For the residents of Souda Camp in Chios, each new day can look just like the last. For the 500 or so left behind every time the big ship leaves for Athens, three times a day, they queue for food. After breakfast, a small number play chess. On sunny days, a few men fish with equipment provided by A Drop in the Ocean or share stories with volunteers. Others sit in their tents and ruminate, or stare out across the sea to Turkey.
(Written by Sarah Unsworth)
To break the monotony, and to nurture the fragile shoots of community growing here, A Drop in the Ocean organised the first ‘Souda’s Got Talent’ event.
The shows MC was BKD, a streetwise Kurdish teen with a faultless American accent gleaned from cable TV. He presented on PA equipment borrowed from Drop’s contacts in Greek community, stood on a stage assembled from pallets by ‘Handy-Drops’ and camp residents; against a backdrop spray painted by a refugee.
The Judges panel comprised the major nationalities in the camp, alongside a Municipality worker, and one lucky Drop (me!) who wasn’t useful for much else thanks to a broken foot.
The first act welcomed to the stage by BKD was his own brother, Jihad, who showcased his talents as a chef, skilfully slicing a salad for 16 in less than 2 minutes. The judges taste-tested the salad and handed their score cards to the adjudicators before the next act – a street-dancing Syrian who impressed with his acrobatics.
This was followed by freestyle footballing star from Algeria who wooed the crowd with balancing feats. Next up came some emotive traditional Syrian singing, which silenced the rowdy crowd. This was followed by breakdancing, then rapping, and a second break-dancer.
16 acts in total (many of whom got caught up in the atmosphere and signed up there and then!) performed in front of the crowd of 400 in Arabic, Kurdish, Farsi, Urdu and English. All sorts of talents were on show, including drawing, poetry, traditional and modern dance, Bollywood singing and guitar playing.
Children sat on blankets in the warm spring sunshine. One of the camps smallest residents provided his own interpretation of breakdancing which endeared him to the crowd. Further back, adults gathered around industrial picnic tables several persons deep. Families and groups of young men were joined by volunteers from the many organisations working in Chios and local activists.
After two hours of performances, and with the lunchtime food distribution vans set to arrive, the event drew to a close. After the scores were totted up by the adjudicators, the winner was announced as Samou from Algeria, who was awarded a EUR50 prize for his singing a ballad about mothers. Joint 2nd place went to breakdancing Shukri from Sudan and Yousef from Syria, who sang about the challenges of being a refugee. They each received EUR30.
Despite being a little rough round the edges, the event was an enormous success and the residents of Souda were in great spirits for the rest of the day. The pallets used for the stage were donated to the Municipality, who will use them to raise tents off the ground, providing some protection from rainwater and cold.
The events success owes much to the hard work of a big team of Drops led by coordinators, Isabel and Elisha who led careful negotiations with the Municipality, and built good relations with the other organisations working on the island. In just over a week the Drops arranged a stage, PA system, backdrop, voting system, line-up, MCs, a diverse and fair judging panel, seating and blankets, flyers, prizes, and t-shirts for participants.
But aside from being an organisational success, the event served as a welcome distraction for residents from the everyday struggles of life in a refugee camp, and seemingly endless waiting for asylum applications and interviews to allow them to continue their journey to the refuge of Europe.