On the Ground in Greece: A PYE Facilitator’s Personal Account

 by PYE Facilitator Ed Wade-Martins 

Ed Wade-Martin (right) with an ELIX facilitator and participant in PYE's practitioner training in Athens, July 2016 (Photo credit: Themis Gkion - flowathens.com)

Ed Wade-Martins (right) with a participant in PYE practitioner training with ELIX in Athens, July 2016 (Photo credit: Themis Gkion, flowathens.com)

ELIX praise for Ed and GaniBeing a part of our collaboration with ELIX on developing projects working with refugee children this summer had a huge impact on me. It’s strange to be back home under the blandness of grey English skies knowing that the Greek summer school is now well underway. The children are picked up from their camps and brought to a lovely little primary school not far away. They gather in a circle and sing together, play games and get to know what it feels like to be in a new kind of learning community. Each day they have classes and workshops learning Greek and English; they explore the creative realms of art, music and theatre and play sports in the playground.

It was enormously profound to see the children’s excitement and joy to be coming to school. Seeing the tentative gratitude of their mothers and fathers sitting on a bench in the playground watching their children play was almost heart breaking. Hearing the children’s stories of what they had been through I knew could be almost too much to bare. These people have lost everything including family and friends and now are homeless in a foreign land. Perhaps they’ll stay. They so want their children to go to school to learn so they can create a better world for themselves.

The project in Athens took place on many levels. We first met the fantastic team from ELIX, a charity that has organized volunteers from all over Europe to run positive projects for the last 30 years. They were so inspiring and they were also inspired by what we had to offer. It was a deep meeting of souls and we were excited by what was possible through collaborating.

We began by leading a 2-day Creative Facilitation training for the newly enrolled facilitators and teachers for the summer school. They soaked up the whole process, excited to be learning new techniques. They also met with their own creative edges exploring this journey in relation to themselves and their work. Afterwards they commented on how they felt like such a strong team and couldn’t believe they had only known each other for just a few days.

Together with the core team from ELIX we then designed the structures and a daily flow for the upcoming summer school. We set up teams to teach classes together and dreamt up workshops for them to deliver. We created goals and agreements for the creative communities they would be supporting and the team began to feel ready and prepared to begin the school.

That first morning was chaos. Meeting the children and families at the refugee camps and the process of registering the children hinted at the chaos and hardships that their community was dealing with everyday. We worked with translators in English, Greek, Farsi and Arabic as we gathered the children who themselves had travelled from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia to reach safety. The screams of joy when they finally arrived at school after walking through the heat that first morning made the whole initial process worthwhile. They dived onto the tables of art materials to create colorful name badges and greeted our team of eager helpers with smiles. We knew that something fantastic was beginning.

There were all sorts of challenges during the first two days, but the team stayed positive and flexible, and was able to hold a safe container to overcome the initial problems. We supported the staff in debriefing the initial phase and left knowing that those kids are in good hands and that they will have the most fantastic summer held in a loving learning environment.

At this time, this work is the healing that is needed in our communities. Crossing boundaries of language, culture and religion, children were being allowed to be children once again. These people are innocent victims of someone else’s war and their children seek the love and embrace that we hope for our own children. We cannot ever underestimate the power and importance of this work to heal the wounds that we carry inside.


3 Responses to On the Ground in Greece: A PYE Facilitator’s Personal Account

  • Ed describes in such detail and so vividly the process. Yes there was a lot of hard work in the preparation stages but we were very fortunate to have Ed and Gani. They helped the team of pedagogues and volunteers to bond which was absolutely essential given the challenges they had to face: In the midst of the summer heat they were asked to work with children with no school culture in their majority, from different ethnic groups, having gone through traumatic experiences in their home countries and during their journey to come here, living as refugees. The pedagogues really need all the support they can get to deal with the everyday day challenges and they are able to do it because they were made a team in these first two days of training and continue to support each other through our daily circle of support every afternoon after the camp finishes.
    As the first camp is coming to its closure next week and the next one is about to begin we can only say that this has been a very positive experience for the children and we can tell it from their smiles and from the fact they do not want to leave when the bus comes to pick them up and are forming the line to come to the school an hour earlier every morning. We have already 150 applications for August and the parents have been telling us on every occasion how their children’s behavior has changed thanks to the program.

    Yes it has been a tough process but it has been extremely fulfilling and we have been well prepared for it. Thank you again Ed and Gani and PYE team for your tremendous support.

    Voula Samara, Education Coordinator

  • Thank you so much for your update, Voula! We are so happy to hear of the building support and strong interest in your camps that have such an impact. The PYE team is cheering you on and so inspired by ELIX the passion and heart shown by the entire team there. We look forward to hearing more as the work progresses, and the circle of empowerment widens!

  • As a retired teacher of elementary aged children I find your story so inspiring. I have also worked in an outdoor adventure camp for children and teens and know how empowering that experience was for children and the adults who guided them through the process. “Life changing” was the expression often used to describe the experience for staff and youth alike! My friend has just completed a PYE workshop and shared it with myself and a therapist friend. As my background is in the arts (visual art, music and drama) I could relate so strongly to your program! Getting out of the dominant left hemisphere of the brain and stimulating the right hemisphere provides such a feeling of relief and completeness in myself and I know what wonders it can create – what doors it can open for adults and children. This is so needed in our left brained dominant driven world in these days. Seeing and experiencing life “outside of the box” is essential for the healing, creativity and decision making requirements of our modern, troubled age of environmental, economic, and social collapse. Thank you so much for what you are doing.

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