These Are Real People

Our amazing ambassador Mary has spent the past few weeks at EKO Project in Thessaloniki, Greece…

“I’m sure that many of you have slept in a tent before, right? On holiday with your family in the summer months. With friends at festivals. In the back of your garden as a child when you felt adventurous and wanted to live out in ‘the wild’. But never for more than a few days at a time, a week or two at most.

Try living in one for a year. Or in some cases, even longer. This is the real wilderness…and it’s not so fun.

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Hidden away in the outskirts of Thessaloniki, ‘home’ is a small shared tent inside an abandoned battery chicken warehouse. It’s windy and cold and the lights flicker on and off as the electricity fails every five minutes. The echoing noises of children screaming, people chattering and rain falling down on the corrugated iron roof is enough to drive anyone insane.

This is no way for a child to grow up. Their childhood memories will be bombs, explosions, refugee camps and misery.

Trapped in Greece, these kids grow older every day, not in school, not in houses, not even living in the real world.

It’s a waiting game. Waiting until their interview in Athens, sometimes up to half a year away and even then it’s still not decided whether they will be able to go to another country. Every day that goes by, every child grows a day older in this empty and hopeless place.

The thing I find amazing about children is their resilience. Despite their horrendous situation, they find the positive side to everything, always laughing, smiling and being incredibly friendly to everyone they meet.

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Day by day the children of Vasillika camp in Thessaloniki come to EKO Project to learn, play and create. EKO Project is a haven for these kids to get out of the camp and enjoy some creative activities, language lessons, sports, music and food. We do our best to provide a happy and entertaining environment for these children and to give their parents a break. The team of volunteers that work tirelessly with these kids are amazing, always using their initiative, creativity and good will to make EKO a positive environment for everyone.

These people are hidden away in the countryside, hidden from the real world. The government cover up the problem instead of dealing with it and the result is this. Thousands of people trapped behind fences in warehouses, and like animals waiting to be processed for market, these people are waiting to be processed for relocation in Europe.

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These are real people. Real children. Real families. And this situation is their reality. The world has gone silent but the people still suffer.

I want these children to look back at this mess when they are older and see their time in EKO as a happy one amongst the mass of bad memories. I want them to remember the volunteers that spent so much time and energy to get to know them, love them and care for them. I want them to remember us as the small ray of sunshine that broke through the black clouds.”

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