How a Normal Thing to do Can Win You the Nobel

How a Normal Thing to do Can Win You the Nobel. Photo: Lefteris Partsalis

How a Normal Thing to do Can Win You the Nobel. Photo: Lefteris Partsalis

Helping a person in need is very easy to do. All it takes to get started is a smile and asking them if they need your assistance. Serving people who need help may not cost you anything more than a few minutes of your time, but the joy you can bring to someone’s life is priceless. And it could even win you the Nobel Peace Prize.

The biggest movement of displaced people our planet has seen since World War II is happening now. Greece was the gateway to a better life in Europe for over a million refugees last year, who were escaping from war, persecution and poverty in their homelands. Most of them were from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and put their lives in the hands of people smugglers who traffic refugees from the Turkish mainland to the Greek islands in overcrowded boats. It is estimated that thousands have lost their lives trying to make the dangerous voyage.

Syrian refugee trail. Photo: BuzzFeed News

Syrian refugee trail. Photo: BuzzFeed News

Lesvos is a Greek island only a half hour ferry ride away from the Turkish city of Izmir. But in rough seas, it can take the smuggler’s rubber raft three to four hours to make the same crossing. Some refugees pray and kiss the ground when their journey is finally over and thank Europe for accepting them.

Militsa Kamvisi is an 83 year old grandmother who has lived on Lesvos her whole life, but she knows what it means to be a refugee. Every time she sees the rafts from Turkey landing on the island's beaches she is reminded of an exodus her mother used to talk about. Militsa’s mother had fled the 1922 Asia Minor Disaster, which saw tens of thousands killed and the mass evacuation from Turkey of over a million ethnic Greeks. She had come to the island as a refugee too, on a fishing boat nearly a century ago.

But Europe wasn't so welcoming back then. In the 1920's, refugees from Turkey were settled in olive storage sheds, with up to four families sharing a single room. They suffered great hardship starting their new lives in Lesvos and that is why locals like Militsa feel compelled to help the new wave of arrivals.

Last year, someone took a photo of Militsa bottle-feeding a baby that had just arrived from Turkey, while its mother changed into dry clothes. What she didn't know at the time was that particular act of service would see her nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, together with a local fisherman, Stratis Valiamos.

Stratis has saved countless refugees from drowning. People call him a hero, but he thinks what he does isn't heroism, “it's the normal thing to do". He said, "When you're fishing and a boat is sinking next to you and they're screaming for help, you can't pretend to not hear them”.

Militsa Kamvisi and Stratis Valiamos are both candidates for the $1.2 million Nobel Peace Prize award to be announced on Friday 7 October.


Did their stories inspire you? Do you know anybody else doing “the normal thing to do" who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize? Let us know in the comments.

Emmanuel Economou