- Hi my name is Karen and I have been afforded a six month break from work, by my employer, to spend time volunteering in the humanitarian sector in Europe. I am currently volunteering as an educator at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Athens.
Before my departure to Greece I discovered DK's illustrated Bilingual Dictionary in English/Arabic which I was sure would help me improve my very basic Arabic. In fact the book has proved invaluable in explaining some of the difficult concepts of language and culture in my English language classes.
The real impact of the book was highlighted during one of our health focussed lessons when one of the students spotted "resuscitation" with its accompanying photograph in the dictionary and repeatedly asked for the pronunciation of the English word. He described the action as being when "you have to get the water up". This studious young man, who looked as if he could have been one of my children's twenty year old friends, clearly had life experiences that I could only guess at. He spent the rest of the class poring through the book and at the end of the class he asked me if I could arrange to buy one for him. He said that if he could study all the words in the book he would understand English and I believed that if he was given the opportunity to do so, he would.
The value that this young man saw in the book has been echoed by his fellow students and it is for this reason that I decided to set up a crowdfunder page.
I realise that every one of the residents who come to our classes would benefit from having an illustrated English dictionary and I would like to be able purchase sufficient of them to allow the 120 regular students, from the 220 registered for our classes, to have a dictionary of their own. I am budgeting for each book costing £13 for purchase and delivery.
I appreciate that £1560 is an ambitious total, especially at this time of year when pockets are already being stretched, but as I have learned here in Greece (where the alphabet and language are completely unrecognisable to me) the ability to communicate with others is key and being able to contribute to pushing open that door to the world is a wonderful gift.
All donations received will be spent on the purchase and delivery of dictionaries to students. As a special thank you, donors of £15 or more will receive a “thank you” voicenote from the recipient when the dictionaries arrive, donors of £50 or more will receive a hand written letter of thanks from one of the students and donors of £100 or more will also receive a copy of “Recipes Welcome: The refugee recipes that borders couldn't stop” which was written and published last year with the help of some of the people living in the camp and contains both their recipes and also insights in to their life experiences.
To claim your "thank you" reward please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Project Elea's vision is to help create an environment of peace, stability, with a strong sense of community and pride, as well as to empower the refugees to stand on their feet so that they can begin building their lives and their families on solid foundations with hope and inspiration for the future.
If you would like to know more about where I am volunteering please check out the organisation's website https://projectelea.org
I have also writtten a few paragraphs about my own impressions.
During my time at the camp I have come to know people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Guinea, Burkino Faso, Congo .... the list goes on. All of them have their own reasons for travelling to Greece. Some of them have been living in the camp for four years, as it was the first official temporary accommodation centre for asylum seekers to open in Greece whilst others are new arrivals from the massively overcrowded camps on the Greek islands.
There are now approximately 400 prefabricated residential containers in the camp for an official population of about 2300.
Outside the gate to the camp there are a number of temporary tents and shelters which house displaced families who have been unable to obtain accommodation inside the camp. Each morning as I walk from the nearest metro station and through the industrial area to the camp and past these tents I wonder at the ingenuity and resilience of the inhabitants. The tents have been covered with tarpaulins to provide extra protection from the autumn storms, old wooden pallets are utilised to create areas outside the tent to spend time during the day, plastic bottles are reused to collect water for washing clothes or small children.
In the camp itself life appears more ordered. The organisation that I am volunteering with has secured funding to enable the containers to be painted and to create some planted areas to bring some colour to the otherwise drab and monochrome surroundings. Outside the project's office there is a covered shelter which acts as a social/meeting space and in the middle of the camp an astro turfed area plays host to a range of sporting activities - which last week included informal swimming as children jumped, splashed and slid in a huge puddle of water that had gathered there after a thunderstorm.
The camp has the feel of a village with neighbours from different cultures living cheek by jowl, washing strung across the narrow passages between homes, children playing on the concrete outside their dwellings and hopeful or worried adults queuing outside the containers of officialdom.
Whilst Project Elea provides a range of social activities: a carpentry workshop, sewing worksop, women's groups, a teen group, a preschool class, sports sessions, skateboarding, music group, gardening group, homework club, conversation club, my own input has been with the education activities. In association with resident volunteers, visiting volunteers offer a range of adult language classes including English, German and Greek and for children there are Arabic language classes and Arabic, Farsi and English storytime sessions.
Many of the education team's volunteers have no background in teaching speakers of other languages, but like me, they are all trying their best to provide a grounding in their given language to enable the residents to develop their own skills, make constructive use of their time, improve their abilities to communicate with the many individuals and organisations with whom they come in to contact, in order to ultimately fulfill their potentials.
Having spent time with displaced people in Calais at the beginning of this year and now three months in refugee camps in Greece, I have been wrestling with the issues that displacement, migration and asylum seekers raise both for those who leave their lands of origin and for some of those who host them. Brian Bilston seems to have found a way to give a voice to them both.
REFUGEES by Brian Bilston
They have no need of our help
So do not tell me
These haggard faces could belong to you or me
Should life have dealt a different hand
We need to see them for who they really are
Chancers and scroungers
Layabouts and loungers
With bombs up their sleeves
Cut-throats and thieves
They are not
We should make them
Go back to where they came from
Share our food
Share our homes
Share our countries
Instead let us
Build a wall to keep them out
It is not okay to say
These are people just like us
A place should only belong to those who are born there
Do not be so stupid to think that
The world can be looked at another way
(now read from bottom to top)
Thank you for taking the time to visit my crowdfunder page. Any donation that you are able to make will provide somone else with the opportunity to make a better life for themselves.