Greece was hit very hard by the financial crisis of 2008–2009, and the country is still suffering today. The unemployment rate is high, the social system has almost collapsed, and many educated youth have left the country to find opportunity elsewhere. The country is also dealing with the effects of the civil war in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, which has forced thousands of people to flee their countries and settle in Greece. While the European government is working to find a solution to the refugee crisis, more and more lives are being devastated by the terror and violence of war.
Play for Peace Greece began when trainers Swati and Agyat came to the local Skaramangas refugee camp for a 10-day training in early 2017. The youth in attendance were deeply impacted and eager to learn how to facilitate Play for Peace sessions. They soon began gathering kids from the camp to play together, making them laugh and helping them forget all they had been through. The Skaramangas group soon caught the attention of Olimpia Theodoli, founder of the children's charity Crete for Life. She invited youth leaders from the camp to facilitate play sessions in Crete for children from Chernobyl, who are still impacted by the 1986 nuclear plant explosion. Youth leaders there learned how to make children happy and that even if the world sees them as victims they can still be leaders in their communities.
Inspired by their work at Skaramangas, many youth facilitators from the camp have moved to different countries and taken Play for Peace with them.
"I heard about Play for Peace and started attending, laughing with them and playing with the group. I lost all my friends and my sister when we were attacked in our homes in Iraq. I had no hope. But Play for Peace taught me that life is like this, it has ups and downs, and I decided to never cry again. It was amazing to meet so many people who were just as sad as I am, but I was able to make them happy."
Youth Facilitator, Refugee Camp
Skaramangas Refugee Camp, Athens
Crete for Life Club
Earlier this year, youth leaders from our clubs in Israel and Greece joined together to lead cooperative play sessions with Belarussian orphans through the organization Crete for Life. It was life changing for the youth leaders and children alike.
“One of the most beautiful aspects, I think, is that it makes them feel at peace. They forget about their current troubles, what they have been through and about war. For a bit they just play." —Rayan Salam
Volunteer Saam Murad from the Play for Peace AMAL club at the Skaramangas refugee shares his story of pain and hope.