Their homes are taken, their future not!

Yes, my dear friends you guessed it right, another Erasmus+ program for me! This time I traveled to the island of Chios, Greece for a program developed by the Greek NGO ‘Horizons for Youth’.  Participating countries: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Lithuania,  Spain and Turkey.

“Their homes are taken, their futures not” was the title of the program and its subject matter was about the refugee crisis. The Greek islands in the eastern Aegean Sea are a station for refugees and migrants wanting to reach the rest of the continental Europe. Chios was a perfect place to observe and discuss the situation.

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Καλώς Ήρθατε στη Χίο! = Welcome to Chios island!

We discussed the conditions in each of our respective countries and the history of refugees in our countries. The legalities of obtaining a refugee status. How the laws restrict these people from wanting to reach one country and flee the other. The combination of the economic crisis and the refugee crisis and how that affects the local economies and tourism. The European agreements about refugees. The Christian vs Muslim issue. And so many more subjects as they arose as days went by…

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On the island we met both sites. Refugees traveling through the war zones of Syria, rough terrain, and wild seas to get to safety. Refugees or rather migrants (from Algeria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) travelling through terrible conditions and giving all their life’s savings to smugglers in order to get to Europe and to a better life. Last but not least we met the islanders, Chios’ original residents. All living together on an island filled with conflicted feelings!

Understanding, fear, resentment, empathy, anger, compassion, sympathy, bitterness, consideration, annoyance, appreciation, irritation, displeasure, relief, love and hate…

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Souda Camp: Refugees in waiting for their asylum petitions to be investigated by authorities and the Court are in a status of stasis from 1 month to 1 year… Not being allowed to work (the conditions after Greece’s economic crisis don’t support that either for residents nor refugees), they stay all day in the camp or wonder around the city streets, sitting in the parks… Some don’t like to stay idle and they volunteer for the NGOs in the camps, they go fishing, they do sports…  Life in waiting is very hard!

We had the chance to visit the refugee camp at Souda, the smallest of the two on the island and also the unaccompanied children’s house. Moreover, we talked to the residents of the camp about their journeys and hardships, about their lives then and now and their future hopes.We also had the chance to meet with the managing NGO and the vice Mayor of Chios and discuss with them. Additionally, according to the project’s activities we had to talk to locals and interview them about the situation on the island, the problems they face, their fears and hopes and also the ways they face the future.

But in these youth exchange projects we also need to get to know each other. So we organized cultural nights with food and drinks from our respective countries. We chatted with each other during lunches and coffee brakes and partied together all through the nights… And lastly we had some free time to visit the beauties of the Island of Mastiha, the incredible Chios!!

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Now, back at home my thoughts and feelings are in a chaotic status… Glad to be back with my own people, sad to have left behind all the new and wonderful friends, hopeful that the refugee crisis will resolve, sad about the condition of the human spirit…

As humans we find it difficult to accept the unknown, the strange, the different… even if we have been in the same condition in the past… even if at heart we really want to help, after some time has passed it is easy to get used to the bad things around us, adapt and start complaining! This is the human condition and it has been such since the beginning and it will continue to be exactly the same in the future. Let us just hope that the examples that confirm this condition will be more and more over time… that people who don’t look each other as colour, as religion, as place of birth, as economic status will become in time the majority…

I hope that HUMANITY will prevail the Human Condition!

Untill the next time

Be good to one another

M.

March report!

Hey dear friends!

I haven’t been posting at all lately but let me tell you I have been very busy indeed!! As I mentioned in my “about me” section I don’t love my job but it sustains my living and passions… Well this time it offered to me an experience of a lifetime!

I was presented with the opportunity to visit Brussels through an Erasmus+ program for Public Administration. It was a full two-week program with presentations from various EU organizations and European Commission DG’s. It also included the group’s visit to Luxembourg and the Court of Justice of the EU and the Court of Auditors and of course the grand visit to Strasbourg and the amazing building of the parliament!

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A blast of information, images, faces, names, places… and don’t let me forget about the lovely food and the chocolate, the waffles… and the beers, don’t forget the beers… This program gave me the opportunity to meet and network with colleagues from all over Europe and perhaps made friends for a lifetime… An overall once in a lifetime experience that the universe blessed me with!

And for my luck in weather conditions, while the program lasted we enjoyed brilliant, sunny, spring days in Brussels where in Cyprus the weather was gloomy and raining!!

I also had the chance to visit some museums and exhibitions and enjoy the local architecture and food culture!

I love multicultural groups, and cities like Brussels can offer that and more. Being in multicultural environments is what pushed me to involve myself on a volunteer base with the N.G.O. PlanBe, plan it be it and work with youth programs.  But let me tell you the Erasmus+ umbrella covers programs for all ages and purposes. As European citizens, we should all at least once involve ourselves in the process and participate. It is a unique and rewarding experience for all…

Next step Erasmus+ programs for adults…

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Until the next time… Be good to one another!

M.