Portraits from Ritsona: "Baba" Namist / by Shayanne Gal

Here's "Baba" Namist. He is one of the infamous jokesters at Ritsona Refugee Camp. He notoriously shows up for every food distribution early, and waits for the volunteers to open up the warehouse - only to come up from behind them and scare them with his cane! Even as early as 8 am, he is always ready to pull a prank. He does this to everyone, especially the new volunteers.. it is almost like the unspoken Ritsona initiation procedure.

Aside from his rampant tricks, "Baba" (he insists on being called this, the Arabic word used for a dad and elder) and his wife and young son, spend a lot of their time drinking sweet hot tea, and are always eager to have company over at their tent or caravan. Although the language barrier is intense, between him speaking Kurdish and Arabic, and the volunteers mostly at beginner-level, we communicate in hand gestures and small words - like when he says "chi" for "tea" in arabic and motions the sipping of an imaginary glass. This is his invitation for us to join him and his family for some tea.

Even in the toughest conditions, Baba has a smile on his face, and is always there to joke around and make the volunteers feel welcome. Him and his family fled violence and war in Al-Hasakah, Syria to Greece over a year ago, leaving the only home they'd ever known and many loved ones behind. They are among the over 50,000 refugees that have been awaiting relocation in Europe ever since March 2016, when the Balkan Route shut down - closing international borders and leaving many families trapped along their journeys to a new life.