By Peggy Gish
One of the first things that caught my eye as I entered the Pikpa Refugee Camp, just south of Mytilini in Lesbos, Greece, was the colorful mural the children and adults painted on the main building. The next thing I sensed was a relaxed and caring spirit among the residents and volunteers there. Unfortunately, they are the exception to most of the refugee camps that are becoming more like detention camps.
The 89 refugees from a variety of countries, that are currently here, are the more vulnerable refugees: disabled, sick, pregnant and families with many children. They had been first taken to the Moria detention center, run by the Greek military, where all new refugee arrivals go to register for asylum. They will stay at Pikpa for several months, in cabins from what had once been a children’s summer camp grounds, until their asylum papers are processed and they are transferred to another part of Greece.
The 4-year-old Pikpa camp is a self-organized, autonomous space run by volunteers and based on the principle of solidarity. It provides shelter and hospitality, but not registration. It offers food, clothes, hygiene kits, medical assistance and organizes activities for children, language classes and social support.
Our CPT team members volunteer in the Pikpa Camp on a regular basis, doing such tasks as meal preparation, activities with the children, helping with the camp garden projects, or taking people for legal appointments. I have enjoyed getting to know some of the residents through my times there helping to teach adults and children English.
This past week there were many international volunteers there, but in the coming week, most of them will leave to go home for the school year, so our team expects to take on more responsibilities there.
*Picture of the children’s activity taken from the Lesbos Solidarity – Pikpa facebook page
(more to come later about Pikpa activities)