Michael Says

Here’s an audio clip of Michael during English class at Schoolbox Project’s Almouthna School at LM Village refugee camp. Schoolbox volunteers avoid photography out of respect for the residents here. I’ve been experimenting with other, less intrusive, ways to document my time here.

If the embedded audio player above doesn’t work, try this.

You can tell from the recording that Michael is a talented teacher. He taught in Korea, currently teaches in Vietnam, and came to Greece to spend part of his summer holiday teaching refugee children. Last month, we collaborated on the morning school session for 9-12 year-olds. He taught English and I taught Math.

It occurred to me, towards the end of my time at LM Village, that I had heard of this camp before. The mayor of Lechaina (the closest Greek village) is Syrian. This came up multiple times while talking to locals and other volunteers. These conversations mostly revolved around the same question, “How could he, a Syrian, allow refugees to live like this?”. I realized that I had heard about a Greek-Syrian mayor who opened a refugee camp in his town on This American Life. Sure enough,  Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugeefeatures LM Village in Act 3: Last Resort. Give it a listen. I think the report gives you a perspective through rose-tinted glasses.

An excerpt from the episode proposes: “With a little TLC and some water in the pool, we’d all want to stay there.” A refugee toddler drowned in that pool. The United Nations and municipality were repeatedly implored to improve safety around the pool area. While I was at the LM Village, there were multiple threats and physical attacks against volunteers and residents. When asked about possibilities to improve camp security, a UN representative told us that it was unlikely anything would be done unless someone died from an attack. Sound like a place you would like to stay if only the pool was filled?

The past month was intense. I suppose this is to be expected when you live and work on-site at an isolated refugee camp. I hope to share more details about my experience in a near-future post.

The main image above features one of the many puppies in camp. This one was my favorite. He was sweet, well-behaved, and had an extra toe on one of his paws. Many of the locals abandoned their unwanted pets at LM Village and new  litters of puppies were born every so often.