Handling Host Country Tragedy After Returning Home

Brooke Purvis is a student at Northwest Missouri State University, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Athens, Greece.

Just four weeks after returning home, wildfires struck Attica, Greece, a region just a matter of miles away from my use-to-be home. The flames devoured cars, homes and streets and were carried further by strong winds. Flames chased citizens all the way to the Aegean Sea where they were able to take cover in boats. The coast guard rescued nearly 700 people from the water after citizens and tourists took to the coast as refuge. The Prime Minister immediately declared Attica in a state of emergency and mobilized all emergency services.

The wildfire that ripped through Attica was started by 15 separate fires during the peak of Greece’s hot and dry season. How do wildfires start? A fire needs three things to manifest: oxygen, fuel and heat. On dry days, anything from a spark of a cigarette can ignite a wildfire. Once they are started they can spread from wind, excess fuel, or sloped surfaces.

Observing and coping with tragedy from a distance is one of the most painful emotions a person can be exposed to. Here’s what I did to cope:

1. Contact Connections

I actually found out about the fires through a Greek classmate’s post on Facebook. I reached out to her, several classmates, and my ISA Resident Director to make sure that everyone was safe. Having peace of mind was essential for me to be able to problem solve and take further action.

2.  Find Ways To Help

This was the hardest part for me because every article or news source I found was written in Greek. After a lot of time on Google Translate I was able to find a bank account that was set up for international donations. The International Red Cross was also searching for blood donors to aid the injured.

3. Breathe, and Continue To Check In

After doing all that was possible, the only thing left for me to do was continue to be a source of comfort to anyone who needed me. It was difficult for me to accept that there was only so much that I could do from the United States, but I know that my friends were thankful for bringing attention to the fires in my local news feeds.

Within a month, people’s lives from the other side of the world became just as important as my own. Staying informed and humble are the best ways to become more empathetic to those who live thousands of miles away.



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