She spent Christmas in Greece meeting refugees
Credit: Tyson Sadler / RYOT news

Susan Sarandon’s Christmas was a bit different than years past.

Instead of wrapping presents and trimming the tree at home, the actress has spent over a week on the Greek island of Lesbos meeting Syrian refugees and learning more about the migrant crisis plaguing the region.

Throughout her stay on the island, Sarandon has met dozens of refugees who fled from Syria. But perhaps those who left the greatest impression on Sarandon are the mothers and their children.

The plight of the refugee mothers, who face many obstacles to better their children’s lives, struck a chord with Sarandon.

“It breaks my heart as a mother to see other mothers struggling, against all odds, to keep their kids clean, healthy, and safe in the midst of unbelievable violence,” she said. “They all want a future for their children that includes an education. They are my heroes.”

The actress traveled to Lesbos with, a virtual reality news company, to report and work with organizations bringing humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.

The 69-year-old actress told PEOPLE she “came here to listen and learn from their stories.”

She hopes that her trip to Greece will help to bring greater attention worldwide to the refugees’ plight.

“[The international community] must realize the size of the problem and understand it,” she said. “These people should stop being ‘somebody else’ and must become the refugees that we must stand by.”