“I am a traveler and a learner. I have been volunteering in several countries for years now, focusing specially in disadvantaged communities. My father was Syrian and that is one of the many reasons why I am looking forward to the Route: I will never be able to see the Syria he told me about but I do really want to help the Syrians (and others) find a place where they can feel home again.”
“We are completely discriminated because we are from Serbia.. because it is a free country, they think it is Paradise.
Not for us.”
Serbian refugee, 29 years old
Mosaik Support Center
Mosaik Support Center for Refugees and Locals aims to integrate refugees and the local community in Lesvos, through language classes, vocational training, workshops, cultural events and much more. The colorful painted walls of the center welcome everyone who wants to join one of the many classes provided (20 to 25 per day on average) for free. However, this is not a place to just sit down and chill in the city, but to really study and learn – no food and drinks are allowed and no Wi-Fi connection is provided, as the center works following a school model. Two absences in class for no reason also means you are not registered anymore. Over this solidity learning design, the center aims to bond migrants and local community, and also gives some sense of normality for the migrants living in the camps. As their webpage states “by learning a language or a craft, producing art or joining creative projects, by seeking support in the asylum procedure from our legal teams, or simply by sharing a space that is safe and supportive, refugees and migrants regain some semblance of normality, empowerment and, often, fun.”
More than 400 students are registered in the center, where language classes are the majority, with English, Greek and Arabic being the main subjects. However, computer classes, a children’s creative space and day care, sports, choirs and art classes are also provided.
Mosaik is located in Lesvo’s city center, in a busy street, very close from local shops, markets and stores. Even though the rent is twice as expensive as it would be in some place closer to the camps, the idea of being located away from the settlements enhances the integration with the local community. As it has been said in our visit:
You see someone once, you don’t interact;
You see someone twice, you start noticing the person;
You see someone for the whole week, you start saying hello;
You see someone walking your street everyday, you start becoming a friend.
The center also provides the bus tickets for free to the students – two per class: one to go back to the camp and one to attend the class next time. The next tickets are giving only at the next class.
To learn more about Mosaik, please visit: https://www.lesvosmosaik.org/en/
A safe place to call home
Gess came from Congo. Because his mother was from Angola, he could speak with me in Portuguese, with a very rusty but still charming accent. Gess got to Greece from Turkey, after spending three days in the jungle. Three days not knowing where to go, following instructions. He arrived in Lesvos after taking an inflatable boat with capacity for 30 people. They were 42 standing in the same boat, in the middle of a cold January night. The boat’s motor came down three times that night. On the fourth it did not start again. Gess never learned how to swim when he was a child. Nor him nor any of the 41 other man he was sharing the boat with. He was always afraid of the water, afraid of drowning. On that cold January night, Gess was afraid. The water was covering the boat fast and the darkness would not allow anyone to see any piece of land, any piece of hope. When the water was reaching their bellies and the prayers were loud enough for any God to hear them, a light appeared on the horizon. A rescue boat finally found them and took them safely to the island.
Gess is now living in the temporary tents outside Moria, as there was no more space for him in the camp. And Gess is fine with everything. His smile is shining in every sentence, even when he talks about the hot tents, the poor nutritious food, the lack of activities, the bureaucracy. In fact, he is never complaining of any of those, he is still grateful and happy to be in a safe place.
I ask Gess where he wants to go, where he wants to live. He says he would be happy living in Greece, the country that is taking care of him for the last 5 months. Or maybe he could live in France, as he is a native French speaker and it would be easier to find better job opportunities there. Or, who knows, maybe even Portugal, so he can improve his Portuguese.
Anywhere, Gess says. He would be happy anywhere, as long it is a safe place.
A safe place. That’s all he needs.
“Did you know that more than 23.000 people died in Mexico last year because of the drug cartels? That Mexico is now considered the world’s second-most deadly conflict zone, only after Syria? No right? Because no one talks about it, no international attention is given to this.”
“I can only go back to Mexico when it is a safe place for my parents.”
“And when will this happen?”
“When they die.”
Mexican girl, volunteering in Lesvos