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Sofiya Suleimenova and OXSFJ tutor Tatev Hovhannisyan visit Humade Crafts Workshop of Solidarity Lesvos

Picture by: Sofiya Suleimenova

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How eco-friendly art is empowering refugees in Greece to raise awareness of crises

Lesvos solidarity, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in 2016, supports refugees and locals on the island through education and psychological assistance. One of Solidarity’s initiatives is Humade Crafts Workshop based in the Mosaik Support Centre since 2017.

The NGO is using art as a “practical and fun way” to help not only with the integration of refugees but also adopt sustainable practices.

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Yioula Koutsoubou (wearing red) , Humade Crafts Workshop

Picture by: Sofiya Suleimenova

Raising environmental awareness through art has always been a lifestyle for Yioula Koutsoubou, coordinator of the Humade Crafts Workshop (HCW) and zero waste educator.

When she found out about the opportunity to join Solidarity and run her own workshop, she immediately took the chance. She travelled across the world from Latin America to the hotspot for asylum seekers to help.

Lesvos – a Greek island located in the Aegean Sea bordering the Turkish coast – hosted the largest influx of refugees in 2015. Over the years, as the numbers remained high, the conditions in the camps where the asylum seekers resided were poor and the environmental impact aggravated.

Lesvos Solidarity decided to launch HCW as a way to support those seeking refuge and address the issue of massive amounts of waste piled on the coasts of Lesvos. “The idea of the whole project was to help refugees”, Yioula highlights.

Lesvos Solidarity first started operating on the grounds of the Pikpa Camp, which hosted the most vulnerable refugees and grew to help those in need at various other locations. In 2016, Solidarity opened the Mosaik Support Centre. From the year 2020, when Pikpa was closed down, work was able to continue through the centre with the support of employees and volunteers. The centre offers a safe and creative space for the HCW, where all are welcome to express themselves through artistic means.

“My idea was that all the people have time and do whatever they want, as long as they feel free and safe,” says Yioula.

The main method that is used in the workshop to produce eco-friendly art is upcycling. Unlike recycling, which destroys waste, upcycling reuses it artistically in its current form by either making it better or changing its purpose altogether.

HCW produced items like earrings out of abandoned boats, carpets out of textiles scattered across the island and bags out of lifejackets. The items produced are sold in the shop locally, as well as worldwide on its platform.

Lesvos Solidarity is a non-profit, so all the money is returned back to the cause of helping refugees on the island. The organisation also offers the opportunity for refugees to become a part of the team, providing them with paid jobs and insurance.

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  • Earrings made by Humade Crafts Workshop

    Picture by: Sofiya Suleimenova

  • Humade Crafts Workshop

    Picture by: Sofiya Suleimenova

  • HCW enables its participants to acknowledge their talents and offers them a new way of healing and channelling their emotions.

    The power of these words aligned with my own experience at the workshop. Being able to witness the different activities at the Mosaik Support Centre and actually participate in upcycling, helped me see the importance and impact of the work. We made a carpet out of textiles and a volunteer was constructing chess pieces out of cork. The volunteers, refugees and members were welcoming and shared with us their stories – all unique and special like their art.

    Through eco-friendly art, as emphasised by Yioula, greater awareness can be raised of the ongoing struggles.

    “Art is a powerful way to raise awareness of all the crises – the refugee one, climate change, human trafficking – and advocate the importance of human rights and environmental protection.”

    Written by:

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    Sofiya Suleimenova

    International Affairs Section Editor

    Geneva, Switzerland

    Born in 2006 in Barcelona, Spain, Sofiya currently studies in Switzerland. She aims to study law, preferably in the United States. In her free time, Sofie practices karate – she won a silver medal for kata and a bronze in sparring. She speaks French, English, Russian and Spanish.

    She started her collaboration with Harbingers’ Magazine as a Staff Writer. In 2022, she assumed the role of the International Affairs Correspondent. Sofiya created and manages the collaboration with LEARN Afghan organisation, under which teenage girls from Afghanistan receive free education in journalism and English. In recognition of the importance of this project, in September of 2023, she was promoted to the role of the International Affairs Section editor.

     

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