An update from Greece

Hi all. This is Hayley. I've been back in Europe for a few weeks, first visiting Syrian family newly resettled in France, and then on to visiting the Yazidi group that LHI helps provide aid for, and popping over to Lesvos to check out the conditions on the island and see where we can fill some gaps. Refugee work is kinda like an energy drink -- it gives you the highest highs and the lowest lows. It's pouring rain outside here in the port town of Mytilini, which is both lulling me to a restless sleep and also making me crazy worried about the 8,000 refugees living in flimsy tents and abandoned squats around the island. More on Lesvos soon (I haven't quite processed the desperation I witnessed today to write it down yet). So, in the meantime, here's an update on our main project in Greece.

Serres camp, the camp we normally are based in and provide aid/services to. Currently home to 500+ Yazidis from Sinjar, Iraq. 500+ survivors of a horrific genocide. 500+ people who are full of grace and gentleness. The actual camp has been temporarily closed for much-needed improvements to infrastructure. Where are they now that the camp is closed, you may ask? They have been moved to various hotels in a small, sleepy seaside town in Northern Greece where locals don't actually obey the one traffic light in town. They've finally got heated rooms, hot water, and actual beds, which is so necessary, as it has been an extremely cold winter. The transition back to the camp will naturally be tough, but let's not think about that right now. 

We've rented a space from a sweet Greek couple in the town, where we continue to provide hygiene and food distribution, as well as hosting English practice, music sessions, and trauma-informed yoga for children, men, and women. Yes yoga. And yes, men's yoga. In fact, men's yoga is one of our most in-demand classes. As survivors of genocide, I can only imagine how soothing mindfulness can be to them. And it's not just that -- waiting and waiting to find out where you will be assigned resettlement without knowing when is enough to rattle anyone's cage.

We are so grateful for all of the residents. They are beautiful, gentle, patient people. They've become like family to us. Every time we try to help them, it's actually they who are helping us. I am in constant awe of their kindness. 

We host an advanced English group to a handful of interested teenage girls. We can't believe how much they've improved since LHI started working with this group of Yazidis in early August of last year. They are legitimately becoming fluent in English. Every time I visit, I'm shocked at their progress and passion.

Tawna F. is one of our current volunteers who runs the advanced English sessions. Here are some of her pictures and thoughts:


"Teaching these girls is a ride. (A good one.) They are so full of energy and excitement and they just want to eat up anything I can teach them. They are the best part of my day.  We did a picture scavenger hunt for fun (and to test vocab comprehension) and these girls probably ran a full mile just to get an authentic photo of cheese and a boat. :) They were incredibly into it."

"Teaching these girls is a ride. (A good one.) They are so full of energy and excitement and they just want to eat up anything I can teach them. They are the best part of my day.  We did a picture scavenger hunt for fun (and to test vocab comprehension) and these girls probably ran a full mile just to get an authentic photo of cheese and a boat. :) They were incredibly into it."

"After class one day, my Advanced English students and I decided to take a walk. Seeing these girls run so freely, laughing as they kicked up the sand behind them, was an image I never want to forget."

"After class one day, my Advanced English students and I decided to take a walk. Seeing these girls run so freely, laughing as they kicked up the sand behind them, was an image I never want to forget."

"One thing I love about this work is the people it brings together from all over the world. In this photo we had 3 Iraqis, an American, Mexican, Frenchman, Egyptian, and an Irish lass, jamming out to an Iraqi Saz and a Bolivian guitar. All in one small room in Greece. :)"

"One thing I love about this work is the people it brings together from all over the world. In this photo we had 3 Iraqis, an American, Mexican, Frenchman, Egyptian, and an Irish lass, jamming out to an Iraqi Saz and a Bolivian guitar. All in one small room in Greece. :)"