It’s felt like much longer but truthfully it’s only been a bit more than two years since I returned from Laos at the start of the pandemic. The words from a song I was listening to the other day made me realize it's time to get moving again.
I been wasting so much time I don’t want to waste anymore.
Don’t wanna see the world rush by, fall asleep, forget all about it.
(Demain, P'tit Belliveau)
As travel restrictions loosen up and the globe re-opens to more opportunities, I’ve been looking at what might be available so that I can get back into how I wanted to spend my retirement. This time, however, there’s also a feeling of the need for more prudent planning in light of the health concerns of a post-pandemic world. As well, news from Ukraine keeps us alert to potential risks we might be taking if we travel to certain places.
I finally stopped procrastinating last year and applied for an Italian passport. This means that I can live in the European Union for as long as I want. When I spotted an item online about a school which helps refugee youth in Athens, Greece I was immediately curious.
Back in 2015 when we first began hearing about the plight of desperate humans trying to reach the European shores of the Mediterranean, I wondered then what I could do to help. It also got to the point that I could no longer envision myself watching the sunset, glass of limoncello in hand, from a “safe side” of the Med all the while imagining there could be somebody way out there struggling for survival. And then I’d wonder what happened when the survivors of a treacherous sea crossing reached land: did they have to walk into the nearest town or were people greeting them on the beaches? How did people already harmed and abandoned by their own countries manage to access their basic human rights after making landfall? Would they be “processed” quickly through the system and able to move on across Europe or elsewhere to begin re-building their shattered lives? I thought about classrooms and students who had maybe never been to school in their countries of origin trying to learn the fundamentals of a Western education in order to simply “fit in”.
The more I read about the work and mission of the Habibi Center I knew I was looking at my next challenge. In No Refuge, Serena Parekh discusses the ethics of the global refugee crisis and concludes:
“The pernicious norms that uphold structural injustice will only change
if individuals insist that refugees deserve refuge.”
The classroom can be that refuge too, a place where students feel psychologically and emotionally safe while they acquire the tools to help them move forward as Parekh suggests “with agency and autonomy that are essential for a life with dignity”.
This week I committed to a four month placement starting in January 2023 at the Habibi Center where I’ll be teaching English language skills to refugee youth. In the meantime I’ll be developing some digital teaching materials, reading up on literacy teaching methods and learning more about the situation of refugees in Greece. One book that has been recommended is Reaching Mithymna by Canadian, Stephen Heighton, and now on hold at the library. If anybody has other suggestions for pre-departure reading, please leave a comment.
If you’ve surfed over here from Facebook, you’ll notice that my companion Facebook page has been renamed to include the whole world. What started in Laos now extends to “other places".
In 2019 I began this adventure in international volunteering through Cuso International. Cuso is not involved with this new volunteering project. I’m heading to Greece as an independent self-funded volunteer. Unlike my Cuso placement, I’ll be paying my own way to Athens and my entire living costs during my stay in Greece. I won’t be doing any direct fundraising at this point in support of the Habibi Center but if you go to their website you’ll see where you can donate. I think it’s a good cause.
I’m not wasting any more time!