The Humans of Pikpa is a storytelling project about the residents, staff and volunteers that make up the community of Pikpa refugee camp on Lesvos island, Greece. The project was based on the ‘Humans of New York’ model (and other ‘Humans of’ projects), whereby participants share a brief, illuminating story about their lives. It was undertaken by volunteers towards the end of 2019. 


Since that time Lesvos has been afflicted by violent attacks on refugees, volunteers and premises used to support those affected by the crisis; the world has been racked by the COVID 19 pandemic that presents a disproportionate threat to those accommodated in overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps. It seems even more important than ever now that people read the powerful, sorrowful and invariably, defiantly, hopeful stories of those involved in the refugee crisis, and join the campaign for sustainable action to alleviate the situation. 


Pikpa is an environment where people can find dignity, love, safety and respect. These are the values that underpin, and clearly emerge from, the stories in ‘The Humans of Pikpa.

“I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea”

“I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea”

I like beautiful things. Every day I wake up and have a new idea. The people tell me ‘You’re crazy, every day your room changes!’ But I don’t have a job. Every day I wake up, eat, sleep. If you stayed in your room every day then you would change it.

Before my room had four beds. Metal bunk beds. I did not like this. Then I saw white wooden beds. I said I need those! The white and the red together – this is my favorite. The curtains were black until I fixed them. Now they are pink, white and red.

I fixed the sofa myself. The springs were broken. I asked for wood to go inside and then took white sheets, cut them up and sewed them into sofa covers. I made the cushions from towels. I wanted them to be red. I used white sheets for the decoration. It took me about two months.

Yesterday I had the idea to cover the wall. It was getting cold in here. The gold material on the wall is the thermal blankets that they give you when you get off the boat. I said I like this colour. I remember wrapping myself in one of these blankets when I arrived here.

I came by boat from Turkey. I was living with my grandmother in Mogadishu but then she died. I have a disability so I couldn’t go to school. The people in my country were attacking us. I was scared to go outside.

Someone helped me to get to Izmir. Getting onto the boat was scary. A woman pushed me down onto the beach. There were forty other people getting onto the boat. I thought I was going to die. Then a man from Somalia helped me up. Our boat was intercepted by the coast guard, who brought us to Lesvos. I arrived at Moria camp and slept outside for 28 days. I did not have a proper wash during that time. It was so bad there.

Now my life is here, in Pikpa. Now I am good. Many people have helped me. For the first time in my life I have a wheelchair. I learn English and make things in my room. I have contact with my Mum, my brothers, my sisters. Before I was sad but life here is beautiful.

I am never finished with my room. Tomorrow you will come back and it will be different! Some of my friends come in here and say ‘Stop! Why are you changing things every day?’ I like change, I tell them. I stay here seven days a week. Sometimes I don’t like it. So, I change.

Interviews by Tom Adams and Aud Steinsbekk / Editing by Tom Adams


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