In a refugee camp in Greece, life does not just stop. Life is interrupted.
These are people, and they’re waiting. On the way to somewhere better, something interrupted them… and everything changed.
But they don’t give up. They don’t lie down and wait to die slowly, or wait for something better.
People carry on.
In a refugee camp in Greece, three men who used to be barbers back in Syria set up their chairs along the fence and start barbering again. 2€ for a haircut, 1€ for a beard or eyebrow trim. On the other side of the camp, a group of women build bread ovens and set about baking, and selling their wares.
And Abdul, he builds a shop. He breathes new life into old doors and shutters, and builds himself a new shop. The next incarnation of the one he owned back home. Except now, instead of making $250 profit per day, he’s barely breaking even. Because Abdul knows not everyone can pay him. And he’s okay with that. As long as he can feed his family, he wants to make sure he can feed other people’s families, too.
He sells cigarettes, other essentials, and fresh fruit and vegetables because although the Greek government provides much-needed and wanted meals, there’s no fresh stuff. So he takes the bus into town, stocks up, comes back, and sells everything at a tiny profit.
And when a family can’t pay, he makes a note and tells them to pay when they can. If they can.
Every now and then, someone walks up to Abdul silently, presses some cash into his hand, and walks away. I wonder why… until he explains those people had helped themselves to what they needed from his shop, when he was away. Now they’re paying him.
They don’t write it down. There are no IOUs. And nobody steals.
Because they trust each other.
In a refugee camp in Greece, people are building a life of sorts. It’s not a permanent life, but life goes on and they need to make a living. They adapt. They have ideas and then they do the ideas. And if it doesn’t work, they’ll try something else.
In our safe, stable, privileged world, who are we to cower behind an idea because “it might not work”? What’s the worst that could happen?
Or, here’s a better question: what’s the best that could happen?
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.
PS Perhaps you have too many ideas and you don’t quite know where to start. Or perhaps you’re stuck and don’t have any ideas at all. My book, Business For Superheroes, will help you on your way. So if you’re stuck, let me help you get unstuck. No excuses. You’re in the best possible position to change your own future.
PPS I first heard this story on the This American Life podcast. It was excellent, and I heard a bunch of other amazing stories from refugee camps on there to. It’s easy to forget these are people, not just refugees. People.