One happy family

posted in: Teaching in Lesvos | 1

It is taking me a while to get to grips with the various NGOs and other charitable organisations working with refugees here on Lesvos, let alone understanding how they fit together.  One Happy Family operates a community centre here, occupying a reclaimed warehouse in an industrial area a couple of miles from Mytilini, high up on a hill overlooking the sea, and, just a few miles away, the coast of Turkey.  It is little wonder that so many refugees make the crossing from Turkey to Lesvos, as it really appears very close (though not without its hazards.)  Within the main building is a large communal/dining area, but also various other services: an advice centre, a computer room, a coffee shop, a small cinema, a barbers, a place to charge large numbers of mobile phones.

And that is not all.  In the same general area is a makeshift gym, a workshop, a women’s centre, as well as the Ecohub, the garden operated by Better Days, and the School for Peace, which operates classes for adults in the morning, and for children in the afternoon.  And there are areas to sit, shaded from the sun by makeshift canvas shelters, the universal furniture component being the wooden pallet, converted into tables and benches.  No cushions, so hardly luxurious, but enough to lift you out of the dirt.  Which isn’t, I suppose, a bad analogy for the whole place.

I went there today to make contact again with Iman, the Drama and Farsi teacher at the school.  I taught a lesson with one of his Drama classes, with him acting as interpreter, which was hard work, but reasonably successful.  It had taken a while to locate him, so I spent some time hanging around at the school, including sitting in and helping out with an English lesson with some young teenagers.  This did cause a certain amount of understandable fuss, with various people wanting to know who the hell I was (reassuring, in its own way) but in the end everyone was happy and I enjoyed the lesson.  It was all about vegetables and associated phrases (including “takeaway” and “a couple of minutes”).  At one point I was able to point out some minor differences between English and American pronunciation, which allowed me to quote “you say tomato, we say tomayto”.  Which tickled me immensely, even if we didn’t call the whole thing off.

  1. sue

    Really enjoying the blog Chris, I try to read it each day….I was away on a school trip last week, so no time to write comments, but I’m back now. Sometimes, when I am in Calais, I wonder why the NGO’s just don’t all group together under one name/charity….but soon I realized that there are frequently strong characters involved who have often fallen out with one organisation and then moved on and started up their own thing. Hence, dozens of warehouses and distribution points.
    At the end of the day, I guess it doesn’t matter who is doing what, just as long as someone is doing something.

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