For refugees we have come to know, the most difficult season is winter. The basics of life take all one’s strength, volunteers slip away to their regular lives, and finding one’s mettle grows more difficult.
Some of our friends from the unofficial encampment known as Calais Jungle, with foresight and determination, studied French as though their life depended on it, which indeed it did. Many are studying at university in Lille, France. Those whose PTSD, needs, concerns, and lack of formal education led them in less disciplined directions, are finding small jobs, studying French outside university, cooking for friends. With the closure of EU borders and French accommodation centers, and asylum hard to come by, many are floundering.
Many young refugees at Skaramagas Camp in Athens go to school. Fewer avail themselves of classes like those offered by El Sistema in music. Like most refugees in Europe, they shiver, their clothes not up to the task of keeping them warm.
Those who arrived in Calais after the demolition of the camp in October 2016 face police brutality and scant supplies. Intrepid volunteers with Refugee Community Kitchen manage police interference when delivering meals to keep them alive.
For Expressive Arts Refuge, winter is a time of separation from refugees we’ve come to love. We no longer see them as refugees, but as multidimensional people whom fate has not favored. We keep in touch on social media, and research camps in which to run our summer, 2018 music program.
It remains a privilege to witness their warmth and resilience as well as their despair and anger. If fate removed our privileges — home, family, work, a future in a place of our choosing – I wonder how well we would pull together, graciously accept help, learn a new language, delve into our souls for refuge.
Donate to Expressive Arts Refuge here. One hundred per cent of our donations go directly to help refugees. None are used to pay for the expenses of our all-volunteer team.