October 10, 2018
Today Is World Mental Health Day
In 2016 alone, 28 million children around the world were displaced by insecurity and violence; 3,000 of these children currently reside in refugee camps in Greece.
Outside of the city of Kavala in Greece lies Kavala refugee camp, where hundreds of people – including 51 children – currently live. Many of the children in the camp have never attended school, nor have they been allowed access to Greek schools. In light of this, our team – who has been working in the camp since it opened in 2015 – has tried to ensure that the older children (12 and above) are at least involved in part-time educational activities.
Initially, our team coordinated with teachers from the city of Kavala who volunteered their time to teach the children in the camp. Soonafter, we partnered with a local organization called the Mohammed Ali Foundation that provided space and local teachers. The children receive three sessions a week: English on Tuesdays, Greek on Wednesdays, and on Thursdays they practice their new language skills through activities and excursions. Ideally, their new-found language skills will help them in adapting to their new environments.
In addition to providing schooling for the older children, our teams organize activities for the younger children. As DotW psychologist, Eleni Fitou, explains, “Activities for the younger children are very important. They are extremely excited about the chance to go to school, which is not yet possible; but this is an interactive and social learning session. Most of the younger children have never been to school, and this is a vital part of their development.”
In Kavala, we also partnered with Greek author Nikos Kalaitzides, who wrote the book The Journey of Halima. This children’s book draws on Syrian folktales and myths, and recounts the story of Halima, a young girl who travels through a number of unnamed nation-states on her way to Greece. According to DotW Community Mediator, Zoi Xynidou, “This book has been written for children who are refugees, by a Greek author…we wanted to have an event where it could be read.”
Our team in Kavala subsequently organized a reading and performance of the book for the children of the camp. As Zoi recounts, ‘It was a really good activity and this story was something they enjoyed. We also got them involved in painting and making masks of the characters. It helped to give the children an educational activity they can do socially as well.’ Many of the children living in the Kavala camp have experienced endless war, violence and even persecution. While our first priority is to ensure refugee children’s medical needs are met, our teams in Kavala are also trying to bring a sense of normalcy to these often turbulent young lives. Acquiring new language skills is an important first step.