Sporos Regeneration Institute
The world is racing towards carbon neutrality by 2050 to reverse climate change. We want the Youth to be the forefront in this race. Local and refugee youth in Lesvos have few opportunities to learn about restorative and sustainable practices and no opportunities to co-exist and learn together. We want to change that. We will teach them about the environment and incorporate drama-based activities while doing it, so as to nurture cooperation, increase their self esteem and create active citizens.
Lesvos Island, Greece
-Lack of opportunities for the locals
-No integration between the two communities
-Biggest migration hotspot in Europe, refugees in serious need of social inclusion and positive experiences due to dire living conditions.
-Locals live in fear of the Other and they feel that their culture is under threat. The only way to change their minds is to get to know the Others.
-Due to a big influx of people passing through Lesvos the environment has been affected. It is paramount to raise awareness within the communities.
- Key target group = Teenagers ages between 14 - 18 from both communities.
5 action groups, during the course of a year
- Ten day workshops - 12 participants max, 8 minimum to be able to run each time. Groups are small to ensure inclusivity and team bonding over the duration of the workshops.
- Total target number of participants 60 people
- Family day on the last day of the workshop when their families will visit the farm, socialise and see what the kids have done during the workshops. Total number of participants during family days approximately 200 people in a year.
We will hire transport to pick up and drop off the participants to ensure higher participation. We will bring them to our headquarters which is a farm in rural Lesvos not very far away from the camp and the town of Mytilini. On the farm they will engage in practical activities related to nature and the environment such as gardening, learning about plants and organic farming. For the drama based part we will use one of our outbuildings especially built for indoor workshop activities. By using forum theatre activities we will provoke discussions and give space to participants to speak and be heard. We also intend to have translators onsite throughout the sessions. During Family Days we will offer transport again. It will be a day for celebration as well as showcasing student's work.
We are confident that we will lay the foundations for more tolerance and more understanding. We are anticipating that through giving an opportunity to young people to mix and integrate, we will give ground for cultural exchange and hopefully create some friendships. Additionally we are aiming to provide education around environmental issues and guide young people to take further initiatives locally in the environmental and sustainability domain. We are also anticipating that educational drama will enhance their communication and social skills.
It will create a sense of community and belonging to young people from the refugee community. They will feel less marginalised they will be empowered to voice opinions and be more active citizens in any society they might be, whether that is Greece or any other European country they will reside in.
Young people will acquire knowledge around environmentally sustainable practices. They will be our Green Ambassadors, a title which will give them the confidence to be active in their community and start their own initiatives either through their school or at a community level.
It will be a medium to raise acceptance and tolerance between young people from diverse communities, eliminate extremism and unite them in efforts for the common good.
Konstantinos Tsiompanos, the Managing Director of Sporos, has extensive experience working with children in Lesvos as a Forest School teacher and he is also a lawyer for unaccompanied minors. Polly Martin is the Operations and Development Officer at Sporos and has extensive experience working with communities in conflict in Cyprus as a workshop facilitator. Rachael LeClear is the Project Manager at EcoHub, one of Sporos’ core projects. She brings nearly a decade of educational administration experience. She joined the volunteer community on Lesvos in 2016, focusing on shoreline response and environmental remediation. We are extremely motivated to materialise this idea because we have seen real impact through similar workshops.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Transport costs: Bus rental total €12000 (based on 200 euros per day, per car)
Project Management: €4500
1 x Farsi Translator: €2500
Materials: €1800 (for drama and environmental classes)
Environmental Educator: €7000
Drama Educator: €6000
Prints and promotional gifts: €2000
Social Media and Communications: €2200
Total budget: €39200
Funding requested from Civic Europe: €35000
We would like to hear feedback about our idea from fellow practitioners, especially from organisations that work in similar capacities.
So the time came for our last round of workshops the 5th round. It followed a very similar format like the 4th round but this time we incorporated a day where we organised a treasure hunt inside the farm with prizes for all the kids. This was the highlight of this last round. This group was consisted of younger and older kids (8 -14). We had Farsi speakers, Kurdish speakers and Suahili speakers all in one group.
The treasure hunt appealed to all ages. Even the interpreter participated and through the treasure hunt they got to sharpen their observation skills and learn more about the flora found on the farm, species of plants etc. A few of the older kids requeasted to help our Belgian/British team of volunteers with the natural building construction on other days of the workshop round because they loved it.
The Make It Green Lesvos journey is not over! We are currently finding ways to incorporate it into schools through our green ambassador scheme (some of the participants became our ambassadors in their schools) and through our school garden program.
Along with the usual drama games and gardening we also showed a short video about plastic pollution and had an extensive talk about plastics and microplastcs. At the end we saw most of them getting rid of plastic bottles and pouring the water into the resusable stainless steel bottles we gave them as a present.
Almost near the end of our project we welcomed few kids from the camp here in Lesvos. This group was our most diverse group.
We had 11 participants, 9 from the refugee community (unescorted minors from Iliaktida NGO and children from the camp), 3 locals ( 11 - 13 years old)
The majority of the children were boys in early teens and pre teens from the Afghan community who never participated in theatre lessons before and they found most of the drama activities very challenging due to cultural differences.
The unescorted minors were more familiar with drama activities as well as the local kids. Due to the great gap of skills we changed the format of the workshops to include only frozen images and talks about citizen engagement and environmental protection as well as animal protection and animal body language and representation. We played a lot of drama games and we did a lot of frozen images based on the topics discussed.
They also did gardening and a whole day of natural building techniques, as we had a natural building, a tiny home made from cob being built on site at the same time with the Make It Green Lesvos workshops. They got their hands dirty and learnt about natural buildings and their possibilities as alternative dwellings. When I asked them what they thought about the experience one of them said " I never thought I could be an architect! "
The festive day, our fun day of the course (last day) they played water fights which they enjoyed very much.
What we love so far about this project is that every round the team dynamics are so different and you have to gauge what will be impactful and what not. What have worked with previous team might not work with this one.
This team was a bit older than the previous one and a slightly larger group where the refugee kids were a minority and their greek was minimal. Nevertheless the kids made friendships that we are sure will exist beyond the Make It Green Summer camp.
The format was very similar with the previous round although this time the performance showcased extraordinary creativity. We gave them the following brief: pick 3 fairytlales and change the plot to have a climate change theme. In the end we saw Cinderella fighting Alandin to prevent climate change and the three little pigs accidentally setting fire in a forest (just to name a few). The kids deliberately left the story open ended. Will Cinderella prevent climate change and win the battle with money obbessed Alandin?
This round of workshops we had a great team half from the refugee community half from the local community. We did so much with frozen images which is part of the practice of Forum theatre. Based on stories we brainstormed about what to do when out neighbour is littering or when littering is a problem in our community. Forest fires was at the forefront of the discussion as well and kids had a lot of ideas about stories involving how to possiby stop forest fires from happening.
We also did a lot of fun improvisation performances based on the entry/exit scenario. Divided in two groups they improvised little performances based on scenarios "why should I not enter" and 'why I shouldn't leave". The creativity and humour was plenty and we had such a good time improvising dialogues. All kids could speak greek and although for some of them greek was not their first language still they participated fully.
Our little performance to the parents had a variation of what we did in class as well as a physical theatre piece about endangered animals. Everyone picked an animal and improvised 3-4 moves while the rest of the kids were becoming that animal's habitat (rocks, trees, jungle, ocean)
During the gardening part we taght them how to plant and weed a garden and a lot about what food grows when what the different plants need etc. The kids also watched a short anomation about climate change.
The highlight of the week was when they did a forest hike with their teachers, learned about foraging and collected wild sage, rosemary and oregano.
We successfully completed the first round of workshops and we are currently gearing up for the second round based on the knowledge and feedback we got from the first one. Initially, we wanted to start the workshops back in March but Omikron was wreaking havoc across the island and it was extremely difficult to organize. During May cases started going down in significant numbers and the weather started to be nice and warm. Participation numbers from the refugee community were high regarding the desired age group but the local young people were already involved in other activities at that time. We had interest from younger children, 12-15 years which we tried to include in the same group but in the end, we experienced that it wasn't very functional.
A significant number of children between the ages 11 -13 wanted to participate and we thought that although this was a bit younger than what we initially envisioned, the children were very enthusiastic, especially for the gardening lessons. We decided to simplify the curriculum instead and make it a 4 round of summer camp, all-day workshops for the remaining cycles. We called it "Farm School" and participation grew exponentially overnight! We are currently recruiting for the July workshops as the June one is already full. Some of the kids expressed an interest to participate more than once!
A few highlights from the first round of workshops: Participants loved the lesson about Soil and Water and got very excited about getting their hands dirty. They also made some interesting work related to the theatre improvisation piece: "animals in danger of extinction". Our partner Iliaktida who takes care of the refugee youth participation was very pleased with the outcome and the impact our work had on the young people. They even wrote an official thank you letter to us which made us very proud!
We have no Green Ambassadors yet but we are sure that in the next 4 rounds of workshops we will have children becoming our Green Ambassadors in their community. To our eyes, this project has so much potential to grow that we are aiming to apply for government funding to expand it and build a network of collaborating schools in Lesvos. Slowly, bit by bit, we have planted some seeds out there and we are excited to watch them grow...