Everyone’s Place in Greece

Lisa Smith

Lisa lives in Boston and served in the U.S. Air Force, 2007–2010. She currently serves as Region I's Engagement Manager, received a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Colorado State University, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Boston College. She’s the one who slaps together a Regional Conference, delivers a national presentation, flies out on a moment’s notice to support an international operation, or pulls up the slack when another leader is in need.

As I called my parents to discuss Thanksgiving plans, they cheerfully told me how excited they were to finally have me home for the holiday. I chuckled as I told them I would be celebrating Thanksgiving with Team Rubicon at a Syrian Refugee Camp instead. As upset as they were losing an extra set of hands to do the dishes after dinner, they couldn’t have seemed more proud of my plans.

When I was first dispatched to Operation Hermes, I was flooded with a dozen different emotions all at once. I was honored to deploy as an international team leader for a team of medical professionals and was ecstatic to have been selected, but I was also very nervous. I wondered what it would be like, what I’d be responsible for exactly, and then I wondered about the danger. With all this in mind, I took a deep breath – it was go time.

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When I arrived, I met our team with an exchange of high-fives, eager for the mission, and ready to take on the challenge. Everywhere I looked, someone on the team was conquering a new task or brainstorming ways to solve the plethora of issues at hand. Kathy, the ever-positive emergency room physician. from North Carolina, quickly found her place in the makeshift pharmacy. It was her responsibility to ensure the refugees had the right medication available. We had a Harvard trained doctor, Terez, on our team as well, and she didn’t waste any time before beginning her examinations. She built wonderful rapport with the families during our time on Op Hermes. And Kylie, the most passionate PA from Denver, worked tirelessly and created medical documentation for refugees trying to seek asylum or go back to school.

This mission was different than TR’s typical international deployment—not that any Operation is typical. Given the politically sensitive topic the refugee crisis has become, the team was given limited information on the scope of where or what exactly we were doing. I was unsure how that would affect our teammates and dynamic. But of course, TR volunteers never cease to amaze me. As our six-month operation slowly ends, the crisis remains. Our volunteers head home with full, yet heavy hearts. The refugees will continue to call an abandoned factory home. The children will still be waiting to return to school, hoping it won’t get bombed this time. Parents will still be applying for asylum in whatever country will take them. As we head home, the waiting game continues for these refugees as they seek guidance on when or what their new life will be.

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The altruistic mindset is already ingrained in so many of our volunteers, and to be a part of this ever-growing crisis leaves you yearning to do more. After my deployment, I had a greater understanding of the plight that the refugees faced, and felt the need to do more, to continue to help in whatever capacity possible. I started sharing my story to anyone that would listen, even a local middle school class. It is amazing how in just a few week’s your capacity for empathy and your understanding issues you only hear about on TV expands tremendously.

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I am just one story of many; a volunteer that has grown into a passionate public servant. Our volunteer base is approaching 50,000 in the United States and I cannot wait to see Team Rubicon’s growth in capabilities, not only for communities in need, but within each and every volunteer on the team. Now that I am back to the daily grind of life, I find myself reflecting on this mission and how I lucky I am to be given the chance to grow both personally and professionally through this deployment. I remember seeing the international application open and thinking, I’m not a medic, I’d never get selected. But luckily I was wrong. Everyone has a role, know yours.

If there is one takeaway from this opportunity, it is to never hesitate to seize an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone. Apply for these opportunities as quickly as they come. Put your name out there knowing you have the support of your fellow TRibe and that you’ll be put to good use making the world a better place.