Someone described it as an organized slum, I laughed at the time but that’s so accurate. If I could tell every person I met these things - I would.


I’m sorry - you are no longer safe in your home country, but I love the hope and risks you took for a better life.

I’m sorry I’ve heard your problem and said: “yes i understand” when really - i don’t and never will. I love your patience with my terrible Farsi speaking skills and the giggles we have when I finally get the word right.

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I’m sorry this place isn’t the prettiest, barbwire, locks and tall fences aren’t the most aesthetic. I’m sorry you feel like animals, I hear you and I wish I could sit with you and chat for hours. - I love the organizations who have incorporated art into camp. They bring light to a dark place.

I’m sorry to the volunteers and new friends who show up not knowing what to expect. I love that you give it your all. That wether it’s shovelling gravel, or begging people to make room in an already small space -  that you laugh, encourage each other and in some cases even want to come back.

I’m sorry to the long term volunteers who sacrifice a lot to be there - I love how you are though, yet gentle. You are patient as we try and learn the ropes of what it means to serve this community.

I’m sorry your 70 year old Dad will have a hard time walking up the stairs to your container home, but that is the only place your family of 9 will fit. I love that ever since he never fails wave and smile at me from the window.

I’m sorry that you are a single woman who came alone and had to work in a factory in Turkey on your way here, but I promise you are still valuable. I love that you feel comfortable sharing your story with me, that you let me hug and pray for you.

I’m sorry I can’t give you that extra half a meter of space. There is another single dad just like you with a young son who needs a floor to sleep. I love that 3 days later your sons have become friends.

I’m sorry the food isn’t great - I can’t imagine only eating this bland airplane food, but I love seeing different cultures change it up and make it their own. (I especially like the fresh bread & donuts)

I’m sorry to wake you while you are fasting to bother you once again about making room for new arrivals. I love how you still invite me in for chai while we talk it out.


I’m sorry the last resort is to bring the police - “Moria very small , with many people”. I love how the next day feels brand new, you forgive me and understand and I am so grateful.

I’m sorry that due to the unknown number of new boats and people arriving we can’t give out everything we have - I love seeing you be resourceful. Creating areas for laundry, sharing with your new neighbours, adding some “home decor”, making the most of your situation.

I’m sorry that you are sick, I’m even more sorry that your baby is sick - I love that you are able to get a little bit of rest and that there are volunteer doctors who speak multiple languages eager to help you.

I’m sorry I don’t have all the answers. I love that you are patient as we scramble to decipher Greek letters and find out what you need.

I’m sorry that you are the only one left in your family and are still considered a minor. I love that you still have 16 year old guy dreams - finishing school & playing football and how that is now a possibility. I am excited for you my friends!


I’m sorry that you are a single man who feels like they’ve been thrown into the jungle. I love seeing you step up and take responsibilities wether that’s becoming a translator for volunteers, representing your community or helping others find their way.

I’m sorry that the Greek economy sucks - that this crisis doesn’t help it at all. I love seeing Moria open up some work opportunities for locals, I loved ease dropping on some Greek police practice some Arabic with their new friends.

I’m sorry your husband got sent to the detention centre, I love our memory of crying together hoping they would release him and the smile you had when you were reunited.

I’m sorry I got to go home and come back while you stayed here. I love our surprising reunion, and hearing about how far you’ve come since your first day in camp.

I’m sorry that waiting for asylum takes so long. I love the celebrations and smiles on your faces when it’s finally your turn to leave to the mainland.

I’m sorry that all I can do when we say goodbye is maybe take a quick illegal selfie for my own memories and pray for the rest of your journey.

I’m sorry it has to be this way, but to everyone in Moria, know that we love you.

“We can’t change their future or their past but we can be part of there now. “

*image from Eurorelief social media

*image from Eurorelief social media

Laughter > Language | GREECE RECAP

Hello again my friends,


Jet lag is hitting me hard as I write this. Bare with me as you enter my narrative train of thought.

I got a little self conscious about posting a second update because these are usually stories I jot down on iphone notes while lying in bed and I’m just so ESL haha.

Let’s pick up where we left off. We had 2 days where instead of doing shifts in camps we went to the Lifejacket graveyard & spent time in a community centre.

Going to the lifejacket graveyard was another reminder that “every life jacket has a story”. I found it helpful to have done a few days in camp before going to see the jackets because I could picture a lot of my current “friends” from camp who had just arrived during our first week.

We helped them hang multiple wet clothing items and jackets. Rain in general makes me uncomfortable, I can’t imagine what it’s like to cross those dangerous waters.

Go boys! Moving the furniture out so we could do the floors, while Alex cleans the walls.

Go boys! Moving the furniture out so we could do the floors, while Alex cleans the walls.

Community Centre:

Shoutout to the Village Men’s team - The entire camp & surrounding organizations really appreciated the hard work they put in to all these “special projects”.

My new friend and I did some watercolour painting together, she really understood my love language because we hugged lots and lots despite not being able to communicate. (my google translate connection sucked that night)

My new friend and I did some watercolour painting together, she really understood my love language because we hugged lots and lots despite not being able to communicate. (my google translate connection sucked that night)

We spent a few hours before “tea time”, doing a deep clean of the space.

By the way -  Squeegeeing a floor is a real arm workout.

Go Little Kaitleen !

Go Little Kaitleen !

The centre is used to host tea time twice a week, where tea is served and anyone is welcome to come hang out, colour, play soccer, and enjoy each others company.

On Saturday’s they host Women’s Day - Where only women are allowed and apparently it is a much looked forward to morning for the women in camp. Small things like not having to look after kids and getting their nails painted goes a long way.

I think if I were to go back I would love to teach english in the community centre.  

Since we are outside of camp - it is also a space where you can share the gospel or about your personal relationship with God. Those who wish to receive Bible’s in their language can pick one up there as well.  

YWAM ship:

My oh my did I miss that boat. (I mean I got sea sick in April while it was docked..but still, it’s special)

Our team had a blast sanding wood, polishing the bell & prepping for a community night hosted by the YWAM family every week. We lead a time of worship, a message & prayer. Church and nights like this are fun because everything get’s translated as they are being said. (also takes double the time it would if it was just in one language) .

This was one of the moments where I realized “who cares about language barrier”!!!!

God is so good, and gave us plenty of opportunities, resources and moments to create relationships with people from different nations through laughter, high fives, hugs, sports, music, a card game etc. Honestly, at first I thought I would laugh a lot to cope with the brokenness on the island, and then I realized a smile or laughing together it was the best form of friendly communication.

Back in camp:

Hehe, one of our french speaking friends in camo had a really great conversation with myself & Kalisse and apparently in honour of that he painted our names. (the rules are no works, just pictures but I didn’t say anything)

Hehe, one of our french speaking friends in camo had a really great conversation with myself & Kalisse and apparently in honour of that he painted our names. (the rules are no works, just pictures but I didn’t say anything)

Our team had the opportunity to try a variety of the jobs, yet most of us chose to go back to tasks we felt familiar with. Being there for only a short period of time, it seemed like a wise choice. Returning to a task you feel confident in allows for opportunities to teach new volunteers and giving them tips on what has worked for us. (in Moria - you got from a newbie to a veteran expert real fast)


I find it special to be on shift long enough to run through a whole process with a family or individual.

They get off the boat, the Greeks interview them, they take a mugshot style image and receive papers, then we hand out blankets, chai or water and various items from organizations (hygiene kit / dry clothes)

Then they can get settles in the gated “new arrivals area” or around there. In the past people stayed there 1-3 nights but from their food stamps it seems like it’s been taking longer due to the lack of space available.

In order to speed up the process when people finally get moved out of new arrivals, they decided to start creating their I.D card sooner rather than later. Going from a vital non-replaceable piece of paper to a plastic waterproof card is a big deal. My friends eagerly lined up, we set up the camera and had a machine print out their cards.

I am tearing up - I miss them. I am thinking about how funny it was to have them be excited just for a picture. They fixed their hair, asked me if it looked good, tried to make each other laugh and one by one we celebrated each person receiving what seemed like a lottery win.

Another top 5 moment: seeing the different cultures interact, encourage and assist each other despite their language barrier and religious differences. We come from a pretty multicultural area, but this is a whole other level. They all have different practices, views, and have gone through a lot of trauma and stress for the last - who knows how long.

Beautiful art, stories & people:

Something new to camp are these murals. An initiation taken by an organization that melts my heart. ( So I contributed a heart to a wall) Seeing children and artists make Moria a little more colourful was amazing. For a minute, it makes you forget that you are on a military base in the middle of some random island. The murals represent different stories, different nations and many different hands were involved during the creation process.




There is good news.

The other day this article came out:

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Good news #2 - WE MADE A FRIEND

I know I say everyone on this trip is our friend, but Stavros - you are a special friend to our team. Thank you for being the best server in all of Greece ;). We went to his work multiple times for the best crepes & Nutella pizza.

Ralph gifted him one of our teams most recommended books: Love Does ! We can have a book club from across the world.

My Greek little brother, we can’t wait for you to let us show you around Canada!


  • I am working on a proper blog post for church, but I appreciate you tuning into these "all over the place” stories.

  • Our team has plenty of stories and moments that we will cherish in our hearts. God kept us safe and rather healthy.

  • Ask me in person about our sneaky selfies & photos with our new friends that we can’t post online.

  • Please keep the people of Moria in your prayers.

  • Please keep our team in your prayers now that we are home. I think it’s hard to be in Canada, while our new friends lack basic needs. Some of us feel a tug to be part of local Refugee initiatives, to go back or to brainstorm outreach opportunities and ways to share what we experienced.


That’s a rap for this time - Saying goodbye was hard, so many of our friends managed to find us on our last shift to wish us farewell, take selfies and give us hugs!

I’ll link my previous GREECE blog posts here:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who helped us financially to be able to serve the people of Lesvos.

Arrival in Greece 2.0

Wow. I don’t even know where to start, but to give you context on the Refugee situation here on Lesvos, you can read my previous blog posts from a couple months ago.

If you are looking for us, here is where we currently are: 



Here is our first team photo! SOME OF VILLAGE SURREY/LANGLEY/CALGARY ‘S FINEST YOUNG ADULTS in my opinion. These people are incredibly gifted at so many things. They all put aside time and money to travel and help wherever will be needed.

Here is our first team photo! SOME OF VILLAGE SURREY/LANGLEY/CALGARY ‘S FINEST YOUNG ADULTS in my opinion. These people are incredibly gifted at so many things. They all put aside time and money to travel and help wherever will be needed.

First camp visit

As we pulled up to the camp I recognized the smell right away. I thought “oh Ok now... I’m definitely back”. It’s hard to describe but it’s a constant mix of sewage, clay?, cigarettes and a melting pot of perfumes. You get used to it pretty quick. #manysmellsofmoria

off topic - the place we are staying has the cutest puppies!

off topic - the place we are staying has the cutest puppies!

After a couple hours of orientation I was not sure what to expect in camp. Surprisingly, some parts were much cleaner than in April. The biggest change I saw was that these GIANT HALL/TENT STRUCTURES had been renovated. Apparently a team from some country in Europe recognized the need during a visit and made it happen. - so amazing, those tents were definitely fire hazards.


   On our camp tour we saw a bus full of people leave for Athens. I saw a man aggressively wave at me so I waved back and in French he yelled: YOU ARE BACK? GOODBYE MY FRIEND!

It took me a while to process that very short moment. THAT WAS IN FACT MY FRIEND! In the spring there was a large population of Congolese people arrive on the Lesvos shore, I spent most of my time with them. Here I was months later getting to say goodbye as they finally received legal documents allowing them to leave the camp!


It’s hard to use words to describe Moria, google has its fair share of images (most outdated) but picture a lot of outdoor blanket forts & school portables turned into what will be their homes for an undetermined amount of time.

What does the team think? 

I loved hearing the highs, lows, and first thoughts on Moria. You only ever experience your first impression of the camp once.   


“Tension. You can feel it in Mytilini - the writing's on the walls. But while hate may win some battles, hope has already won the war.”

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

‭John‬ ‭1:5‬ @ Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece

-Andrea Kingston (professional tool guard lol)

“You will feel overwhelmed, people will stare at you when you first walk into camp. With roughly 8,000 refugees in a space originally made for 3,000 with over 40 countries representanted & through language barriers”

-Amity Petralba (Housing & drill using Queen) 

What are we doing?

The boys are alternating to cover night shifts: midnight to 8am ! We have done daytime 8-5 and an evening shift as well.

Alex did an 8 hour overnight and then an 8 hour day electrician shift back to back... he’s crazy!

Alex did an 8 hour overnight and then an 8 hour day electrician shift back to back... he’s crazy!

The tasks vary throughout the day:

Census - Essentially checking ID & Counting

Diapers - handing out the baby essentials

Photocopy - this is something I forget is a luxury back home

Tools - You go with the Person of Concern who needs the tool and you wait until they are done using it to ensure our limited tools make their way back to the office. 

Housing - once families get notice that they will be leaving for Athens, spaces open up for new arrivals to move in. You sometimes have the opportunity to go through the entire process with a family. (I’ll talk about that later)

New Arrivals - organizing & handing out food or clothing to those who have just arrived (Charise did 2 shifts in there and there was so much efficiency!)

New Arrivals gate (evening) - my fav / least fav spot to be in. You let those who are new in, those who don’t live there - OUT !


A few moments of what we specifically did or saw:

Every task and problem is often SO SIMPLE, but the same problem at home vs. in Moria is a whole other ballgame.


My family, friends, work place are very organized. There are standards of excellence for everything you do and the right materials to help you create a solution.

Ressources, supplies, tools, people, time, safety and help is VERY limited in the camp.

Our task: there is one big tent that needs to be switched to a smaller tent because it is blocking half of the path trucks go through.


Simple right?

My mind: Ok. Inform the families, help them move out, unassemble tent, assemble new tent, help them move in.


Estimated time of completion: 2 hours max.

Actual Duration until completion: took almost the ENTIRE DAY HAHA

Language barriers suck. Trying to explain the dangers of their large tent being there was a challenge, then came the realization that the space would now be smaller, then came the back and forth shouting between a few of the husbands about how “this is big problem” (that’s the extent of what I understood in Farsi). Either way that tent had to come down.

Tent Parts, screws and nails need to be salvaged for future use. I had never used a power tool in my entire life but I was more than happy to start then and there.

(Being a carpenter is secretly a dream of mine)

A few of us did some intense team bonding when it came to take down, clean up, removing garbage soaked in sewage, taking apart screwed in pallets and putting up the tent.


It’s so funny. It doesn’t matter what big project you are working on, the people LOVE to stand and watch. I get it- it’s honestly really boring to wait around and do nothing in camp. So watching me struggle to use a drill was entertainment until 2 men offered to help. 

Turns out one was a kitchen cabinet builder! He showed us pictures and they were beautiful! Dillon helped him put a tarp over his little space so his baby would be less cold and in exchange he said: ME HELP BUILDING.

What a blessing.

This is so typical Moria- one minute you’re being yelled at or told we are all bad the next the same person is hugging you and says you’re beautiful and you are their friend.


A women showed me how Google translate has a feature where you can speak into your phone and thanks to technology we realized we were both on the same page this ENTIRE time. She now hugs or waves when she sees us walking around.

On an evening shift...

It’s  a little less physically demanding but you are making sure those who are vulnerable remain safe to the best of your abilities.

Some of our team got to sit at Section Gates and those are the best moments to get to know those who live there. The women love to sit and chat, draw, lean on you and it was cool to see the relationships being formed between our team and them. They tell some traumatic survival stories in the most casual ways. These women are though.


Myself, Amity and Dillon guarded the gate and to be honest, our new friend helped us do most of the hard work. (Can you tell? Everyone is “my friend” haha)

They know who lives there and who doesn’t, who will cause trouble and who will honestly only go in for just a minute to look for someone.

I realized I had been practicing the wrong language while at home.

Most new arrivals are coming from Afghanistan where they speak Farsi. I honestly think there are over 100 underaged boys waiting to be housed into the vulnerable unaccompanied minors section. In the meantime, they are all becoming “bros”, I see them taking care of older women, helping babies, looking after their sisters and despite the circumstances they are always making us laugh and offering us food or tea.


There is a spot in my heart for all those little trouble makers.


In the middle of the shift one of the boys said “Hey. Close door now because one guy drinking to fight”

So we held the gate closed and I only got pushed once.


As soon as they saw that he had possibly hurt me on his way in, 4 or 5 of them starting yelling and shoved him outside and said “go call police”.

Told you, they do all the work.

A few little fights and one larger one occurred that evening and I was grateful to our friend who warned us and explained what happened. The next morning I saw one of our new arrival guys had his nose & fist all bandaged up.

I gave him a motherly disappointed glare and shook my head.

He said “so sorry, I protect my friend, but no more fighting Ok?” - we exchanged a high fived and we both laughed.

My oh my, that’s just another regular day in Moria


We have 2 days off to go to church & work in the community centre. A few people have told me it’s not fully normal to enjoy and want to work in camp - yet they feel that way & that was enough confirmation that God wanted them there, which is why they stay. So far I feel the same as I did on the last trip here - I’m surprisingly very comfortable , sad the days go by quickly and excited to return. 


One reason I feel so excited to have the opportunity to work in this heartbreaking military base is because so many people contributed to me being able to afford this trip only a few months after raising the first trip amount. I feel encouraged to do every task I’m assigned as if I was serving Jesus himself. I am grateful for my community at home.

Thank you for being part of this experience if it was financially, through kind words or through prayer - That’s so unreal. 

- lots of love,  

Cece R.  

Arrival in Greece

Hey friends,

Here is what’s important to know:

Geographically Lesvos is the closest large land mass from Turkey.


Greece & Turkey do not always get along, and the reality is that Greece does not have the resources to be receiving this many refugees in a camp that is already double its capacity.


The country is not doing well economically, tourism is low and that leaves a lot of businesses without customers. In the last few days I’ve had fun photographing how spectacular this place really is, in hopes that maybe this specific island becomes a travel destination for people.


I tell myself I am trying Greek sweets & coffees.. for the sake of helping economy, right? ;)


Rule of thumb when in Greece, plumbing sucks. Don’t flush the paper.


This is not Canada. Pedestrians don’t have the right of way. Drivers and scooters are so confident in their hectic driving way... crossing the street scares me more than being in camp.


•I’m all seriousness, small boats are overpacked after contacting a smuggler in hope of a better life and then they make that dangerous open water journey.

•People from many countries no longer have a home.


(We are talking 40 different nations!)

•We are volunteering under Euroreleif /

•YWAM LESVOS who is about a year old, their base is on the “next wave” which is where we are currently living.

•The crisis is STILL ongoing

The very morning we toured camp there was a handful of boats that arrived!

some of the tasks we do: Security, gate guarding, admin, doctors, plumbers, teachers etc. 

Every life jacket has a story.


We had the chance to see the “life jacket graveyard”. Thousands have been dumped, along with boat remains and small floaty tubes. Kassie looked over at me and reminded me that each jacket had a story and the little girl I was holding hands with at camp wore one of these - if she was lucky. My heart broke at the truth in her observation. You can visually see the large number of people Moria camp has had to host.


Everyday will be different, that is the life of most volunteers... and the refugees.

How are we & what you can pray for:

Don’t worry. So far so good :) our entire team made it after a full day of travel on Easter.

Incase you didn’t know I am on this trip with my Village school or ministry class. I’ve had the privilege of spending the last eight months with some amazing people learning about the bible & what it would be like to pursue ministry, but that’s a story in itself.

It is a whole new adventure to be living 6 girls out of suitcases in one small room did I mention.. on a boat.

The “next wave” is bigger than what I had imagined. Theres a kitchen, bathrooms and a cozy library we’ve already gotten to dive into.  Feels homey and I some how still get lost on this small ship)


 The marina is beautiful to look at, the Greek stars are something I am excited to stare at. I picture what life at sea must be like, but the thought makes me a little sea sick so I’ll stop.


Some of us have been feeling anxious about the unknown of what the days will look like, or what tasks we will be asked to do. Pray that we feel adequacy and courage.

We were reminded that it is easier to be a light in a dark place. Moria camp is a dark place.

It was fitting to leave for our trip on Easter, when our church reminded us to RISK EVERYTHING.

We can’t ignore this situation, we need to come in knowing that we were given a crazy opportunity and we need to make the most out of it. We are not the only ones who risked it all. These people risked safety, being caught or arrested in the waters, the lives of their children and families, risk going into a country with no legal documents this is THE REAL DEAL.



We already miss home and our families.

We have the advantage of coming into this already a family, but many on our team are leaving North America for the first time and traveling an entire day to end up half way around the world into the unknown CAN BE (I take that back..) IT IS a scary thing. We know our families miss us, but trust me it goes both ways.


Well. That’s all for now. We got asked what our first impression of Moria was (because you only get one first Impression). I think the documentaries made me think the journey to camp was the hardest part for them, but I realized once they get to camp the frustration and shock levels for them are high, and they don’t expect to be sleeping in these conditions. Maybe I’ll ask the rest of the class what their impressions were, but i thought it was cleaner than what I expected now that the Greeks get hired to pick up some trash. In a matter of seconds during our tour many kids would hold our hands and call us “my friend” or joking call us thieves. It’s kinda very cute in its on way.

Oh, If you donated, spread awareness or prayed for anyone on our team THANK YOU. We seriously came at a very needed time.

One last thing. The other day thanks to jet lag, Sarah and I watched the sunrise. What is life? I watched beautiful colours above Turkey from the comfort of our boat/home ! 


It had been a few days and lots has changed.


Lots of love,

Cece Rahoerason