by Nicholas Millet, Programme Coordinator
I sit here in our teacher’s room reflecting on what at the time seemed like an impossible task to take on. It was May 2016, and the EU-Turkey deal had thrown the island into chaos; hundreds of children were living in absolute deplorable conditions and everyone including the authorities were unclear about how the following months would unfold. I would spend hours speaking with families in the camps, hearing the same stories being repeated: that leaving their home country was in order to secure the future and safety of their children. However, here they were, on the edge of Europe, forced to live in absolutely appalling conditions, denied their most basic and fundamental rights. It was here that the idea for Refugee Education Chios was born. It was here, where the momentum started for a new style of education in emergencies and that has led to two years of successful educational provision on Chios.
When reflecting upon this period, I constantly think about the people I have met along this journey, from the hundreds of students who have passed through our doors to the global network of supporters who have either volunteered with us or made a donation to keep us going.
We have had over 2,500 individuals step through the doors of our institutions. Each individual with a unique story, journey and narrative. Through the most adverse conditions, you have often demonstrated a commitment and maturity that has enabled us to build a community full of creativity, warmth and laughter. You have been open to develop, learn and thrive, not afraid to guide us on your needs but always showing gratitude for the effort our volunteers make day-in and day-out. Through your uniqueness and individuality, you have brought so much diversity to the school and youth centre, creating a vibrant community that fosters inclusion, respect and acceptance.
Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who have ensured this project can continue. I remain in a constant state of humility and gratitude to the those who have over the last two years thrown their heart and soul into the project. So many individuals have left an everlasting imprint on Refugee Education Chios, utilising their expertise to ensure we constantly move forward in the right direction. To see such passion and dedication demonstrated day-in and day-out represents the very essence of volunteering. A work ethic driven by a desire to want to make a positive change in these young people’s lives. Even when days seem long and sometimes difficult, our buildings remain filled to the brim with energy, support and warmth. You care and this has made all the difference. So thank you.
Thank you to those who have supported us through our journey. From the NGO who first believed in our grand vision, enough to partner with us despite not having any credentials to our name, to the individuals donors that rallied behind us over the years championing our cause. Without the support of public society we would not have made it this far. It has been reassuring to the say the least to know that even when the world appears to becoming increasingly isolationist, there are as many people who stand by the the values of solidarity, equality and fraternity. It is your support that ensures we can continue.
Thank you for believing in us.