Curry pasta, Greek yogurt, and ice cream waffles- a curious spread for a weekend brunch. As volunteers on the island of Lesvos, Greece, our first official weekend finally arrived, and we were ready for it! We were all thrilled to have a day to explore the city of Mytilene and fully immerse ourselves in the Greek way of life. That meant walking through the harbor and exploring the island shops; an activity that we all enjoyed. Full immersion in the Greek way of life is also not possible without the instituted nap that occurs from 2-5 pm daily.
Following our nap, we made a democratic decision to go and explore the Hope Project Warehouse. We left our house with vague directions, little Greek, and high hopes for this expedition. Here on the island the people and volunteers take the bus just about everywhere. After getting off on our stop, we quickly realized that we were going to need some help to get to the right place. Eventually we made our way to the warehouse. However, our journey included some minor disorientation, climbing a large dirt hill in our sandals and flip flops, and making a small group of Greek men laugh at our efforts as they watched our clearly misguided, but successful, attempt to reach our destination.
We were relieved when we saw the Hope Project sign and were unsure what to expect. The warehouse has been serving as a refugee outlet for many to come and express their feelings through art, whether through sculpting, painting, or drawing. It has restored hope to many refugee’s and volunteers on the island. Within moments of our arrival we were greeted by a man named Joseph who we had become friends with while working in Camp Moria. We received a personal tour of the art collection and an in-depth explanation of the paintings on display and the stories behind them.
The overall feeling in the warehouse quickly turned to a somber state as we empathized with the sorrow and hardships of the trails that many refugees have encountered for years. Joseph, an artist of many of the paintings here, quickly reminded us: “Remember to always have hope.” A saying he closed with uniting his hands as if saying a silent prayer. Every piece of art in the room was also an amazing reminder of the power of hope.
A few moments later, chairs were distributed to each of us and three refugee men began testing microphones for a musical performance. The music began at a slower pace, the first piece was a song on Piano, “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Slowly the music became unrecognizable and the pace and rhythm picked up to a much more upbeat tempo. The guitar, hand drum, piano, and vocals formed together to create music unlike anything we had heard before. The music was some of the most beautiful we have ever heard. In some small way each song allowed us a slight insight into the pain, happiness, and hope that comes with being a refugee.
One of our favorite parts of the night was the dancing that happened after the music. We learned several traditional African dances and had such a fun time “shaking it” on the dance floor. At the end of each African dance we would form a circle and each member of our group would take turns entering the circle to show off our dancing skills. It was so fun to watch everyone, especially the refugee men who were extremely talented dancers. We had an amazing first day off in Greece and could not have spent our time any better!
HELP International Greece Team 2018
Jordan Dearborn & Amanda Hernandez