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.

“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.

There are eighteen of us living in the commune – twelve adults and six children. We have our own space, a chapel, a big garden, wood and metal workshops. We do construction, work in the garden and spend time together. The door is always open for locals or travelers to join our community. It is really nice. However, political developments in our federal state make me angry and anxious. Right wing parties were the most powerful in the last election. We have already had this problem with fascism in Germany – it seems to come back again and again.

There is a struggle within me – on one side is the powerlessness that comes from the feeling that I will not be able to change things. I have experienced this at times on Lesvos when witnessing the struggles of refugees, the suffering that EU laws create, the hardships people have to endure just because of the unjust decisions of politicians. The injustices here are human made. On the other side is the hope that comes from the sense that I might be able to impact on my surroundings. This is why I live where I do, this is why I express myself through music, this is why I come to Lesvos and try to have a positive effect whilst also learning more about the situation and who is responsible.

I guess I will never change oppressive political systems, but I can have an impact on a few people’s lives. And I am convinced that community and solidarity networks can reinforce this impact and cause actual change.

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

Photo by Knut Tinagent




Sapfous 9, Mytilene
81100, Lesvos, Greece






Panselina Agioritou 1, Mytilene
81100, Lesvos, Greece  
Tel: (+30) 22510 62000