I first met Julia Imbriaco in Lebanon. She too was a volunteer with Jusoor, and Val and I hit it off straight away with both her and her friend Conor McGuire. They were part of a group of grad students at Columbia University in New York, and upon their return they set up a symposium on Migration, which I attended. It was at that event that I met Joel Garcia, then part of the staff at Better Days, and through him I am now at Lesvos. (Keeping up?) Julia wrote to me recently to say she was currently involved with an American news website called Franknews. Their June edition was also focused on Migration, and she asked if I would like to contribute an article. I was, of course, both flattered and delighted.
It was while staying at Tassos’s beach house that I set to work on putting together some ideas. Because of all the stuff buzzing around in my head, I was far too agitated to sleep, and eventually, at about four o’clock I gave in, got up, and started writing. By six, it was pretty much done.
I suppose to some extent it is a justification for my presence in Mytilini (and before that in Lebanon.) I am sensitive to the view that migrants, and in particular migrant children, do have a right to safety, to food and shelter, and to education. Some might think that, with such pressing needs, for someone to offer additional activities might prove a distraction from these core requirements. When there are children who are starving, who fear for their very lives, is it not a distraction to spend precious time and money on the arts, even more so on the frivolous activity of theatre, which devotes itself to pretending, to playing games. So I wanted to tackle this, to explain just why I thought it important that such things should be a part of their lives.
The dinner I describe at the beginning of the article did happen, and the conversation within it was real. That acknowledgment of the vital, life-saving aspect of helping refugees and migrants is the preamble to what I believe is a vital next step. Man (and woman, and child) cannot live by bread alone.