THESSALONIKI// 25.11.2017 – 27.11.2017 //
The 2nd transnational event of the ‘You are Welcome’ project took place in Thessaloniki, Greece from 24-27 November 2017.
Coordination meeting, 25/11/17 from 10:00 to 12:00
On the 25th of November in the morning, representatives of the partner organizations from the Czech Republic (Institut pro regionaini rozvoj, o.p.s.), Denmark (Othernessproject), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Center for Intercultural Dialogue -CID), Germany (Jugend- & Kulturprojekt e.V. Memorare Pacem and the Municipality of Dresden), Greece (Addart and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Hungary (Gláser Jakab Emlékalapítvány) and the United Kingdom (Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council) met at the City Hall of Thessaloniki to discuss the progress of the project. All partners presented what the activities and work they have done, regarding the survey, the local campaign and the local workshop “You and I – We are not so different”.
In the afternoon, the international workshop “Otherness Dialogue” led by Dr. Rita Júlia Sebestyén was held, based on theatre techniques, storytelling and drawing which fostered self-reflection and cultural interaction. During the workshop, Rita incited the participants to time travel to their childhood and remember a song or lullaby that they used to listen and sing when they were children. They were asked to write the song down picking a coloured pencil and drawing something connected to that song/lullaby. After this activity each participant read aloud the song in his/her mother tongue, explained what the song was about and showed the drawing that each made. A very important part of this activity was to reflect on the reasons each participant picked a particular song and what the song meant to each of them, to think about the colour of the pencil they to draw, what the drawing symbolised and the word that best described the song that each participant selected.
Another activity followed, where participants were asked to pick a personal item which they had with them and it is important to them. Then each participant was asked to give this item as present to one of the people in the group explaining why this item is so important to them and why they decided to give this present to this specific person. Each participant finally got a “present” and they were all asked to place on a table. In this activity, they reflected on the item they selected to offer to one of the participants and to the one that they were given. Moreover, they reflected on the position of the personal items on the table and on the feeling of receiving and giving a gift. Rita asked the group which action made them feel happier: to give or to receive a gift. This reflection helped them understand more about themselves and their relation to other people.
Public event “You ARE Welcome” 25/11/17
In the evening, the public event “YOU ARE WELCOME” started at 17:00 at the Museum of the Roman Forum. The organisers of the event, Dimitris Savvaidis and Milos Jovic from AddArt opened the event with a salutation speech. Myrto-Helena Pertsinidi, the coordinator of the project (Jugend- & Kulturprojekt e.V.), welcomed all the guests and spoke about the project’s aims and activities as well as the transnational event in Thessaloniki. The Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Prof. Xenofin Sachinis gave a salutation speech highlighting the importance of such events that foster cultural exchange and dialogue and tackle Hate Speech, Racism and Xenophobia, mentioning that such actions are warmly supported by the Aristotle University Of Thessaloniki. Mrs. Qazi Marzia Babakarkhail spoke about the project and the public event in Arabic, Farsi and Ourdou and welcomed all attendees coming from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The public event included the photo exhibition “Dreaming of a New Life” by the photographer and film director Morteza Jafari. Being a political refugee himself, the refugee issue in Greece urged him to go to Greek islands nearby Turkey and capture moments where refugees set their feet on land in Greece. Morteza interviewed refugees and migrants who arrived in Greece in 2015, Greek people who live on the Greek islands and people that work in international humanitarian organisations and finally he produced the documentary film “Dreaming of Life” which is about the difficult journey of refugees and their hope to start a new life in Europe where they feel safe and secure. Morteza also visited Idomeni, on the borders between Northern Greece and FYROM – Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and witnessed the conditions under which the refugees were staying before and after the borders were closed.
The illustration exhibition “Human Right – Human Wrong”, an initiative of the NGO AddArt raising awareness on Human Rights was also a part of the public event. The illustration works were created by Greek artists who were particularly interested in the meaning and the significance of Human Rights and their illustrations thwarted racial and cultural clichés. Out of the illustration posters, illustration postcards were also created which were then distributed during the event among the participants to spread the personal messages of the artists involved all over the world.
The female vocal group Pleiades performed melodies from different regions and countries all over the world singing in different languages. Their songs were referring to migration and people’s constant life journey.
Later on, the documentary film “School on the Move” was screened which is part of the documentary series produced by Europa Transit, a team based in Donostia/San Sebastian in Spain. This documentary offers an artistic activity to refugee and migrant children at the Cherso refugee camp (in the north of Thessaloniki, Greece): the creation of an animated short film through which refugee and migrant children could express their feelings, concerns and wishes in relation to the school they do not have and would like to have. Matthias Neutzner from Memorare Pacem e.V. (Dresden, Germany) explained more about the Europa Transit team’s series and led over to the final part of the evening, a screening of selected short animation films about Human Rights by TAF (Thessaloniki Animation Festival).
The public event in Thessaloniki, within the framework of the Europe for Citizens project “YOU ARE WELCOME” gathered more than 300 people from many different countries, cultural backgrounds, age groups and religions. These people honored the event with their presence and active participation and proved that cultural diversity is possible and can be an asset instead of a problem!
Meeting of partners – 26/11/17
On Sunday the 26th of November 2017, the participants met in the morning at the City Hall of Thessaloniki and Dr. Rita Júlia Sebestyén held a lecture-performance which showcased some of the basic tools used by the body-mind-soul workshops of Othernessproject to shed light on corner stones of their methodologies, their psychological, social and philosophical background, whilst offering space for discussion.
Later on, Dimitris Savvaidis from AddArt presented the local comic workshop “My Hero” implemented by AddArt where refugee and migrant children were gathered. The workshop took place at the Day Centers of Refugees and Youth of Thessaloniki where AddArt made visits along with a group of artists. Each child instructed the comic artists to draw live imaginary heroes according to their descriptions. The artwork was displayed and exhibited to show that the heroes of these children are similar and not far from the heroes we envision. Bringing a sense of familiarity, the workshop aims to break stereotypical images. The drawings were presented at the Transnational Event and needless to say, they impressed everybody!
Study Visit at ARSIS – 26/11/17
On Sunday afternoon, November 26th, the representative of the partner organizations visited ARSIS – Association for the Social Support of Youth. Since 1993, the association works on providing care and support for unaccompanied minors. Due to the massive influx of refugees the last two years, ARSIS directed its help and support to unaccompanied minors. The organization runs two types of help. On one hand, they host unaccompanied children in residences and “safe-zones” and on the other hand, they support the young arrivals and their families though cultural activities in support centers. The main target are the unaccompanied children, who have in Greece a very precarious status. Indeed, while being alone, these children are taken to protective custodies where they go though medical examinations before being sent to residences. Although this form of custody should be temporary, it tends to last for months as the residences are full. In these protective custodies, the children face difficult living conditions and can be also abused by other prisoners. For this reason, ARSIS implemented some years ago a pilot program called “safe-zones” which are transit residencies for unaccompanied minors after leaving from the protective custodies. In the safe-zones, the organization provides minors accommodation in containers that have a capacity of 6 people each, food and clothes but also social and administrative support. Indeed, having faced such traumatic situation, the minors needed to be supported regarding the integration. The daily life is difficult as the minors seek for material security and are sometimes are reluctant towards the activities proposed by the social workers, who are always with them. ARSIS runs currently six residences in Thessaloniki and its surroundings and hosts 30 male youngsters between fourteen and eighteen years old. They also have a house for kids who have been abused. In addition, the organization runs four support centers implementing social activities for the integration and inclusion of refugee minors and their families. These projects are mainly financed by the UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) and UNICEF( United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). Although the difficulties they deal with daily are many, there is a great will from ARSIS and its people to do anything possible so that unaccompanied minors can stay in a safe environment.
Closure of the transnational meeting – 26/11/17
In the evening, the representatives of the partner organizations met at the City Hall to discuss the next steps of ‘YOU ARE WELCOME’ project and the 3rd international event that is planned to take place in May 2018 in Budapest, Hungary. Jugend- & Kulturprojekt e.V. as the coordinator of the “YOU ARE WELCOME” project would like to thank the team of AddArt (GR) that organized the event, Dr. Rita Julia Sebestyen for the “Otherness workshop”, the Municipality of Thessaloniki that hosted the meetings and workshops at the City Hall of Thessaloniki, the Ephorate of Antiquities of the City of Thessaloniki that hosted the public event at the Museum of the Roman Forum, the television channel TV100 Thessaloniki for their great support and all the partner organisations for their active participation.