From Syria to Greece, from Refugee to Lifeguard



Ibo-Syrian-refugee-lifeguard
Obada “Ibo” Al-Nassar Source: UNHCR/Socrates Baltagiannis

It was just over a year ago when Obada “Ibo” Al-Nassar made the perilous venture across the Aegean to reach Lesvos. The friendship that this Syrian refugee developed with some foreign lifeguards located outside of the camp where he was housed, would change his life forever.

Inspired by all he learned about the lifeguards and their job, Ibo met Spiros Mitritsakis, who runs LH, the Lifeguard Hellas organization.

Ibo expressed his interest to become involved with the group and began training at the LH school in Athens to become a lifeguard.

While working with LH, Ibo was one of the first responders on the scene when the deadly wildfires in Attica broke out on July 23 in the area of Mati. He continued his involvement with LH in the days after the fire, combing the coast for survivors and those who had perished.

“Ibo was involved in the Mati operation. He was an active member,” said Mitritsakis in an interview with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), adding, “He’s an exceptional lifeguard.”

Ibo says that he is happy to be doing something meaningful and to be able to do it with people who are now like family to him.

He told the UNHCR that he still thinks of his homeland, Syria. “The area I came from, Yarmuk, is completely destroyed.”

With no home to return to, Ibo looks ahead to a future that is unknown, but can do so with the comfort of the support system of his fellow lifeguards and new friends in Greece. He says that he is grateful to Greece and is glad that he had that opportunity to give something back to the country and its people.

The LH rescue unit until was stationed on Lesvos from 2015 until June of this year. The continuous efforts of the team contributed to saving of thousands of lives along the coastline of Lesvos, a migrant hotspot.