Our CEO, Garrett Gilkey, just got back from his most recent trip to Moria, Greece and we had the chance to catch up with him about the experience. In this interview, he shares what compels him to keep going back to a refugee camp so inhumane it’s described as “hell on earth” as well as how this experience is impacting the way he is leading and growing HGC.
Where were you recently serving and what was the hope + goals for your trip?
I was recently serving in Moria, Greece. This was my third trip to the camp which has been considered arguably the worst refugee camp in the world due to the systems of oppression and hope robbing processes that disable people from obtaining asylum. Most people who come to Moria can find themselves there for 1 to 2 years again as the processes of asylum can be challenging. The living conditions of the camp are very difficult, Hope and encouragement is a daily need for most of the people in the camp. During my first trip, I met several POC, People of Concern or “refugees” that I have developed a mentoring and discipleship relationship with over the last year. One of the guys that I’ve been mentoring recently received his Greek Asylum and was in the process of transitioning to Athens. His entire family was murdered by the Taliban. When he was only 15 year-old, he traveled by himself, through Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and eventually to the island of Lesvos, where he has lived for the last three years.
My biggest personal goal for the trip was to make sure he was transitioning well in Athens, that his apartment was safe and that he had community that he could rely on for support, encouragement and discipleship. During my stay in Athens, I decided to fly to Lesvos and spend several days working in the camp. I built/erected several solar panel light poles for some of the more vulnerable areas of camp.
What organization were you with and what kind of work are they invested in?
The organization I was traveling with is called Eurorelief — It is a greek NGO, Non Government Organization, that runs the operations of the Camp. They are largely in charge of housing and basic needs of the people in the camp. They are also the largest NGO in the camp and generally looked at with the most responsibility and influence. They provide everything from water to tents to diapers.
How did this trip open your eyes to what life is like in this part of the country/world and change the way you think about your neighbor?
Like I mentioned earlier, this is my third trip to Moria and I try and make the effort to go every couple months. Whether I am serving in a local non-profit organization or serving and working in a refugee camp on the other side of the world, it’s all about being in proximity to injustice and peoples’ who are oppressed. I happen to own an extremely successful firm who has the privilege of serving and building for some of the most affluent in our Tampa area. As a former NFL player, I have had the unique opportunity to live amongst a culture that is generally not in material need and that just isn’t real life. I see the position I’m in as unique and not normative. I have a responsibility to steward what I have in a way that serves and loves those who don’t have the same freedom and opportunities that I do.
How does your faith inspire the way that you lead HGC and how do you see that impacting your community in Tampa Bay and all over the globe?
I hold tightly to the conviction that as a believer we are called to living proximate and near to injustice all the while working, elevating and lifting up those around us. We have an opportunity every day to be aware of the needs of the people around us and meet those needs. My desire is that HGC is a conduit of opportunity to its employees, an advocate of trust and hope for our clients and an example of how people should use their gifts to bless others.
“I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
– Galatians 2:20
If Garrett’s shared experience has left you wondering what you can do in Tampa to bring relief and help to the refugee crisis in Moria, then know that awareness is key. Living our lives in acknowledgment of the suffering around us is a first step each and every one of us can take towards creating a culture and society where these horrible oppressive circumstances don’t happen.