Active Citizens Partnership organized two ateliers for Exuli project from the 29th of March until the 19th of April. The ateliers “Say it with words” and “Say with images” took place in the center of Athens in cooperation with an Iranian cultural organization .
Thirty people expressed interest to attend and we chose twenty mostly men and two women.
The facilitator and the second person who attended the ateliers “Saying with Words” and “Saying with Images” faced many challenges.
In the beginning the participants could not understand the purpose of the projects and how the ateliers could be useful to them.
We started with a presentation –clarification on what the project Exuli is, what is the purpose, how the expressing tools and the ateliers will be organized, the methodology and the theory of the project.
Participants presented themselves with different means such as using simple words that describe themselves or images of themselves. It was helpful that most of the participants were from Iran and Afghanistan so they had a common language and could understand each other.
The tools used during these two ateliers were outlined in the Compendium and the facilitators during the work with the participants implemented most of the tools to express. We used poetry from both countries, storytelling, tales, famous persons, maps etc.
Through these two ateliers, young asylum seekers and refugees, expressed themselves and shared their life story with each other and the facilitator. A safe reflective space was developed in the ateliers not from the beginning but as the work was progressing.
There was a lot of discussion on topics that are hurtful such as:
- Where is my house
- I will not be able to see my country again
- family-missing my family
- exodus from the country
- exile, racism
- Trauma, nightmares,
- new life
Refugees shared their personal story, their inner life, and their confidential truth and the facilitators got an idea of their life that they left behind, of their cultural background, their values and beliefs.
Refugees and asylum seekers who attended the ateliers can become a bridge between the people of Greece and the countries they come from, a cultural, economic and a personal bridge. Sharing their personal story, their inner life, and their confidential truth gave the facilitators a glimpse into their life and their difficult past. Participating in the ateliers no longer are they refugees who came in our country, instead they are human beings sharing one of their life moments or stories, sending a message and thus increasing their credibility to be Rezgar, Ribouar, Fariba, Pugia, Umit, Ahmad, Sahida…
The focus of expression ateliers (say it with words, say it with images) on trauma narrative gave at the end a great potential to participants to learn, to connect with others and to express themselves.
During the first two ateliers we helped to raise confidence of participants, give the opportunity to express feelings using the Lacanian orientation and increase the social interaction of the group.
ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS
Most of the participants were men, age between 15 to 30 with some schooling in their country of origin. Very few from the twenty participants had higher education in their countries. Participants from Afghanistan had left their country in a young age fleeing war to neighbor countries mostly in Pakistan and then a long trip to Europe.
More than half of the participants had a very hard time to reach Greece and at some point, of their journey were faced with imprisonment and dangerous situations.
During the ateliers “Saying with Words” and “Saying with Images” most of them opened up to talk about their life, their fears, their dreams and expectations.
In an exercise with boxes they were asked to choose a box that the facilitator had provided and close in it and throw away what hurts them more, most of them closed in the box war, poorness, lack of rights, not able to dream…. And tried to get rid of it.
My name is Rezgar, and I’m a refugee from Kurdistan, Iran. İt’s about two years that I left my country because of political reasons that I had. I lived in Turkey for a year and after I moved to Greece last year. My immigration way was so complicated and hard. It was full of different good and bad memories. And also full of precious experiences of my Odyssey to here.
ABOUT THE FACILITATORS
There were two facilitators, Athanasia Defingou and Marina Koutsou .
Athanasia Defingou: has long experience working with vulnerable people especially with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants, trying to equip them with life skills in order to cope in the new life away from their countries. She empowers people to start all over their lives
Marina Koutsou: is a psychologist and volunteer worker with refugees and asylum seekers.
All participants found the ateliers interesting, the expressing tools very useful because they felt a sense of freedom in use and creativity as well. Traumatic experiences from their exodus follow them and many times become very heavy in their life, exodus, exile, torture and loosing loved ones, fear, loss of hope were the main problems they discussed. Being in the new country they want to cover basic needs first and then try to close their wounds. The role of compendium was fundamental to facilitators. The sum of our work in the field is very well presented theoretically by Colette Soler when she argues that the modern subject is weakened, even helpless, because the current discourse does not have a strong Other to lean on. During the two ateliers the facilitators tried …. to give them the place so that they can be heard.