The recent surge of refugees arriving to the Greek islands has nearly doubled the number of refugees there since the summer, yet they are arriving to a country that is in protracted economic crisis. Once viewed as a temporary entry point for refugees, Greece has now become a years-long stop on an indefinite journey. The country’s lack of adequate facilities and systems for resettlement has dire consequences for refugee women and children, who now make up a majority of the refugees trapped in Greece. With nearly 7,000 refugees crowded into facilities intended for fewer than 2,500 people in the Moria Camp in Lesvos, one refugee said that "sitting in the camp is like being in an open-air prison."
Building on our previous work in the region, Rhiza will return to Greece in January 2017 to work with incredible partner organizations that provide refugee-to-refugee support for Syrian and Palestinian refugees and support channels for dialogue between refugee communities and the Greek public. Below you can read more about this upcoming project and our previous work with refugees and frontline responders in Greece.
As part of our long-term project Heal Into Action, we are collaborating with the Living Theatre and building on the previous work we have done in Greece. The integrated training we have developed creates a foundation of healing for refugee communities, as well as the frontline staff supporting them, to collectively process their experience and manage trauma, create narratives of their experience through storytelling and theatre, and develop advocacy skills to insert their stories and perspectives into policy discussions.
We see training as a critical process for building the long-term capacity of communities to recover and collectively make the changes they need. In contrast to the model of parachuting in to deliver services, our training approach supports the ability of those directly impacted by crisis to lead a long-term, sustainable process of healing and change.
Psychosocial support is a model of collective growth that heals psychological wounds and rebuilds social structures during or after an emergency or critical event. The community resilience framework builds on existing strengths and resources and incorporates cultural arts, spiritual traditions, and existing informal care and kinship structures into the model.
Working with the Afya Foundation, Rhiza initiated its work on Project Spora on the island of Lesvos Greece in August 2016. The project consisted of:
Trainings: Rhiza conducted more than 24 trainings based on the needs of frontline organizations and communities. Training areas included:
Rhiza trained organizational staff and community connectors — those who communities on the move turn to in times of crises — based on existing and culturally relevant relationships of trust. This included guards at refugee camps, caregivers, interpreters, rescue teams, refugee community leaders, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and child protection officers. Afya worked extensively with each organization to ensure that the length and content of trainings met the needs of teams responding to crisis and offering long-term support for refugees.
Healing Workshops and Psychosocial Support Sessions: Rhiza offered healing and storytelling workshops to over 60 youth in the Moria detention camp and Co-Existence, a Greek local organization. The intergenerational and cross-community storytelling supports young refugees and local host communities to heal from their pasts and build a strong vision for their futures.
Additionally, Rhiza supported offered more than 13 group and individual psychosocial support sessions to key organizations to address trauma triggers, understand communication styles under stress, restore and rebuild relationships impacted by trauma, and create boundaries and policies that enforced staff care.
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.