Greece is coping with a huge refugee flows; the large number of people who decided to take the risk of this perilous journey to Europe found us unprepared. It makes perfect sense that the majors concerns of the state, NGOs and solidarity groups are refugees’ health and well-being; the satisfaction of their basic needs if possible.
What happens, though, with the need for psycho-social support, for integration, for expression and communication through creativity? Here we, AMAKA, enter into the first reception centers and the camps where young refugees reside with our Art Emergency initiative. Art Emergency consists of a series of innovative art therapy workshops- therapy through Art. The first cycle was so succesful and necessary so AMAKA designed and implemented a second cycle for other camps in need and refugees residing in downtown Athens.
The workshops have been designed and implemented by our educators and therapists, who built upon the previously accumulated knowledge and experience after years of working with marginal groups (refugees, inmates, women victims of trafficking and sex-workers, homeless population and more). The second cycle, in cooperation with U.S. NGO Mercy Corps, was implemented on the islands of Kos and Leros and in the hub of SYNERGYO in downtown Athens.
This time the workshops were complemented with a series of experiential art therapy workshops for professionals working with refugees. After completion of the training, some of the trainees were chosen to volunteer as assisntants to the educators for the workshops with he young refugees
The safe space of the art therapy workshop reinforces creative expression, dialogue and communal and social ties with the goal of approaching and eventually appeasing the trauma of the participants as well as mitigating their negative experiences. The methodology and the instruments are selected after bibliography and field research, while the carefully structured schedule of activities encourages individual expression and simultaneously boosts the validation of self as part of the community.
The program culminated with three parallel exhibitions showcasing the artistic output of the workshops on 31/03/2017. The exhibition took place in the First Reception and Identification Center of Kos, in the primary school of Lakki in Leros and in the space of SYNERGY-O in Athens. The exhibitions gave the opportunity to the participants to show their works to friends and family and to local NGOs and other partners. The participants proved their familiarization and competency with a multitude of forms of artistic expression such as video, photography, fine arts, paper-making from scratch, clay and many more.
The most hopeful outcome of the workshop which gives us here in AMAKA great joy is the desire of many of the participants to learn new skills and cultivate their artistic expression skills; be it photography, video or other artistic forms such as drama. As usual, it is the first workshop that inspires the participants and gives them hope to go on and make dreams about the future.
In addition to the above, an innovative part of the program was the introduction of the concept of the “youth-led” events and activities. The youth-led events were chosen and organized by the participants themselves in order to practice in taking initiatives and to foster their independence and decision-making skills. A youth-led event could be an excursion or an activity in public space or collective cooking of a group meal or whatever the participants decide. Youth led events is an upcoming concept in the psychosocial support programs in order to strengthen the group and encourage autonomous thinking and actions. Youth-led events were one of the success stories of the program.
The Art Emergency does not stop here though. In the end of May an exhibition is being prepared which will showcase the results of the program on a national level. The exhibition will be under the umbrella of the arts festival mind the fact alongside of a variety of events, performances and activities in public spaces in Athens and Piraeus. On the same period, the experiential Art Emergency training for professionals (social workers, psychologists, artists and more) working with refugees will take place again to satisfy as many potential participants as possible and enable them to participate to this special training.
As the summer approaches, the Art emergency III summer camp is about to take place in Athens. Meanwhile, we are working non-stop for securing the funding and the suitable partnerships to make the Art Emergency IV a reality, in September 2017.
See below a choice of photos from the whole cycle in Athens, Kos and Leros and then read our detailed e-pub on the project embedded.
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