The refugee flows to Lesvos are increasing, while there is no clarity as to what will happen with this emergency that has placed our island in the centre of international interest. One thing is clear, however. After the agreeement between the European Union and Turkey and the closure of the European borders, a few thousands of refugees and immigrants have been “trapped“ in Lesvos, some of them for more than six months.
The Ministry of Education might have some kind of plan for the educational needs of refugee children, but the State, as it has already been proven, has no overall plan for the everyday life of these people. At the same time, non-governmental organisations, financed by European programmes, have “invested“ their efforts in providing for some of their basic every day needs, but not for others, equally important. It is against this context that volunteers from the organizations “Lesvos Solidarity“ and “Borderline-Europe“ have opened the “Mosaik Support Centre“ not only for refugees, but for local people as well. Efi Latsoudi and Julian Koeberer gave “E“ a guided tour of the centre.
“Mosaik“ is open from morning till late afternoon, from Monday through Friday. It provides lessons in Greek and in foreign languages, English, Arabic and Farsi, as well as in creative activities, such as painting, crafts and use of recycled materials. Babies with their mothers, together with tens of other refugees of all ages frequent the centre every week.
Moreover, the volunteers, with the help of the “Doctors without Borders“, have secured the purchase of bus tickets, thus providing both free transport to the refugees from and to Moria and Kara Tepe and contributing to the local economy. The latter is pursued in other ways as well. For example, the renovation of the building, which dates back to 1868 and is considered part of the national heritage, was entrusted to a Greek architect. Most of the teachers hired are also from the local community.
“Apart from those who want to teach on a voluntary basis, we sought and hired professionals to develop an overall effective and appropriate didactic methodology and guidance for all. By doing so“, Efi and Julian explained, “we also provided employment to local people. This is in line with our objective of integration.”
How is Mosaik financed? In fact, it has already secured its operation for one year. It depends on private donations as well as donations from churches from all over Europe. “Why don’t you apply to a European programme,“ we asked the volunteers. It became clear that the people behind this initiative had not considered this option. For the time being, they do not feel that they can approach the European Union for support, also on ideological and political grounds, since they consider Europe responsible for the conditions under which the refugees are kept.
Apart from the lessons taught, Mosaik offers recreational activities for small children, so that their parents can follow classes. In addition, the refugees can find, here, psychological and legal support from experts. Furhtermore, the refugees can participate in a number of workshops. For example, they can learn to recycle life jackets into handbags or make other objects which they can, in turn, sell in Europe and thus gain some income and contribute to the local economy.
“The philologist, Katerina Evstathiou-Selaha, well known for her work with the organization “Embrace“ in Kalloni, is teaching as a volunteer at Mosaik and had these words for our newspaper:
“Mosaik is an amazing space that has been created by its founders with a lot of attention, respect and enthousiasm. It sets an example for similar initiatives in other parts of Greece and symbolizes a lot. First of all, it is an inclusive space so that the refugees come in contact with the people of Mytilini.
It is a reaching out hand of friendship in the heart of the city. Apart from the lessons, there have been a number of cultural events that were attended by local people who come here on their own initiative ready to interact with the people of Mosaik. For us, our experience with the students is full of feelings. We do not simply teach the Greek language. We get to know them, we form strong bonds which, at least up till now, have proven very important both for us and our students.
Photographs by Empros and Julian Koeberer
Translation by Sappho Haralambous
Recipient: borderline-europe e.V.
IBAN: DE 54 4306 0967 4005 7941 02