Catarina Caldeira da Silva, former volunteer on Chios, has recently released a fantastic new book of poetry, offering an intimate insight into the people, lives and situation on the island. We spoke to Catarina to find out more about her experiences volunteering on the island and her motivations for writing this new book.
Buy the book here (profits support Action for Education and CESRT): https://www.blurb.com/b/9555500-chios
1. How did you first hear about the situation on Chios?
I work in an environment where migration issues have been at the forefront of the political debate since 2015. Therefore I was well aware of the dire situation people fleeing war, terror, devastation, instability and abuse are facing and the pressure this displacement of people is causing on the EU countries in particular Greece, Malta and Italy due to geography. I learned more about the situation in Chios through my daughter, who volunteered with Action for Education in Chios.
2. In your eyes, what is the impact of the grassroots groups working on the island?
As I wrote in the book , it is hard to imagine the life of the refugees without the hard work of the grassroots groups that provide, with very small means, a daily space of safety and opportunity to the refugees. I am adamant that these groups are the best placed to tell the story and that policy makers should listen more to what they have to say. They are the silent testimonies and agents of hope, delivering on many fronts with dedication, respect and courage. They work tirelessly behind the scenes.
3. What is the role of poetry and art in creating positive social change?
Life has taught me that art and culture are precious tools that can trigger meaningful change, raise awareness and shape deep and powerful new realities and behaviour. People are moved by their hearts, thus art fulfils its task when it addresses our senses. Art has long lasting effects on people and offers a way out of fear and divisiveness, reflecting the commonality of humanity. It offers what politics does not. A sense of belonging.
4. Was there a particular moment on Chios that made you decide to author this book?
Every day was a treasure! An abundance of tangible shared humanity. An antagonising condensate of despair and hope, laughter and sadness, encounter and separation. When I left Chios I couldn't talk but to myself. And this book burst like a crystal clear source in my heart and brain at my arrival back home. It was my very own way to show gratitude for the unique days spent in Chios and share with the wider public a deeply heartfelt emotion to people.
5. What change would you like to see on the island of Chios in the near future?
The island of Chios is a rather unique place; nothing of what you imagine from a Greek island. I felt as if you have a Greek tragedy unfolding in Chios . But that tragedy is not widely told . The theatre is hidden.
I wish Chios becomes an example of best practice in humanitarian response! I wish the mechanisms put in place are there exclusively to the benefit of those stranded and that those who do the job on the ground can operate without having the permanent concern of sustaining funds. The sense of permanent vulnerability of all actors is inflicting an unnecessary burden.
Chios, Impressions on an Island is available to buy here: https://www.blurb.com/b/9555500-chios