In March 2017 Artists in Transit travelled to Athens to volunteer and run art workshops in a refugee camp.
We spent 12 days working between Elliniko airport squat and a centre for unaccompanied minors. Elliniko camp was home to roughly 500 families, there was no strong NGO presence and therefore very little going on for children. Through a connection on Facebook an Afghan family welcomed us too their home and helped us set up activities. We started small as usual with bead work and drawing and slowly moved on to printing and teddy bear making. Children here generally had 3-4 hours a week of education and were very eager for things to do.
At the unaccompanied minors centre we met young men and women, alongside single mothers who had travelled their journeys alone and now waited in Greece. Paper and pens quickly ran out as stories were told alongside flags and images of home. Cameras were given out
We were lucky to be able to re connect with families and friends we had made on our last trip. Spending time on the beach relaxing and of course eating food and
drinking chai. We also met a new family who we're incredibly welcoming , sharing their evening meal with us everyday and making sure we knew where we were travelling. Our zine was well received by the two girls who made it and many were given out for friends of friends. The feed back we got was the hope that by sharing their stories more people would realise they were just like anyone else, and that this would spread less fear.
Later in June Molly and Nilufer travelled over for a short trip to visit our friends. One of them had recently become a new mother and we were very excited to visit her and the families new arrival .In this short time we visited three families daily, relaxing at home , watching movies, going to the beach and the usual food and chai. All three we're eager to create more content for our zine and had stories they wanted us to share.
Chaotic. Challenging. Unknown. Rewarding.
It seemed to me that nearly all the children had fun from the activities, some got to discover new skills and others got to revisit something they had obviously previously really enjoyed.
The memories that stick with me the most will probably be the dust and lots of childrens voices!
Incredible, moving, life-changing, inspirational.
A personal memory that will stick with me is one of a two year old girl.Her family had fled from Afghanistan, and despite their harrowing experiences, her family cooked for us every single day, gave us cups of tea and even allowed us to rest in their area (with her father insisting that we lay on pillows on got comfortable!). Every time we would visit she would come and find me, sit either on my lap or directly in front of me, and remove every piece of jewellery I had on (which was a lot). She would then put them on herself, then place them back on me in the exact order she took them off, it was the most adorable thing. This really stuck with me, I don’t know why but it just did.
Enlightening + Educational 4 everyone involved.
I saw working with AIT as a chance to help do some good in the world. To give children and families in need some alternative education and friendly faces to help them transition into the new countries they have found themselves in after fleeing war-zones.
Art can be a way for people in need to communicate things that they may find difficult to put into words, especially when they are given a chance to meditate and concentrate on drawing.