Visiting volunteer story: Jose Tomas Martin


Meet Jose Tomas Martin, one of our long term visiting volunteers. Jose joined the Movement On The Ground team last year, working mostly in our clothing shop in Kara Tepe and Mytiline warehouse.

At the end of his stay, Jose met our technical coordinator Takis, who encouraged him to return to Lesvos to assist with electrical maintanence in both Kara Tepe and the Olive Groves. Jose promised to take him up on his offer. 

Returning to Lesvos in Autumn this year, Jose was faced with restrictions of the corona pandemic, but decided to stay on the island. He has been working with the team throughout this period of COVID-19 to assist in electrical and maintanence demands such as installing fans and hoisting shaded areas for the upcoming summer.

We are so fortunate to have Jose a part of our MOTG family, so we decided to catch up with his to learn more about his story.

1. How did you find out about Movement On The Ground?

I have been a widower twice and have raised five children who are already living on their own; now I am retired. I chose Movement on the Ground because on the web. I liked the type of activity on the ground and the spirit of dignifying the lives of people on the move.

2. What was your first impression of MOTG? 

I contacted MOTG and they said they had a place for me. Two weeks later I was collaborating in the shop, classifying and selecting all types of clothing for different people, as a newbie who did not understand anything about clothing sizes or aesthetics. 

I loved the organisation, the way of doing things, the enormous volume of clothes that were in the warehouses. I was hauling huge boxes as I watched residents enjoy rummaging through the shop until they found what they liked. Seeing them go out with bags full of clothes and with that smile of satisfaction, was a gift for me.

I was able to enjoy in Digital Learning classes, placing a piece of paper over the students hands and watching the teenagers engage and try to locate the keys with their fingers. I met the underage boys who travelled without company, I could laugh with them playing tic tac toe, cards or chess.

3. How did your experiences on Lesvos impact you?

This first experience on Lesvos changed my scale of values ​​forever.  Now I already know the value of a smile when you have nothing, I know what despair looks like and the endless hope of a better future. I know the value of family when the youngest carry their older parents in the boat without leaving them behind. I know the desire to work and forge a better future, I know solidarity when there is apparently nothing to give. And even with how important this is, there is still something greater that these people have shown me, and it is their enormous humility to allow themselves to be helped. 

What would my desire to help be if I could not exercise the help due to lack of need? I probably never would have accessed the happiness I feel being here.

4. How did you start assisting with maintanence work in the camps? 

In my spare time in the shop, I used to fix things or make some furniture or help with some small constructions. At the end of my first stay I met Takis and he told me about a lot of construction and electricity projects that were underway and I could be useful. I promised myself to come back.

I came back during the fall, made new friends, learned about the complexity of the facilities that MOTG manages. I went back to help and enjoy the company of other resident and visiting volunteers. I came back at the end of winter and they involved me with the electricity projects.

Then the pandemic caught me here and I decided to stay; the presence of the few volunteers has been important to overcome this crisis and to be able to bring heating, cooking and electricity to a lot of people who arrived last summer.

5. What has been your most heartfelt moment working with MOTG?

The spirit of sharing stories with these people and smiling while the work is being done. Every story is still alive in me. Here, I am happy!

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