How might we change the global perception of refugee migration?
Greece has been a crossroads for thousands of years. Today, as the south eastern gateway to mainland Europe and the EU, Greece, especially a handful of islands, have emerged as key transit point for migrants coming to Europe. The stories of this mass movement are in ebbs and flows, but this important global event has affected more than just Greece.
Exploring the current refugee and migrations situation in Greece, and quite frankly, across Europe and other border regions, is key to understanding the issues most shaping the world today.
In Greece we work to help our travelers develop their own cultural and ethical understanding of the crisis while we experience life in Greece. By exploring modern Athens and ancient ruins around the city, symbols of both the country’s virtues and decline, we will immerse ourselves in the context. We will get out of Athens to see what life is like on nearby islands and towns--and to gain an understanding of how the crisis hits everyone. Along the way we will work with and support local communities of Greeks and Migrants.
We balanced our exploration of the rugged coastline of Lesvos and the mainland with amazing food, meeting with local experts and migrant organizations, and thoughtful engagement with diverse communities in order to better understand the complex crisis and its impact on people around the world.
Athens is both the logical gateway into Greece and a key historical foundation of the region. Our time in the capital allowed us to dive into one of the worlds ancient hubs. Our time at the Acropolis, the city’s dramatic center, and a visit to its stunning new museum with an archeologist let us look into the past in order to build an understanding of the context of modern Greece. We also sampled many traditional Greek flavors from our first Souvlaki dinner in famous Monastiraki square to delicious sweets like Loukoumades.
Hydra is in many ways the Greek Island people imagine, and before we set out to Lesvos we wanted to get a baseline: what’s a typical Greek Island like? We took the ferry out for a day-trip to experience the picturesque Greek island; narrow streets, fisherman, white homes, and no cars in sight.
Lesvos is a Greek island that has become the transit point for many refugees. The strong local community has helped the transition run as smoothly as possible though the island has been overturned. The islands villagers received a Nobel peace prize nomination for their work in the crisis. Lesvos continues to be the center of a global trend.
During our time we were able to get a sense of island life, while simultaneously connecting with a local community whose roots run millennia deep, mixing hands on service to support local organizations, hear stories from around the island, and develop our own understanding of the complexity of the crisis.
Variations and Changes:
We have taken high schools to Lesvos and can adapt the trip for different approaches or different types of groups. We had one group that focused on documentary filmmaking and another that wanted an alternative to a community service trip. While we are very cautious about how we engage refugees and Lesvos, we found our time exploring the crisis on Lesvos to be one of the most eye-opening, challenging, impactful and open places we have ever traveled with students.
As the migration situation continues to evolve, we will be tracking the situation to understand the impact and safety of our groups as well as where in Greece (or Europe) we should be going to explore these issues best. Based on the season and current events the itinerary to best engage this issue may vary greatly and may also focus on Northern Greece more than the island Lesvos.