When I was in Athens working in the refugee community in 2016, I had lunch one day with a wise young man. We talked about the work we were doing and I disclosed that I cried a lot, even though being around vulnerable people had never made me cry before. He replied “Well then, maybe you have crossed over from charity to solidarity.”
Since then, I have thought a lot about the difference between charity and solidarity.
I recently read an article by American journalist, Chris Hedges, which proposed that “societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.” https://riseuptimes.org/2018/12/30/american-anomie-by-chris-hedges/
This simple idea reminded me of the many times friends and family have asked me to describe my “volunteer work” with the refugees in Greece or the Caravan in Mexico. I never have a good answer. I say the people I met were kind and grateful in spite of their physical and emotional challenges. I say they were running from persecution created by the neo-liberal world order and forever wars, that some of them played cards on a blanket under a tree.
Three years ago, I went to Greece and my life changed. So I wrote about it.
It has been more than two years since I first arrived on the Greek island of Lesvos where overloaded boats brought refugees to the island’s windy beaches. The people in the boats were mostly young and many were children — wet, cold and hungry, escaping war and persecution in their home countries. Continue reading
Art work by a refugee child at Jasmine squat
I spent most of my fall in Athens even though it is not the kind of place I would normally want to visit for more than a day or two. Athens is a train wreck — dirty, ugly, full of hazards like slippery sidewalks, crazy drivers and railings on sixth floor verandas that are easily scaled by ambitious toddlers. Continue reading
The air is breezy and warm on the balcony of Sayed and Nahid’s 6th floor apartment. The top of a large plastic table is a mosaic of plates piled high with rice and meat and vegetable dishes, mostly Afghan. From the table, we can see the Acropolis — 17 of us perched on rickety chairs or lounging on a small sofa that looks like early Ikea. Continue reading
This morning I walked up the street three blocks to see the damage at a squat called Notara 26. Last night it was set on fire with 120 people inside, among them, a large number of children. When I arrived, residents and volunteers were throwing burned debris out of second story windows and hauling buckets of ashes to dumpsters. The bottom two floors are gutted. Continue reading
Skaramangas is a harbor west of central Athens named after a wealthy English family. It is also a refugee camp at the harbor west of central Athens named after a wealthy English family. Since April, Skaramangas Camp is what must pass for home for 3,000 people from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. It is considered to be one of the good camps.