For the Muslim residents of Nea Kavala, Ramadan 2018 was no easy feat. They face long, hot days in cramped containers, boredom, isolation and the feelings of loss and separating hanging over them during the most important event of the Islamic calendar. Nearly a third of our population is currently ‘unregistered’. While they wait, sometimes for several months, to be officially registered they cannot access official services including non-emergency medical care, NFI’s or cash cards. That means that during this time, for some people the only food and supplies they are receiving is what Drop in the Ocean distribute every week, and it is not enough. Many rely heavily on support from the community who share what little they have.
With these complex and frustrating problems in full swing, Drop in the Ocean was given an opportunity to do something amazing for the residents of Nea Kavala. We were delighted to receive a generous grant to throw an Eid celebration to mark the end of Ramadan 2018. While many of the residents are Muslim, it is a very diverse population so we decided to create a festival that involved and celebrated all the cultures in the camp.
So, with a team of twenty volunteers, a large budget and 500 residents to entertain… where did we start? First, we spread the word by making fliers to invite residents to a meeting. With the help of translators for our most commonly spoken languages – Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, French and Urdu – we asked how people would like to celebrate and the answer was universal across all of the cultures; music and food! From that meeting, the community organized themselves into five cooking teams; Syrian, Kurdish, Iranian/Afghan, Pakistani and Congolese.
Each team was assigned a volunteer to act as an ambassador for their cooking station to support them in organizing themselves and sourcing ingredients to prepare a spread for over 500 people! The Community Hall became the central hub for the Eid festival as our dedicated team of chefs cooked up some incredible food with the support of the volunteer ambassadors. Upon entering the tent you were greeted with aromas from across the world as the chefs lovingly crafted cuisine from their home countries, as they poured their heart and souls into the dishes, with as much passion and attention to detail going into the presentation as well as the creation as vegetables were delicately carved into flowers.
We also had the Kids Zone where there were water games, an assault course, face painting, transfer tattoos and lots of music! We had a relaxing and secluded Women’s Zone with chilled music, henna tattoos, tea and dancing. In our new Community Space, we had tea, board games and music where people gathered to unwind, socialize and play a few games – one of our volunteers even built a football table especially! In our Music Zone, we had music and dancing from all of our cultures with a few special resident DJs showing off their newly developed skills. We knew from the start our Sports Zone would be bustling as the residents enjoy games of volleyball, badminton and football in the sun.
As the sun set over Nea Kavala, the music moved to outside the Drop Shop and so did all the people as an evening of music and dancing ensued. One again, different cultures and communities within the camp came together to celebrate as the day drew to a close.
Kurdish and Arabic music opened the evening as the residents showed us the dancing from their cultures, which inevitably lead to them teaching us the steps! The Congolese residents were quick to showcase their performance skills as they rapped from a makeshift stage that we had built. Soon enough, everyone had their dancing shoes on as residents took turns in choosing the music. We even got to enjoy popular hits from MC Hammer and Jason Derulo as the younger residents took control of the speaker!