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.

“Greek people know about being refugees. Many of us were refugees in the past”   

“Greek people know about being refugees. Many of us were refugees in the past”  

I am from Lesvos and have lived on the island since I was a child. When the first wave of refugee arrivals occurred in 2015, I had just finished my university studies. I began working in Moria as a social worker, responsible for unaccompanied minors. Now I work in Pikpa.

“I don’t think I can return to tourism now”   

“I don’t think I can return to tourism now”  

I was working as a travel agent for a big company in Andorra. We provided services for people all around the world. My lifestyle was to work during the winter months and then travel and volunteer during the summer.

“My interview is inspired by that story on the kitchen staff all those years ago. I have a title in my head – ‘Resource bank, Moria’”   

“My interview is inspired by that story on the kitchen staff all those years ago. I have a title in my head – ‘Resource bank, Moria’”  

There was once a news story on Norwegian TV where they sent a journalist to interview the kitchen staff in Oslo’s biggest hospital. It turned out to be the most qualified kitchen staff in all of Norway – carpenters, lawyers, journalists, doctors, architects, highly educated people from all over the world. But they were working in the kitchen because as refugees their qualifications were not recognized by Norwegian authorities.

“Pikpa gives me humanity and solidarity and respect, which are more or less non-existent in many places”   

“Pikpa gives me humanity and solidarity and respect, which are more or less non-existent in many places”  

In the mid-eighties I was a fashion photographer in LA. On several occasions I worked with David Belafonte, the son of singer and activist Harry Belafonte. David used this handshake. The way you do it is to intertwine your fingers with the fingers of the other person. It’s much more personal. Since then I have adopted it, bringing it to every corner of the planet. It’s fun when you meet kids in the jungle of Laos or somewhere and they run away screaming because they think it’s so funny. There’s lots of people I would never have known without this handshake.

“When I am able to assist someone, I feel very happy”   

“When I am able to assist someone, I feel very happy”  

Once, when I was in intermediate school in Somalia, I listened to a report on BBC radio. It was about some Somalis who tried to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece and were captured by the Greek army. At that time the country was not accepting refugees, so they were sent to jail. I felt very sad when I heard this. That was nine years ago. Never in my life did I imagine that I would make the same journey, but with the war between the terrorists and the government and the clans I had to leave myself.

“When I see the small life jackets, I feel sad as I know who wore them”   

“When I see the small life jackets, I feel sad as I know who wore them”  

 The first day that I began this job there was a man from Pakistan here. He was a good person. He had great English and taught me many words. Before I came to Pikpa I stayed in Moria camp. I did not speak to other people there as it was too dangerous. Now I am changed. I had one word of English when I arrived. Now I have spoken to many volunteers, and studied myself, and can speak English. I was able to do this because I feel comfortable here.

“When you speak to people with respect, they have to respect you in return”   

“When you speak to people with respect, they have to respect you in return”  

 There are two kinds of people. One kind are asleep. You have to diplomatically help them to wake up. The other kind are not asleep. This group is often the problem! Many of them know what they are doing but not what is true. In the Middle East there are people influenced from outside, people motivated by money, petrol, religion. Religion can be a good thing if you use it in the right way but many do not.

“I like to provide for others, to be respectful and receive respect in return”   

“I like to provide for others, to be respectful and receive respect in return”  

The hotel belonged to Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. He is our Iman, the leader of Ismailism – a denomination of Shia Islam – all around the world. The Aga Khan is very rich. In Afghanistan he owns a lot of property – hotels, hospitals, museums. This hotel was five stars. Dignitaries from foreign governments would stay there when they came to the country. It was a very beautiful place with a beautiful garden and beautiful rooms.

“My dream would be for the problems to end in Syria and for us all to go back”   

“My dream would be for the problems to end in Syria and for us all to go back”  

I live in Pikpa with my mother and my father, but I have five brothers in Germany. I also have a sister in Syria. I am the youngest. I would be happy if I could go to my brothers. They left Syria before me. It is five years since I last saw them.

I have been Mytilini for a year and eight months, in Pikpa for a year and two months. The camp is very quiet. It is so different to Moria. I don’t have any problems in Pikpa. It is the best refugee camp in Greece.

“As a translator you have to hold a person’s story and then pass it onto another person”   

“As a translator you have to hold a person’s story and then pass it onto another person”  

As a translator in Pikpa, providing language assistance, I hear many people’s stories. Refugees were forced into their situations. No one can forget what has happened to them.  

It is not difficult to translate people’s words, but sometimes it is difficult when you hear stories that touch you a lot and make you feel disappointed. But that is okay, I can deal with that. Although you hear about people’s suffering, you also see how they are trying to cope. They are very powerful people, and this makes you feel more powerful yourself.

“Human rights don’t end when you give people a tent”   

“Human rights don’t end when you give people a tent”  

 I used to live in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a community called Christiania. It was founded in 1971 as a squat and is famous for being an alternative community. I heard about it from a friend who was there before. I have always loved the community lifestyle and wanted to share my life with others, so I decided to move there.

“There is a struggle within me – on one side is powerlessness; on the other side is hope”

“There is a struggle within me – on one side is powerlessness; on the other side is hope”

Asking yourself what to do with your time can put pressure on you but it can also encourage you to take conscious decisions. Many people finish studying and pursue their careers, others get married, have children and buy a house. I felt that these paths were not for me. So, after completing my qualification in special education I decided to go a different way, moving to a village close to Leipzig – a very inspiring and alternative city – and joining my friends on a commune. I knew that I loved teaching and wanted to continue working in education, but I also decided that I’d had enough of tests. I began teaching in a local primary school and taking time off where possible, writing songs and playing music with my band and by myself.

CONTACT US

Address

ex-PIKPA Camp, Neapoli, Mitilene,
81100, Greece 
Email : info@lesvossolidarity.org
Phone : (+30) 22 510 62 000

 

LESVOS SOLIDARITY

An appointment is necessary before visiting us at Lesvos Solidarity - Pikpa camp. We cannot accommodate spontaneous visits. Please email info@lesvossolidarity.org. Visiting hours are 10.00 – 16.00, weekdays only.

TWITTER

Tue Oct 27 18:47:19 +0000 2020

RT @DunyaCollective: PIKPA Check out the livestream of @PPT_Berlin on Saturday. Among others @lesvossolidarity will have their say. It wil…
Tue Oct 27 18:45:51 +0000 2020

RT @Skip_Bo_1: Seit 2012 ist #PIKPA Zufluchtsort für besonders gefährdete Menschen. Die Regierung #Griechenland will das Projekt @lesvossol…