Susan Sarandon is researching and investigating the refugee crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos

By Char Adams and Liz McNeil
Updated December 18, 2015 10:15 AM
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Photographer: Tyson Sadler

Actress and activist Susan Sarandon touched down on the Greek island of Lesbos on Thursday to get a closer look at the refugee crisis affecting both the little island and the rest of the world.

The 69-year-old is lending a hand to the scores of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria as well as researching the refugee crisis as a whole.

“I have come to Lesbos and will stay through Christmas, to listen and learn the stories of refugees who are fleeing from war and persecution. I also came to honor my grandparents who were immigrants,” she tells PEOPLE.

Sarandon said a woman named Arwa, 24, and her 6-month-old daughter, Ruby, were the first people she spoke with upon her arrival at the Kara Tepe refugee camp.

“I came here to listen and learn from their stories,” she said of the two. “When their boat filled with water, crossing from Turkey to Greece, they lost all their possessions.”

“They’re happy to be alive and are excited to reunite with the rest of their family,” she continued.

A heartwarming photo of the meeting shows Sarandon face-to-face with little Ruby as Arwa holds the baby and looks on. A small boy is seen tugging on Ruby’s leg.

Sarandon also met Arwa’s husband, Munzer. A photo of the 32-year-old father shows Munzer holding Ruby at the entrance to their temporary shelter that he shares with his family and several other refugees.

The Oscar-winning actress is traveling with RYOT.org, a virtual reality news company, to report and work with organizations bringing humanitarian aid to the people making the harrowing crossing.

Among the many touching stories is that of 23-year-old Shrooq, a law student from Derzour.

“She feels fortunate to have arrived safely in [Lesbos],” Sarandon said. “The boat following behind her capsized and two people drowned.”

Sarandon told ANA-MPA, a Greek news agency, that she will assist volunteers and non-governmental organizations in welcoming the refugees to the island.

“The international community must see what is happening in this corner of the world,” she told ANA-MPA. “It must realize the size of the problem and understand it. These people should stop being ‘somebody else’ and must become the refugees that we must stand by.”