Little Ripples Grow in Greek Refugee Camp
Katiskas Refugee Camp, Greece—Chilis, tomatoes, watermelon, mint, corn, and parsley: all things I love to cook with! As I walk through camp Katiskas with my translator, Abdarahim, knocking on doors to discuss the evening meeting about Little Ripples with women and their families, I have to stop and speak with those who have gardens. What are they growing? How do they use it? Do they share with others in the camp? Abdarahim, Yasmine, and I go back and forth for ten minutes sharing the English and Arabic words for food she is growing in the garden. I taste the mint and parsley, and point to the drying peppers.
“I used to have a small restaurant here. But they wouldn’t let me anymore. So just on Saturday and Sundays, when no [NGOs] are here, I try.”
It’s a beautiful little spot. A refuge of green and blooming flowers in a camp lined with metal ISOBOX containers and gravel pathways. The heat reaches 100 during the summer, while winters drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. There are about 950 people in camp Katiskas, just 20 minutes outside the small Northern mountain town of Ioannina. Families come and go as they receive official refugee status or are reunited with family in a third country. A Kuwaiti Bedouin leader we met in March, Amal, has since moved to the UK and 10 new African women and their children arrived to camp Katiskas just three weeks ago. It is a transient community, waiting idly for support in a country that struggles to meet even the needs of their own people.
As Yasmine and I talked more, she was joined by her adorable two-year-old daughter and encouraged by her husband to attend the informational community meeting about Little Ripples and the next four days of training. Tomorrow morning, I head to back to the camp to take the bus with Yasmine and 30 other women from various countries and who speak Farsi, Arabic, French, and the Kurdish dialects of Sorani and Kurmanji.
Over the next three days of Little Ripples Training I, I hope we will all become great friends. I hope to learn more about their families and their hopes—and hopefully—more about their traditions of food that they have carried with them over wintry mountains, across hot deserts, and over dangerous seas to start a new life. If there is anything that can foster community between people and across cultures, it is sharing a meal and a cup of tea. While we do that, we will also be sure to sprinkle in some early childhood development, mindfulness, and games!
More to come!
These programs are entirely community-led. They made every decision from which day to run the program to what hours and to who will be on the teaching team each day. The teams are diverse and yet they have committed to working together.
Trust in the process. Trust in the modeling before the explanation. Trust in the people. Trust in the children, and they will trust you.
Throughout my time in Nduta, Mandy was my right-hand man, functioning as a patient facilitator, doing his best to accurately translate everything that the Academy coaches wanted to express, and doing it all with positive energy and enthusiasm.