This year we have completed three tours to refugee camps in Northern Greece.
Greece Tours in Total: QUICK FACTS
|Days in the field||24|
|No of partner organisations||7|
|No of performances||33|
|No of workshops||22|
|No of audience||5309|
|No. people reached on parade||4,200|
|No of workshop participants||2227 (approx.. 80 children per show)|
Overview and Reflections from the Team:
Clowns Without Borders UK sent 4 clowns and a photographer to northern Greece refugee camps to perform and lead workshops.
We partnered with Save The Children giving us access to military camps and insider knowledge of where our work would be best placed. In Greece there are two types of camps; controlled military camps and unofficial camps, where anyone can go like the ones in Idomeni or the Ekko gas station, a functioning petrol station with 2000 refugees living in the car park and forecourt.
On our second day in Greece we went to Diavata, a military camp, with well ordered, UNHCR tents in rows, there are showers and toilets. Before we arrive we are warned by the Hellenic Red Cross that earlier that day there had been a fire, 10 tents had burnt down. We watched as people picked through the burnt rubble looking for any remaining belongings, the tension and emotion in the camp was palpable. It is difficult to know if we should perform but the conversation from the night before with Sotiris from the Red Cross comes in to my mind; ‘When I see something collapse I need to restore it, one way to do that is with laughter”. As the Red Cross took to work finding new bedding for the families that had lost their homes, we took to work performing for the children.
Idomeni and the other unofficial camps are much more ad-hoc, chaotic and open. People have set up stalls selling water, cigarettes and falafel. We performed in the Idomeni Cultural centre, a grand name for what is a tent built from pallets, with a raised area outside so that it can be used all year round. There is netting over head to shade the children and a white plastic fence around the outside to create a held focused space. The children had heard the clowns were coming and were so excited to see us. Our show is light and playful, we enter the stage and the audience claps so we clowns bow, and they keep clapping so we keep bowing, there is more and more laughter and the show that follows is magic.
One of the volunteers at the Idomeni Cultural center commented
This is the first time I have seen the children like this, it was as if they became one, the quiet, the focus. – Volunteer – Mohamed, South Syria, age 17, translator
“Hotel Hara is a working gas station and motel near Idomeni. It is now also an informal camp with hundreds of Syrian, Afghani and Pakistani refugee families living in small camping tents. Yesterday was possibly the first CWB show there and it was magical. Before the show, the field was an empty, littered and sad space. Afterwards, the field became a playground and came alive with singing, dancing, grandmas squirting children with water bottles, children showing off their acrobatics and human wheelbarrows! Thanks to volunteers from a local organisation called Steki, which means ‘home away from home’ for their amazing support.
“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed – to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is – Parker J. Palmer”
Our first show was at Camp Vasilika. The children were very excited to see us. Some knew us from last time. We started with a parade around the camp and after the show we created a large circle and play games with the children. The feedback was really positive:
“I think you work is really good for the health of the children it gives them a chance to escape” – Volunteer, Save the Children.