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Alternative Spring Break Students Describe Greek Refugee Camp Experience as Eye-Opening

By Noell Saunders

This year about 13 students, who were part of Old Dominion University's annual alternative spring break trip, were granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to help hundreds of people at a refugee camp in Oinofyta, Greece.

Students, Kleopatra Moditsi and Megan Trent said the experience is definitely one they will never forget. Both students were quite surprised about the welcoming environment and the camp's condition.

"I expected it to look like a camp," Moditsi said. Moditsi added that she depicted people living outside in teepees and burning firewood but that wasn't the case. The camp was actually not set up like a "camp" at all but more like a community with beds, blankets, showers and climate-controlled rooms.

Students, including Moditsi and Trent, were divided into groups to help with housekeeping duties, sort clothes, food and cleaning supplies at the distribution center and woodwork.

Trent, who initially had mixed emotions about the trip, said the children and adults at the camp were very friendly. She also found that spending time with the camp community ignited a deeper appreciation for humanity.

"Kids are like any other kids. They are curious and they want you to play with them. Everybody was curious," Trent said. "The people there will give their last, just to see a smile on your face. I want to go back."

Despite experiencing adversity and being forced out of their native countries, Moditsi said she was astounded to not find a single broken spirit.

"They were always smiling and joyful. It's amazing how these people have given up everything and devoted their lives here." She said.

The refugee crisis is affecting local communities around the world, including Hampton Roads. The Office of Leadership and Student Involvement recently invited Lisa Campbell, the camp's manager, to address the refugee crisis at the University. Campbell, a Newport News native, is one of the founders of a nonprofit disaster relief organization called Do Your Part.

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