Something of a transition to report, with one project coming to a conclusion, and another one in the planning stage.
Not, I hasten to add, that Jusoor – the charity working for Syrian refugees, chiefly in Lebanon – is in any way fading. Quite the reverse, so far as I can tell from the reports of activity on its website. Plus the fact that the Hall project at Jeb Jannine school, for which Val and I have been raising money, is now underway, starting with the construction of vitally needed built-in cupboards, as well as staging units; we hope to be able to publish photos soon. Thanks, from Jusoor, the pupils and teachers at Jeb Jannine, and indeed from Val and me, to all of you who have contributed funds to make this happen.
But while neither of us are cutting our links to Jusoor, I have been seeking opportunities for another venture, finding an organisation that which would give me the opportunity to work on a theatre project with a group of young people. Some time ago, I visited Better Days, an NGO operating on Lesvos, one of the Greek islands, and involved in various projects to help deal with the ongoing refugee crisis there.
This was a brief reconnaissance trip, to give me the opportunity to meet some of the people involved in Better Days and other projects there, to see for myself the conditions at the camps there. And, to work out how I might be able to contribute. The trip was a mixture of the inspiring and the depressing, best summed up by one particular event. It began with a feast, cooked by a group of refugees in huge dustbin-sized saucepans on open fires, organised by a Somalian refugee called Ali, and with lots of people working together, chopping industrial quantities of onions, carrots, rice (and slightly less chicken) – and offered to all and sundry. A truly inspiring example of co-operation and cohesion.
Unfortunately, by the time it was ready, the crowd attracted by the prospect of good, home-cooked food, was beyond manageable, and though queues were formed, divided between women and children and the far larger crowd of young men, these soon broke down into a dangerous, each man for himself scrum, some people bearing multiple plates, even washing-up bowls, and words, shoves and blows were traded. Ali was disconsolate – on the other hand, a large number of people were fed, and fed well.
I will be back in just a few days, and will be hoping to put together a Drama project for the pupils at Gecko School, a place for unaccompanied minors. Watch this space.