Madelena from Leros Solidarity Network wrote the following blogs about the Villa Artemis project in Leros in November 2015. This initiative is still running, and now a number of refugee families and vulnerable adults are staying there. It’s a project we continue to support. You can donate toward this project via the donate tab on our website.
Part 1, A night at Villa Artemis
Tonight going up to the Villa we had light up the stairs for the first time! And when we reached the front door we heard the sounds of women’s laughter and children running around with toys in the corridor. It felt incredibly festive and we took photos of the group. Three of the women kept kissing us and taking our arms telling us how happy they were to be in the Villa and that this was the first time since the bombing began in Syria that they had felt the peace and security of a ‘home’.
Part 2, A night at Villa Artemis
We sat together in the kitchen and it wasn’t long before the smiles turned to tears and horrifying stories began to emerge. Farida (none of these real names) had lost three children in the bombing, the youngest a baby. She sat and breastfed her friend Raja’s baby. Raja had a baby that the father had never seen and in her escape from Syria she became too traumatised to feed it. Nabilah held her two year old son who she said h…ad forgotten how to smile; she said his pain is as great as that of his sister, who cannot smile because her mouth is disfigured from the fire following the bombs.
Part 3, A night at Villa Artemis
After all these stories, we held each other and cried and the children hovered, sad eyed in a circle around us. Seeing this, the team insisted that hope must triumph. Anna picked up 2-year-old Sayid, whose face was swollen out of all proportion, because he had been kicked in the face by terrorists as the family were fleeing. I took Layal, whose smile had been burnt off her face by the bombs, by the hand, and all the women went and sang children’s songs, bathed the little ones and put them to bed.