The journey and dreams of unaccompanied refugee children


 


                The project

 

28 testimonies of unaccompanied refugee children from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco and Egyp

 

 

 

 

"Monologues across the Aegean Sea"

The idea: "Monologues across the Aegean Sea" is a collection of 28 testimonies of unaccompanied refugee children from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco and Egypt. These children were forced to leave their homeland and arrived alone in Greece in 2015 and 2016 crossing the Aegean Sea.

The workshops: The "Monologues across the Aegean Sea"
is the result of a series of workshops that took place in accommodation centres for unaccompanied refugee children in the cities of Athens and Patras in Greece, from April to July 2016, as part of the project “It could be me - It could be you”, an awareness raising project on refugees and human rights using drama and theatre techniques. The project has been organized and implemented since 2015 in Greece by the Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network (TENet-Gr) in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The aim of the action "Monologues across the Aegean Sea" was to record the difficulties that these children had gone through, the challenges they still experience, and also, what these children love, hope and dream for.

The publication: The 28 testimonies imprinted in the special-edition book "Monologues across the Aegean Sea: the journey and dreams of unaccompanied refugee children", were published in Greek and in English in October 2016, by the Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network and UNHCR Greece. It is free for educational and artistic purposes (not for commercial use).


The idea...

Routes... ​

Aegean Pelagos. 
The open sea with its islands.
Images of tragedy, 
images of horror. 
Among them 
images of children, 
figures of unaccompanied refugee minors.
We saw them arriving 
alone on the island shores. 
Alone walking the roads of Greece
to reach the borders.
And because their eyes haunted us 
and because there are many ways
to react to horror 
we wanted 
their thoughts, their memories, their journey
and their dreams 
to find a voice. 
And this voice, 
through the voices of other children of their age 
to be heard loudly, 
so loudly that it reaches far, as far as possible.

This is how the idea of the “Monologues across the Aegean Sea” was born. An idea that with collective effort, persistence and love, evolved into action. This action started in April 2016, as part of the project “It could be me- It could be you”. This project aims at raising awareness on human rights and refugee issues and has been implemented by the Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network (TENet-Gr), in collaboration with UNHCR Representation in Greece, since the beginning of 2015.

From June to April 2016, in the cities of Athens and Patras in Greece, a series of theatre/drama workshops was organised. The participants were unaccompanied children from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco and Egypt. Boys between the age of 14 to 18, hosted in the accommodation centre of the Non-Governmental Organisation PRAKSIS.

More specifically, in Athens the workshops took place in the accommodation centre STEGI PLUS (+), while in Patras, in the theatre venue “OroPaidio- Free Artistic Expression”. Twenty workshops were completed in each of these two cities. Each session lasted two hours and the participation of the young people was voluntary. Six drama pedagogues-facilitators (Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network), seven interpreters (UNHCR Greece, NGO PRAKSIS), seven social workers (NGO PRAKSIS) and three psychologists (NGO PRAKSIS) took part in total.

It was a difficult venture, unfamiliar to all of us. A venture that required continuous coordination and collaboration of many people having different specialities, different perspectives and coming from different paths. But we managed to “meet” with each other. Because what mattered was our goal. The goal was to record the stories of these young people. The challenge was big. We moved on because we believe that theatre has the power and the magic quality to open up hearts, unlock feelings, revive experiences, bridge gaps. And thus, through workshops based on theatrical techniques, art and creative writing, twenty eight stories emerged; the content of this book. Teenagers that talk not only about the tragedy they have experienced in their countries and during their journey, but also about what they love and what they like; about their hopes and their dreams. Like all teenagers!

A book from teenagers, a paper boat book Is starting its voyage hoping to meet many other boats of teenagers, who long to create a world tailored to their dreams, a world where everyone will fit in and will learn about life sharing the same desk but also of adults, who may remember those faded words written on the paper boats’ sails of their youth “hospitality”, “humanity”, “solidarity”.

Hara Tsoukala
Coordinator of the action “Monologues across the Aegean Sea”
Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network

Athens July 2016


The workshops...

Children today are brought up in a world that is constantly changing, while basic concepts such as country, home, family, homeland and national identity are being redefined; in a world where populations and people do not have the right to move freely, and the words “refugee” and “migrant” are assumed to be an identity and not an attribute.

From April to July 2016, we took part in the designing and implementation of a series of workshops within the framework of the action “Monologues across the Aegean Sea”, in order to record the stories of unaccompanied refugee children. Minors that had to leave their country of origin and are in the process of moving to Europe. Having in mind the example of the “Gaza Monologues”1, our intention was to create an open form with a particular content that would give the participants the ability to speak their own mind, thus opening a dialogue with themselves, with their peers and with the international community. In the designing phase of the workshops, we came across the following questions-challenges:

In what way should we approach these young people through a drama/ theatre procedure that would respect and recognise their personal experiences?

In what way will their voice be reinforced, multiplied and transformed into action?

 


In what way will their dreams and hopes for the future be useful as an educational tool for their peers and as a tool that will raise awareness in the broader educational and artistic community? The above questions, as well as the difficulties deriving from the coexistence of minors from different countries with their own culture, led us to a workshop structure that would take into account these particularities. Our primary goal was to reinforce the cohesion and the dynamics of the group, to empower these young people, and then to establish a relationship of trust with them. The emotional opening of the participants was gradual; through exercises and techniques we helped them “let off steam” and focus on their gradual exposure and expression. The activities were given in a symbolic way, so as to ensure that the children would share their experiences and dreams, unforced and without the fear of exposure. At the beginning of each meeting there was a “warm up” to activate the group. Then, the main part of the workshop followed, where we used theatre games, educational drama, theatre of the oppressed (A. Boal), Playback theater, psychodrama and shadow theatre techniques, so as to develop the subject for each meeting, as well as to introduce that of the next. The last part included creative writing activities and each time, the workshop ended with sharing and reflective activities.

 

The designing and the implementation of the workshops was in a framework of cooperation and feedback with the PRAKSIS social workers, the coordinators and other collaborators of the project. Our goal was to develop the process along with the participants, listening carefully to their needs and contributing to their empowerment.

During the whole procedure and despite the careful planning, we came across a few difficulties which we tried to face with flexibility, by adjusting the pre-planned activities even during the workshops. The changes in the composition of the group, the volatile psychological state of many minors, the absence of interpreters from certain workshops and the instability of the children’s daily schedule, made our project more difficult. In addition, the workshops coincided with the Ramadan2, during which many youths abstained from our meetings. There were times when we wondered whether this project could finally be completed as we had envisioned, and whether we would finally succeed in bypassing all the obstacles mentioned above; however, one big teenage smile as a welcome and a sea of hugs for a goodbye, were enough to make all our doubts disappear. Because, as the artistic director of ASHTAR theatre in Palestine, Iman Aoun, characteristically says: “Theatre is will that becomes action and claims the victory of life”.

 

Dionysia Asprogeraka, Giorgos Bekiaris, Vera Lardi,

Sonia Mologousi, Iro Potamousi, Andriana Tavantzi

Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network 

 

 


 

  

The publication

The 28 testimonies imprinted in the special-edition book "Monologues across the Aegean Sea: thejourney and dreams of unaccompanied refugee children", were published in Greek and in English in October 2016, by the Hellenic Theatre/Drama & Education Network and UNHCR Greece. 

It is free for educational and artistic purposes (not for commercial use).

Ελληνική έκδοση.pdf

English version

    

"I love my country and I wish to return to my city, Aleppo. Now I am in Greece. I feel great loneliness at this point of time. I feel as if I am nothing."
Amar, Syria


"However, it was impossible to continue living in Afghanistan. There was no hope, no light, no progress there … Only invasions war, terrorism, the Taliban … That’s why I had to leave."
Mustafa, Afghanistan


"My dream is to be a successful civil engineer and travel to United Kindom. I want to visit countries with a rich history, to study their civilisation, culture and customs.I would also like to go to countries in a state of war and poverty in order to learn even more."
Mohammad, Afghanistan


"So now I am in Greece. There are times that I feel like a beggar in the gutter. But I believe that with effort and a lot of patience, I can be an important person and be able to offer to society."
Abdallah, Syria


"My life seems like a wobbly ladder that always loses its balance. Just like the war in Afghanistan. There has been war in our country for 34 years now. Our houses have been knocked down."
Ehsan, Afghanistan


"I left my country to come to Europe. The greatest problem of the journey was the sea in Greece..."
Asraf, Afghanistan


"This was not a normal journey. It took three months until I managed to reach Greece. There were many days when I had nothing to eat or drink. I almost drowned in the Aegean Sea. Maybe it was my parents’ blessings, maybe some miracle happened, and I finally made it here. During the journey I got along with everyone and tried to keep a clear mind. This helped a lot."
Zolman, Afghanistan

 

"How can I forget my favourite place on earth? The place where I met my friends and had a great time? Oh, how I miss them! Will I ever see them again? At times like this I wish I had wings this way I could fly and meet my friends again. That would make me feel so happy and free!"
Haris, Pakistan


"I lived with the time and the people. Time is a liar, I heard them saying. But I saw that the traitors and liars are the people. Life is a pint of beer and a cigarette, so we can forget …"
Ibrahim, Syria


"I dream of a house in Frankfurt. It has glass walls and a very big garden with a lawn. It has a swimming pool by the garage and my car is a KIA Motors. I want to build a special room in this house where I will put my mother’s laughter, a remembrance I always want to have by my side."
Mohi, Afghanistan


"I long for freedom and I love my homeland deeply. Freedom has planted hope in the souls of the children that shed their blood for it. This hope is what the forces of war tried to ravage."
Ahmet, Syria


"I dream of the moment when I will be with my family. My family, and especially my mother, is my very first thought when I wake up in the morning."
Tayab, Pakistan


"It seems to me that we must suffer in the beginning. We have to be patient. Nothing comes easy."
Tahar, Morocco


"For three years I was traveling and was away from home. I felt as if I weren’t alive. I didn’t enjoy life. These three years cannot be compared with one single day in Afghanistan..."
Aziz, Afghanistan

 

"When I set out for my journey I didn’t know where it would end. Till then I had a different view about journeys. I wanted so much to travel. But after all I went through, I changed my mind. This was not a normal journey. We didn’t know what to take along and we didn’t have what was needed. We hadn’t arranged for a ticket beforehand, since we didn’t know our destination..."
Ali, Afghanistan


"The journey was difficult; my life was threatened many times. There are still marks on my feet … But I made it, first of all with the help of God. The fact that I am tall, I run fast and have a strong mind, also helped. I could quickly decide which way to go in order to reach my destination faster...."
Wasif, Pakistan


"The best memories I have from Syria was when all the family gathered together and we would eat and laugh. I long for Damascus and the old neighbourhoods.."
Farid, Syria


"Most of you may think: “Why do these people go to a lower grade in school?” The reason is that we, in Afghanistan, couldn’t go to school because of the war. This is why we came to your country. I hope we don’t bother you. I am here so that I can study, in order to become a useful person for society. I want to learn many things from you and maybe, you too, will learn something from me. I hope we can become friends and not fight each other...."
Mohammad, Afghanistan


"Syria weeps.
The land that used to be paradise on earth, the land where there was always peace.
The land whose inhabitants were proud to be called Syrians. Just like I was.
The war turned this paradise into hell...."

Raf, Syria


"I write this talisman letter.
And I write it with freedom,
not because I have to.
If I live, I will see you.
If I die, you will have my talisman …"​

Hamid, Pakistan