Images of refugee arrivals on the shores of Greek Islands this summer are synonymous with symbols of international aid organisations; the red and white logo of the Red Cross, the blue bibs of the UNHCR. International aid organisations dominate how we perceive responses to emergencies, and for people viewing the situation from their television or newsfeed, their presence acts as an assurance that support exists. While such organisations play a significant and vital role in emergency infrastructure, they also dominate our understanding of support networks; organic movements formed as a direct response to unique circumstances are easily hidden in mainstream discourse. However, it is such movements who fill in gaps international organisations are unable to address. Looking closer; observing members of organic movements, it’s evident that the actions of one individual can assist in the movement, support and nourishment of many.
Sevastianos is one such individual who volunteers as Kos Solidarity, an independent movement working tirelessly to provide support to newly arrived refugees on the island. Kos Solidarity is integral to the island’s humanitarian fabric that includes UNHCR, MSF (Doctors Without Borders), The Red Cross, local and international volunteer groups. Members of such organisations quickly become familiar faces, and contribute to the community and benevolent energy that exists among the public areas temporarily housing refugees on the island. During my month in Kos, Sevastianos was one of those familiar faces who could be observed at least once, if not several times a day, operating as an ‘unofficial coordinator’ distributing donations along the waterfront where many tent communities were located. Sevastianos was also responsible for behind the scene activities such as working in the Kos Solidarity warehouse, organising ferry tickets for people with limited financial means, and visiting refugee families residing in donated accommodation.
The four hour window surrounding, and including, Sevastianos’ cooking session provided an insight to what extent volunteers are dedicated to their cause, and the impact that an individual can make within several hours. We arranged to meet outside the Police Station where Sevastianos was delivering registration papers and a ferry ticket to a man in need, a procedure which he does in collaboration with the Police Director. On the way to his house, Sevastianos made many stops related to his volunteer work, including the coordination of bread for Kos Solidarity to make sandwiches, the purchasing of ferry tickets for refugees, as well as receiving phone calls related to donation distribution in other islands. The ability to not only coordinate, but critically assess the multiple needs of people in emergency situations is complex, typically requiring years of experience in similar environments. However, Sevastianos, like many other Kos Solidarity volunteers, has no prior professional work experience in this field. Kos Solidarity originated as response to the arrival of refugees, particularly at a time when there was no other support presence.Thus, the summer of 2015 became a rapid education in emergency humanitarian aid for many Kos locals.
Taking action and initiative is also symbolised in Sevastianos’ life through his creative pursuits and interests. Originally practising as a street artist in Athens, a passion for Chinese culture and two trips to the country have impacted him both artistically and spiritually. “I take inspiration from a feeling… I learnt how to create more by stopping the mind, with graffiti I was feeling anxious about the result. But now I just paint”. Sevastianos began experimenting with watercolour three years ago, using tools he purchased during his first trip to China. Sevastianos explains his style as “self discovery, and inspired by Chinese painting elements and tools”. Sevastianos practices Tai Chi weekly with friends, and although he attributes his love of cooking to his grandmother, his cuisine also employs Chinese techniques; “the Chinese do this too, they put the onion in the bottom so the lamb doesn’t smell”. However, Sevastianos didn’t have time to eat the lamb he cooked for this project as he was called to a meeting with UNHCR. Sevastianos’ allegiance did not go unnoticed, and within a week of this cooking session, Sevastianos’ skills were recognised professionally and he was awarded a position with METAction. Sevastianos is now working as the Local Coordinator for Interpreters for the Greek NGO which employs certified interpreters for refugees and asylum seekers. “I believe if you do creative things on your own… things will come to you”.
Click here for more of Sevastianos’ artwork: http://brushingcloud.tumblr.com
Lamb and Potatoes with Green Beans
“When you roast the lamb the kilos equal the hours, so if it is four kilos it will take four hours”.
Lamb Thigh – 1-2 kilograms
5 potatoes – peeled
1 onion sliced
5-6 sprigs of rosemary
Salt and pepper – mix and rub with 4 cloves of garlic
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Oregano and Thribi (a type of Oregano)
Place sliced onion and rosemary at the bottom of a baking dish
Create holes in the meat and insert garlic that has been mixed with salt and pepper
Cover hands with olive oil and marinate the lamb, place in baking dish with oregano
Cook in the oven at 220’c
After 20 minutes add the potatoes, ensuring the potatoes absorb the oil
After an hour, remove the juice from the dish and continue to cook
15 minutes later – put the juice back into the meat and introduce lemon juice
Total cooking time 1.5 hours
Fassolakia (Green beans) – boil and serve with olive oil