On December 16th, 2019, the teams of ANTIGONE and USB in Greece held their 1st Community Meeting within the BRIDGES Project, with the school community of the 12th Vocational School of Thessaloniki. 90 teenagers, from Afghanistan, Greece, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Guineen, Kourdistan, Albania and the Roma community, with their teachers, school principal and members of local organizations participated in the meeting.
The 12th Professional Vocational School of Thessaloniki (12th EPAL) is a school to the west of the city that embraces within Roma teenagers. Teenagers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Greece and other countries, refugees, immigrants.
We asked the children to work together, to engage in meaningful dialogue and to decide on joint creative work activities that they would like everyone to participate in.
Early results have shown that through this convergence begins the foundation of a communication bridge that helps in understanding and respecting one another.
Lefteris, a Roma boy from Dendropotamos, the largest Roma settlement in Greece, where 4,000 inhabitants live, confronting many and varied problems (delinquency, illiteracy, school leaks, drugs) was looking for a Professional School. He decided to be registered in the 12th EPAL, since his friends and brother are there and there is not professional school in his neighbourhood. He had heard that the teachers and the school community try their best, have experience and know how to behave to children who may have learning and language difficulties. Lefteris said for his involvement in BRIDGES: “It’s a great program because it helps us get even closer with the kids, to get to know each other better and to do activities together. I participated in all the actions, meetings that have taken place so far. I would like to do football together because I grew up with this sport and I like it, and of course with music because I enjoy playing music”.
Paschalis went to the 12th EPAL for the first time this year too, because of his friends and because they told him that it is a more accessible school. He also heard that the teachers help the students a lot.
“We have a nice atmosphere, the teachers are great, they help us understand the lesson. We have refugees who are very friendly with us and we have a good time in the classroom. Some of the refugee children understand Greek and speak the language very well. There is also a teacher who supports them in Greek and I can see that they are evolving as they go. The BRIDGES program is great because with this program we will more easily understand what refugees like, what they can do, what they like to do, we will be more attached to them. I dream of going on excursions, doing even more activities. I think they want it very much. It is very useful to learn another culture, another religion, I really want this, we can have a much better friendship between us. I am on the football team, I would love to do music too”.
Lazaros is in his second year at the 12th EPAL and is waiting to finish high school to open his wings. He plays basketball and participates in the BRIDGES program.
“It’s a very nice project, I’m so happy with everything we started doing. I will be involved in theater and definitely in some sport. It is good that we come close to the refugees. The Greeks and the refugees must put down racism together and push it on, to work together. Through these actions we come closer to them and they come closer to us”.
Abdul Khale and Amin, refugees from Afghanistan and Pakistan want to play football, do boxing, swimming and cycling. They really like sports because they are letting pressure go through them.
“We’re fine with each other, we’re having a great time. But mostly, we hang out with “our” kids. This program, the meetings and the activities that started at the school are great, perfect, because they help us get really close to the children from Greece but also the children from other countries who are also refugees and immigrants. We want to be at school together. The school will help us with our future and we are happy when other children accept us. ”