After getting her degree in English from Wagner College in May 2015, Mallory Lee did what most college students do: She got a job. For several months, she worked for Zomato, a global restaurant website, where she wrote and edited content for its app.
When Zomato had to downsize its corporation and lay off employees, Lee made a major life decision to follow her heart, first travelling to Turkey in early December, and then from there to the island of Lesvos, Greece, to volunteer as an aid worker at the Moria refugee camp. Since the intensification of the crisis in Syria, hundreds of thousands of refugees have found their way to such camps established by the European Union, the United Nations and transnational aid organizations.
When Lee first arrived in Lesvos, she had no place to live and did not know where she would be working. Paying her way out of her own pocket, she soon began working with an organization called Better Days for Moria.
For the past six weeks, Lee has been reporting on her work and her experiences with sensitivity and grace. Her friends, colleagues, former teachers and family members who have had the privilege of reading her reports on social media have benefited from her insight and thoughtful writing. Responding to the intense emotions of such tragic circumstances, her instinct is always to acknowledge the complexity of the conditions that motivate refugees to leave their homeland and the humanity that they all share. As she told one journalist, "everyone thinks I'm doing something sacrificial, and I hardly see it as a sacrifice. It's a gift to work here; my mind has been opened in ways unimaginable." Each day, she witnesses the frustration of the refugees, but together they also find joy in their shared life together. Her own account of her experience — quoted at length in an on-line story you can read here — is inspiring and full of wisdom.
Recently, a network of aid organizations (including the one Lee works with) has been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize — but as Lee acknowledges, she doesn't see conditions improving anytime soon. More needs to be done, not only to help the refugees but also to combat ignorance about them.