Banana House: 2 and a half years in review

Today we are sharing some important news.

Due to the ever changing situation out on the Aegean Islands, we have taken the decision to close our beloved Banana House on the island of Samos.

Following the fire in Moria camp on the island of Lesvos last year, the EU feared the same would happen across other camps on other islands. Plans were mobilised to construct closed camps, and Samos became the first Greek island to host such an institution. From 20th September, camp residents currently residing in Vathy camp will be moved to the new closed structure in Zervou, 7 km from the city. Vathy camp will officially close on the 30th September.

As a closed camp, residents will need authorization to leave to travel and access services in Vathy town. This walk will take over 1 hour, in the boiling sun or freezing cold. There is no alternative transportation plan yet confirmed.

We established Banana House in 2019 to provide non-formal education, food, WASH facilities and a safe space with a welcoming community for young refugees. 180 students attended every single week, enjoying a centre staffed by volunteers from the refugee community on Samos, and from all across the world.

It has not been an easy decision to close this project. Today, we want to share some testimonials from volunteers over the years:

“When I got to know that OUR Banana House will close I had different feelings. All our volunteers, each and every one of them that contributed to create a familiar and nice environment, our chefs from the beginning, the teacher, the volunteers in charge of animation, our “Nesters”, our “Computer Lab managers”. I am honestly so grateful to all of them. I continue talking about AFE using the adjective “OUR” because even though my personal path has taken me elsewhere, Action for Education and Banana House will always be for me “home”.” - Leate

“I was a volunteer at Banana House in the summer of 2019 and again in December 2019. Banana House means community. It means acceptance. It means learning, growing, and safety amidst a storm. There’s something so special about those banana trees. They part to reveal a backyard full of ping pong games, a medley of languages pouring out of the windows, the smell of tea and the quiet hum of conversation amongst our students. It was a very special place (to say the least) and I’m saddened that the situation in Greece has forced its closure. However, the spirit of the community and the lessons we taught each other will endure beyond the closing of its doors.” - Kate

“I arrived in Samos planning to stay for just 6 months. I ended up staying for 2 years. It is hard to describe the experience of working in Banana House, as it was filled with both fun and laughter, though also challenges and heartache. What sticks with me are the smiles on our participants’ faces as they entered a space where they felt welcome. Banana House gave them this, it was a space of learning and fun but also of acceptance, listening and an escape from the horrendous conditions they endured. I will forever be inspired by the strength and resilience of the people I met in Banana House.” - Julia

And, from our outgoing project coordinator, Jowhara:

“Today, I went to Banana House, probably for the last time. I walked around the empty rooms and the garden and I felt like I could hear the voices and the sounds of the great happenings over the past two and a half years. For some reason, a wonderful remark by Karl Marx came to mind: ‘All that is solid melts into the air.’ Indeed, Banana House, as a living breathing entity, may have gone - but through the lived experience of so many, its influence will be felt by many others. Thank you to all of those with whom I have had the honour to work.”

To echo what Jowhara said, we would like to say a massive thank you to all those who helped us to create Banana House for what it was. Whether you are a donor, a volunteer, a student, a social-media supporter, whatever role you played big or small, we couldn’t have made Banana House without you.

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