The Global Center for Woman and Justice sent 12 students to Greece for an intensive Country Study on Human Trafficking led by Dr. Sandra Morgan and Adjunct Professor Derek Marsh. There they partnered with Bridges, a Humanitarian organization responding to the refugee crisis in Athens, Greece.
The Global Center for Woman and Justice sent 12 students to Greece for an intensive Country Study on Human Trafficking led by Dr. Sandra Morgan and Adjunct Professor Derek Marsh. There they partnered with Bridges, a Humanitarian organization responding to the refugee crisis in Athens, Greece. Voula and her husband Elias Antwan founded Bridges together. In the tour of the Center, the group began on the first floor where a small clothing shopping area, as well as food distribution supplies, was set up and accessed by appointment. Clearly, meeting physical needs was a primary concern. Bridges staff met with refugees and discussed their circumstances and how to assist. Our team often got to entertain the children while their parents were working on the family’s future.
Throughout the week, the team served at Bridges developing relationships with families who came for support. The team sat with the kids, played games, listened to the families tell their stories. They took pictures of the kids with their families and then printed the pictures right there for them. We didn’t know if we’d see them again. Later we learned these little pictures were already hanging in humble one room living quarters for a family of four. They loved seeing themselves in a photograph.
The VU team also worked on developing cultural context for human trafficking prevention. They created a storyline based on an existing pamphlet, had it translated into Greek and Arabic. Later, other languages were added. They did a hands-on training with 15 staff and volunteers. During the training, one of the participants said that this is what had happened to him. Each participant received a braided orange wristband to remind them to talk to newcomers about the risks of being lured into a job that is slavery.
With the support of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bridges, GCWJ and the Salvation Army hosted a 3 day conference, “Working Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings”. The UNODC joined the conference as well as Dr. Sami Jamal Hussein, Human Trafficking Commissioner from Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Iraq. Participants included NGOs, Government leaders, and 5 members of the KRG Iraq Anti Human Trafficking Task Force. The UNODC identified this conference as a great example of “international best practice”.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Refugee crisis is the lack of resources. This contributes to the high risk for being trafficked because there doesn’t seem to be a risk when there’s nothing to lose. When people who are not in refugee camps find a place to organize and set up living arrangements it is called a Squat. It is very uncertain and can be disbanded by the police at any time. The team visited one of the squats in an abandoned hotel. The building is run on donations. At the squat, the team helped clean some of the rooms in the building.
The team also visited a refugee camp in Ritsona that Bridges collaborates with. It was exciting to hang the Bridges dedication sign on the space they created for children and community activities (see photos). There are about 700 people there; Muslims, Yazidi’s and one Christian family. It was an incredible honor to sit with these families and pray for them.
After the camp and being led by a translator, Shamal, the team went to a photography/film exhibit where photographs of Ritsona were showcased around a village. Then they watched a film about what it is like for the refugees who travel by boat to other countries to get away from the devastation. Without a lot of translation, the message was very clear. The people had escaped war and were desperate. Their stories were overwhelming.
During their time in Athens, visits to historical sites were sandwiched into their schedule. A visit to the Acropolis included Mars Hill, also known as Areopagus, where the Apostle Paul’s words are recorded in Acts 17. A visit to Corinth explored the Apostle Paul’s time living there and, as one student said, literally “brought the Bible to life right in front of our eyes.” The team also participated in the spiritual life of refugees by attending Sunday worship and Wednesday meetings. With so many languages present, it was amazing to present Bridges with a headphone translation set to serve all the different languages.
Building on our strong partnership with Bridges, GCWJ hopes to return to Greece in 2018 for another Human Trafficking Country Study trip.