We visited Welcommon, a shelter in the middle of Athens run by an NGO catering to refugees. Welcommon refurbished a large public health clinic that had been shuttered due to the economic crisis. Guests are selected by the UNCHR in its relocation program with priority given to vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, families with children, and the elderly. Here is their website.

We visited Welcommon with George Moschos, who was there in his capacity as Ombudsman for Children’s Rights. We spoke with Nikos Chrysogelos, the head of the shelter and two of the residents. In this post, I’d like to talk about Sayam.

Sayam is an Iraqi Kurd in her mid-twenties who was unique among the refugees we have met. First of all, she did not flee war, or sectarian violence, per se. Growing up in a secular family, she always had support from her parents, which she describes movingly in the clip below. She left Iraq to escape pressure from uncles and the society at large to be a subservient woman. She felt that only in Europe could she achieve her dreams and escape the oppression that she felt. She travelled alone and made it to Greece where she made friends and was living in squats. She recently found out about Welcommon and applied and is now living there, repaying her housing and food by volunteering as a translator. As you can hear, her English is excellent and she conducted an interview in Arabic for us with another resident, which I hope to post soon. She is planning to stay in Greece and is now taking acting lessons in addition to pursuing which she describes in this clip.

Sayam from Bill Megalos on Vimeo.