“My Athens Project” is a compilation of stories written by the children that live at shelters run by The HOME Project in the Greek capital.
The idea for the project came about in the context of the international nonprofit organization’s mission to integrate unaccompanied refugee children and young adults into Greek society.
It is the result of a joint effort of staff and volunteers who enabled the youngsters to express themselves and share their views about the city they live in, in a bid to encourage them to develop a feeling of belonging.
The HOME Project currently houses 200 youngsters in 10 shelters in Athens. Here are some of their stories, accompanied by photographs they have taken.
S.Z. (Pugad Shelter)
Hi. My name is S.Z. I am 17 years old. I am from Iraq but currently, because of the problems in my hometown, I live in Greece. I do not have my family here with me and for six months, I was living in Skaramangas refugee camp with my uncle.
One day after six months, my uncle left to go to Germany and I stayed behind alone in the camp. My mother and my little sister are in Germany, while my father and the rest of my brothers and sisters are still in Iraq, waiting for their visas from Germany. I am also waiting for a reply from Germany. I would love to reunite soon with my family as I cannot live without them anymore. I miss especially my dear mother.
Here in Greece I like a lot the dance classes we have in the shelter. Also, I like doing many other creative activities, like taking photographs, when I have time, but most of the time I do not have much free time. A lot of people ask me about my photos, why I only like to take pictures of flowers and food. I answer, “I love to take pictures not just of myself but pictures of everything!’’ I really love flowers so I take a lot of pictures of them because flowers make the world look nice! I also like to take pictures of the old archaeological sites around Athens, as well as pictures of fruit. Though even for the fruit photos I like to cut and arrange them to resemble flowers.
I water the flowers in the little garden here every day. In Iraq I had a big garden. I also like to make the food look like the flowers and then eat it! I asked my aunt, who lives in Germany, how she does it and I learned to do it too. The best day was when I planted the trees and flowers here with my friends. We did everything with our own hands and then watered the plants and danced all together while it was raining! This was a great day!
I don’t want to stay in Greece. I know that Greece is very beautiful and has lots of amazing places. Also the people here are very good and kind, but the problem is that my family is not here. I don’t like staying here because family is very important, family is everything for me. I wish my family was here in Greece with me. If that happened I wouldn’t really want to go to another country. But I would have no problem going to Germany.
In the future, I will have many things to do, but the first thing I will want to do is to work in an organization that provides help to the people, especially those people who do not have a family. In the near future I hope to God that I will receive the passport from Germany and then I will visit Greece to work here and help people.
S. (Socrates Shelter)
Hello. I am S. Athens is my second home, because I want to stay here, I don’t want to go somewhere else. The reason is because I have made many friends here and I know the city well. Whenever I am bored or tired of being at home I call my friends and we go somewhere outside, like exploring parks and new places like the beach or skateboarding spots. We really enjoy that a lot.
I become very sad when one of my friend comes and tells me, “S. tomorrow I am leaving Greece.” When I first came to Athens and the Socrates Shelter, I met so many nice boys from my homeland and we became really good friends. But after two or three months, one day, one of my roommates came to me and told me, “S. I will go to Austria,” and he did. He was absent for almost three nights and afterwards called me from Vienna. I miss this boy. I met so many boys but now every one of them are on their way to other destinations, going to their beloved places.
I don’t like the weather here so much because it is so hot. Sometimes it is getting so hot to the point where I don’t feel very well to go out. When I was int my country, especially my city (Mazar-i-Sharif), the weather was so pleasant and normal. The weather here in Athens is so hot – day by day it is getting hotter and hotter. Sometimes it rains but for all that the weather is hot.
I like the villages because it is the same as Afghanistan’s villages, because when I was there I liked the weather, the greenery and the silence.
Sometimes I feel alone, because when I was with my family in Mazar-i-Sharif, whenever I got sick or had a problem, I told my father and mother that I had a problem and they soon helped me. But when I am here and I need something or I am ill, I have nobody to help me soon and I wait one, two, even four or five months, therefore I feel a little bit bad. I can’t tolerate being all day long at home, therefore I go with my friends playing football and doing lessons.
F.K. (Pugad Shelter)
I am F.K. I just turned 17 years old and I am from Mali. There’s nothing here for me… I like it, but not so much, because I want to go to another country. I have an older brother in Germany and I want to go there. I was in Turkey for one week, then I came to a Greek island and then moved to Athens.
I’ve been here for 2.5 years and speak a little Greek. In the mornings I go to school with my friends and the children I live with. However, I like school. I go to the ACS school. Before ACS I went to Greek school but I did not like it. It was very far and I always went alone. Now we go to school with buses and other girls together.
If I continue my education in Germany, I would like one day to become a translator or work in marketing. I like all advertisements! We don’t have time to go out every day but sometimes I go for a “volta” (walk) around the neighborhood. Today we had “fakes” (lentils), but “fakes” and I don’t go together.
Q. (Pugad Shelter)
Hi I am Q. from Somalia. I am 17 years old and I will tell you everything about my life in the city of Athens. We girls go to school every day except Saturdays and Sundays, when you are free to do whatever you want. I miss the food of my home country, especially the different kinds of rice we have. I want to become a nurse one day.
P. (Pugad Shelter)
Hello! I am P. I am 17 years old and today I am going to tell you about a nice park that you can visit in Athens. It is called Zappeion park and it is in the center. It looks like a very big garden with many flowers and trees of all sizes. I go there with my new friends and we see also the animals that live there. There are different kinds of birds but also sheep and some goats. To go there we take the bus, which most of the time is full of people. If you want to visit Zappeion, wear a hat, as it is really sunny there.
S. (Pugad Shelter)
This summer I visited the Acropolis on a busy day. It was great. I took many photos together with some tourists who looked happy being there. The view on top of the Acropolis is fantastic. You can see all of Athens actually! For this reason I visited it again, especially at night, with all the little distant lights, you can see this view and think of your life.
When I go around the neighborhoods I see people here really like animals, though they prefer dogs as I have noticed, though there are many dogs and cats living alone on the streets. When I grow up I hope I can become a nurse someday so I can take better care of both myself and the people I love.
A.F. (Socrates Shelter)
Hello, my name is A. and my favorite building is my house in central Athens. I like to walk around my house in a big street called Acharnon. I used to go for football every day and for Arabic lessons in an organization in Metaxourgeio. Sometimes I also go for swimming. To go there I use metro, train, tram and bus.
One day I went with my guardian and we bought a pair of shoes, and once a month I go for a haircut to a local shop. In my house and in Metaxourgeio I do craft and Arabic lessons. My favorite food is souvlaki.
H.R. (Socrates Shelter)
The first day of 2018 I went with my friends to Thiseio. It was the best day here in Greece, because it was the first time I spent the whole day with a friend of mine. I visited Syntagma Square and the Christmas tree was so big. Because of this, I didn’t want to come back home. In Exarchia, they threw gas, I couldn’t breathe and my eyes were burning. However, I like Athens because it is a nice place.
Y.M. (Socrates Shelter)
I like very much the climate of this country and the center of Athens, like Thiseio, Acropolis and Plaka. But I hate very much that I can’t stay with my uncle, who lives in Salamina. I don’t know many shops around my house, but I like the restaurant serving Pakistani food. The only park that I know is Victoria Square, but I don’t go so often. I don’t like Greek food and I have never been to the sea, because I don’t know how to swim. In Pakistan I used to play cricket, but here in Greece I can’t play cricket anymore.
N.A. (Socrates Shelter)
Hello, my name is N. There is a big building in Aghios Nikolaos that I like going to with friends to play billiards. Around my house there is a shop with clothes, another one with perfumes, restaurants with Greek, Indian, Afghan food, a minimarket and a supermarket. Twice a week I have Greek and English courses in Metadrasi, and when I’m in the house, I usually stay in the bedroom with my roommates. My favorite Greek food is “mashed potatoes.” While in Greece I went two times to the beach with my friends. Here in Greece I like to play football, cricket, volleyball and sometimes basketball.
A.M. (Socrates Shelter)
My name is A. and I like to go for walks in Monastiraki and to the Acropolis and to a big park at Ilion with a vegetable garden. Around my house there is a minimarket, and the owner is from Bangladesh. Every day I wake up at 9 and I watch movies on a laptop at my house. My favorite sports are volleyball and football. My favorite Greek food is “makaronia.” I don’t much like the rest of Greek cuisine, especially the pork dishes.
In Pakistan I couldn’t go to school because it cost a lot of money. In the future I also want to have a job in order to help my family. I appreciate a lot that here in Greece I found a house, clothes and food. I love the people of the house because they treat me well and when I get sick they take me to the doctor.
I’m very thankful for the things I have and I hope someday to bring my family from Pakistan here to Greece and to have my own shop.
To learn more about the HOME Project, visit www.homeproject.org.