Student stories

Embracing the unknown at Mavrovouni Refugee Camp

Kenzie Ross

EuroRelief

“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Kenzie. “My view of people and the world is dynamic now in a way that I wouldn’t have received sitting at home.”

When second-year political science student Kenzie Ross returned to UVic at age 26, she knew that she wanted to incorporate her four years of prior experience volunteering at Greece’s largest refugee camp into her degree. Now, as a co-op student working with EuroRelief, an NGO that operates within Mavrovouni Refugee Camp in Lesvos, she’s putting her experience and studies into practice and learning to “expect the unexpected." 

Formerly called Moria, Mavrovouni is located on the shores of Greece only sixteen kilometres from Turkey, which serves as a connection point for refugees from many countries. The camp houses anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 asylum seekers at a time, with over 1.2 million refugees having arrived in Greece to seek asylum as of September 2021.

As the camp’s shelter allocation coordinator, Kenzie works to help incoming asylum-seekers find a designated place to live. She also oversees short-term volunteers, shelter allocation assistants, and the Info Point team, and plans for longer-term shelter plans inside the camp.

When Kenzie arrived at Mavrovouni, she was met with the statement: “The only constant here is change.”

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” she jokes. “You learn to welcome the discomfort.”

Despite the hard work, Kenzie knows how important it is. “These families have had their security ripped from them,” she says. “Their tent or room is their only current guaranteed source of stability.”

Though she had experience abroad before beginning her co-op work term, Kenzie continues to recognize the unique nature of working internationally, from language to mealtimes and clothing. “I live in two different cultures daily, because Greece is one way and the Middle Eastern culture inside camp is very different also.” To cope, she says that working in a different country requires a lot of humility.

This attitude of grace and flexibility in the face of uncertainty has shaped how Kenzie plans to approach her future at UVic. “I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Kenzie. “My view of people and the world is dynamic now in a way that I wouldn’t have received sitting at home.”

“I’m still living year-to-year at this point,” she says. “But I’ve taken the pressure off myself to get a degree in four perfect years. All I know is, I love getting up in the morning, and I love the life I’m creating.”

Learn more about Mavrovouni Refugee Camp.

More about Social sciences co-op