With nearly 69 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes because of conflict or persecution, we’re currently confronting the highest levels of displacement on record. Thousands of refugees fleeing ongoing conflict in Syria, escalated violence in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and famine in Yemen have arrived at Greece’s borders in recent years. Yet refugees and migrants often flee devastating situations only to be  greeted with an onslaught of criminalizing policies and narratives that restrict their lives and deepen their trauma. The Heal into Action (HIA) program tackles these issues from the inside out — supporting communities to heal from within and to speak out against violent border policies and the anti-immigrant narratives that bolster them. Below you can read more about the upcoming stages of this project and our previous work with refugees and frontline responders in Greece.

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The next phase of Heal Into Action is a Training of Trainers program that works with refugees, migrants, and the staff of organizations who support them, using psychosocial techniques to heal trauma, storytelling and theater to reclaim narratives, and advocacy and activism to take back power, through the four HIA stages: resilience, repair, reclaim, resist.

Participants in the Training of Trainers (ToT) will include people like Eva, a young Kurdish refugee who led youth and women’s programming at Jafra, a Palestinian Syrian refugee-to-refugee support network. Through participating in the HIA workshops:

  • Eva worked with her peers to develop a powerful theater piece speaking out against the policies that confined refugees in overcrowded detention centers on the Greek islands.

  • Through the resilience and repair sections of the workshop, they learned psychosocial support and trauma healing practices, paving the way for them to develop their own activist theater piece with a related petition campaign.

  • Eva reclaimed her own story of being stuck in the harsh camps, performing an expressive testimony in front of a crowd of nearly 100 people, while her peers silently performed a poetic re-enactment on the stage in front of her.

  • Activated by the workshops and the performance, Eva went on to support theater programming at her organization and collaborated in developing the ToT curriculum for Heal Into Action.

In January 2019, we will provide an intensive “training of trainers” for 25 community leaders like Eva, and these 25 trainees will then be prepared to facilitate Heal Into Action groups for hundreds of other refugees and organization staff.  Through expanding the network of trainers with community leaders who are prepared to run Heal Into Action groups across different locations and communities, HIA will be rooted even more deeply in values of sustainability and autonomy.



Once viewed as a temporary entry point for refugees, Greece has now become a years-long stop on an indefinite journey. Refugees are arriving to a country that is still reeling from severe economic crisis, and that lacks adequate facilities and systems for refugee support and resettlement. As the international media spotlight has moved on, organizations are facing the challenge of responding to increased trauma among both refugees and the staff supporting them, while doing so with increasingly limited resources.  We know that short-term solutions can’t solve these deep-rooted problems — so we partner with the people most directly affected to build a network of leaders who are committed to the sustained, long-term work of restoration and transformation. These leaders are trained to create HIA groups in refugee camps and community organizations, guiding other refugees, migrants and staff through the program stages of resilience, repair, reclaim, resist, using participatory exercises and live performances. Launched in Greece in 2016, the HIA model has been steadily refined over the past two years to arrive at a new stage — an intensive Training of Trainers where 25 refugees will go on to train hundreds of refugees and staff members.  Through this new model of creating a network of trainers who are ready to guide their own communities through the program, Heal Into Action will become a more sustainable and replicable training that can be diffused region-wide.


Heal into Action is a series of workshops that combine psychosocial support, reparative techniques, theater exercises, and staff stress management in order to bring together the refugee community and the staff (support coordinators) aiding them.  From 2016 to 2018, Heal into Action led a series of psychosocial support sessions and short workshops in Lesvos and Athens in the areas of staff stress management, child trauma/crisis response, and using theater for change. The network of local theater and mental health practitioners, refugee leaders, and more than 13 organizations provided the basis for a powerful ToT curriculum that we have created and adapted according to the needs of those on the ground. The community and staff who participate in the January 2019 ToT will go on to facilitate groups to hundreds of their peers that can continue healing and growing beyond the limits of short-term funding cycles and to support long-term community change.  This model, developed with feedback from refugees, immigrants, and staff, is built to be adapted to other regions of the world where mass migration is putting a strain on local and migrant communities.

HIA is seeking funds to provide this Training of Trainers to 25 refugees and staff in January 2019 with three organizational partners in Athens. The trainees will be prepared to spread their skills and knowledge to hundreds of fellow refugees and staff in the camps, community shelters, and organizations. These participants will be able to offer training in Greek, Arabic, Farsi, and Kurdish to their communities, bringing in powerful stories and symbols that build on the skills and resilience of their cultures and identities. We’ve partnered with a network of local organizations and lawyers, advocates, and trauma and theater specialists who will offer long-term support by connecting people to campaigns for refugee rights, keeping them up to date about changing laws and policies, and offering concrete support in areas such as job placement.

Donate here to help make the January training possible

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Filmmaking: Rhiza created two short films that helped shape an alternative story of Lesvos that demonstrates the incredible empathy, capacity, and commitment of Greek frontline responders, in oppose to the negative stories.


This short film was created by Rhiza Collective with support from DP/editor Chris Gauthier.