Wales

Teenager from Llandudno helps at Greek refugee camp

Jack Harley-Walsh and two refugee children Image copyright Sue Walsh
Image caption 3am and a lolly breaks the ice for Jack and these young refugees

Many teenage boys will be spending their Christmas holidays riding new bikes, playing computer games and spending time with family and friends.

But not Jack Harley-Walsh.

The 16-year-old from Llandudno, Conwy county, has been spending his festive break helping refugees and distributing aid at a camp in Idomeni in Greece, close to the border with Macedonia.

The transit camp has been set up by the medical and humanitarian organisation Medicins Sans Frontiers, as a facility to help the thousands of refugees and migrants that pass through the remote area every day.

Image copyright Sue Walsh
Image caption Jack uses Google translate to chat to communicate with this man as he waits at the border

Working mainly at night - the time when many attempt to cross the borders - Jack, who has severe dyslexia, has been trying to help and comfort those as they wait to cross the border.

He travelled to Idomeni with his mother, Sue Walsh, who said he was "by far" the youngest volunteer at the camp.

This helped him befriend the younger refugees - from handing out lollipops to frightened children to using Google translate to talk to boys his own age.

But he has also witnessed sights and heard things that would shock and upset many teenagers.

Image copyright Sue Walsh
Image caption Sharing You Tube videos - this refugee, who was alone at the camp, was happy to have Jack's company while waiting for his paperwork

Speaking about his time in the camp, he said: "My highlights were lighting fires and encouraging everyone to come round and keep warm whilst waiting for the borders to reopen.

"It helped keep everyone a little bit more settled.

"And the smiles when I handed out food to people. Sitting chatting to some lads - through Google translate - about my age and realising they had 'adopted' the 12-year-old lad whose parents had been killed.

"The lowest of the low was the five-year-old boy who had been kidnapped by smugglers while his mother was feeding her baby."

Image copyright Sue Walsh
Image caption Sorting through some of the donations sent to the camp

His mother said they were trying to help in whatever way they could in the time they had.

"By the time the people reach Idomeni they are so traumatised counselling takes on a whole new level," she added.

"The camp is now a place for fleeting seconds where you can just rush to a kid pass on a sweet, hug a person, touch their hands, pray for them."

Image copyright Sue Walsh

How your donations can help

Image copyright Sue Walsh

Sue Walsh had previously helped collect donations with the Gossip Girls for Refugees not-for-profit organisation which had been sent to Idomeni.

She said she could see how they were helping those who had fled Syria with hardly any belongings.

"Be very thoughtful about the aid you collect," she said.

"For instance, jogging pants are easy to pull on and are warm. Jeans are cold and take long to dry and don't fit.

"Quilted jackets are easy to wrap around and double as a pillow. So are fleece blankets.

"These people have to carry everything, picking it all up when they fall down, or their mother falls over, or grandpa has to rest.

"Small back packs to help carry food and their life's possessions."

Image copyright Sue Walsh
Image caption Jack and his mother also handed out blankets to keep people warm

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