News

CAMBRIDGE EXAMS: MAY 2021

We received some weeks ago the results of the B2, B1, and A2 Cambridge exams that 11 of our students took in May 2021. We couldn´t be happier!

For the first time in our 5 years of life, 1 student, who started with us 2 years and a half ago, was ready to take the B2 level exam. He worked really hard despite all the disruptions due to Covid-19 and, although he missed the passing score just by a few points, we feel extremely proud of him.

Regarding the students who took the B1 and A2 exams, 4 and 6 students respectively, we also felt amazed not only because they all passed their respective exams but also because of their excellent scores. These high marks show how hard they all worked during the long preparation period.

The brilliant marks and its academic value are not the only positive side of these exams. Once again and even more importantly, it has been their change of mentality and personal growth. The self-confidence and self-esteem gained with this experience will definitely help them face and achieve new challenges in life.

This success couldn’t have been achieved without the help of all of you who supported the Habibi Center in order to cover the registration of the students as well as all the material needed during the entire preparation period. Thanks a million to all of you scattered across Scotland, England and Málaga (Spain).

The Habibi Center Team
03.09.21

INTERNATIONAL BOOK DAY

POWERFUL WEAPONS

The Habibi Center opened its doors nearly 5 years ago to support a specific group of the population: young refugees who had fled their countries of origin in order to find a safer and more prosperous future in Europe. Refugees, regardless their age, are usually silenced, forgotten, and neglected worldwide. In addition, in many occasions, they remain locked up in camps for months, as if they were a threat for the rest of society. Despite those detrimental injustices, powerful main stream media and other authorities barely call attention to this issue. However, when they occasionally do so, it seems like they prefer to prioritise profitable and biased over real content.

 

Since March 2020, when governments worldwide ordered everybody to remain indoors due to the dangers of Covid-19, every one of us has been pushed to change our lifestyles. The several traumatic lockdowns suffered in most of the developed countries have triggered many profound changes, for example making teleworking almost compulsory for the vast majority of people and making online lessons in schools and universities the only way for young people to continue their studies.

Nowadays, words like Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams are embedded in most of our lives. For many months, the only way children and adults have been able to communicate with others has been by playing online videogames, and the only way they have had to be entertained has been by watching television or eating up Netflix content without a break. The so-called “New Normal” that mainstream media and other authorities try to pressure seems to be fully technology dependant, with virtual relationships, endless time consumed in front of screens, and knowledge gained through video content.

On the other hand, cultural and other activities that create a sense of community and human bonding, such as cinemas, theatres, sport, and music concerts have been radically suppressed. Moreover, libraries have dramatically suffered the consequences of lockdown policies and have been disregarded as a secondary need by authorities although books have been historically considered a powerful weapon to acquire knowledge and help develop countless human abilities.It’s undeniable that audio-visual technology has been able to provide extremely high-quality content for the last 10 years. Unfortunately, that overdose of daily consumed technology has also triggered the diagnosis of new disorders, such as the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Therefore, although advertisements bombard us 24/7 so that we keep consuming new audio-visual content or buying the most up-to-date gadgets, we should balance the situation and embrace books once again.

It’s difficult to imagine life without books and the absence of the unique beneficial effects that they are able to produce in our brains. For example, unlike audio-visual content which adversely overstimulates people with incessant sounds and imagines, reading a book boosts concentration, which might help us at any stage in our lives to successfully focus on any goals we want to achieve. In addition, reading books helps develop greater creativity and imagination than watching a movie or playing a videogame. Interestingly, as it has been proved over the last decades, developing creativity and imagination foster critical thinking, decision-making, and creative problem solving.

As it is with refugees, who feel silenced, forgotten, and neglected, books need our support in these difficult moments. As it is with refugees, books must be part of our society. Long life to these powerful weapons, full of words and knowledge instead of bullets, which help build a better world with independent, empathetic, and healthier individuals.

23.4.21

Cambridge Exams & Lockdown!

Last September 2020, the Habibi Center felt enthusiastic about filling in the registration forms so that new students could take Cambridge exams on the 5 December (4 students for A2 level and 3 for B1 level). Unfortunately, as a result of the strict lockdown imposed by Greek authorities since last 7 November, the dates of those exams have already been postponed 4 times (19 December, early February, 20 March, and now 29 May).

 

It is not an easy task to register our students to take those Cambridge exams as there are usually some changes from the day we pay until the exam’s date. One of the main issues is that students don’t show as much commitment as the Habibi Center’s team expects. That lack of commitment might be due to several factors usually seen in the refugee youth, such as low self-confidence and fear to face a new failure in life, as well as lack of focus as a result of their unstable legal situation full of uncertainty, sudden interviews with their lawyers and constant issues with their asylum documents. In addition to that regularly occurring scenario, we are quite concerned about the detrimental consequences of the strict lockdowns imposed by Greek authorities since the start of the Covid-19 Pandemic in March 2020. The suspension of most of the educational programmes that refugee youth were able to attend, owing to these extreme movement restrictions, have triggered an important increase of depressive cases. As a result, the fragile sense of structure and routine provided for a long time by all those educational programmes, including the Habibi Center, has been dramatically disrupted. For example, only focusing on the 8 students registered last September to take one of the Cambridge exams, 3 of them have had to stop attending the Habibi Center and been withdrawn from the exams due to those common negative factors, which have been radically worsened by the Covid-19 restrictive measures.

Right now, our primary wish is that free movement is restored as soon as possible and everybody is able to continue living their lives as before. Although all these current restrictions are affecting most of us considerably, they do affect refugee youth to a greater degree. Another clear example is in regard to these Cambridge exams as many Greek teenagers will be able to take them in the near future when the current situation improves, but some of our students will not. As a result of the measures suffered since March 2020, their only chance already passed and they are no longer part of the Habibi Center due to 2 main reasons: relocations to other countries or their feared adulthood, which pushes most of them to stop studying in order to find a job and sustain their independent lives. Despite all these added challenges, we, teachers and students, continue pushing as much as we can.

We would like to thank our friends in the U.K. who donated some money last year to register some students, as well as some others who have recently helped us with the registration of 6 other students who started preparing for the A2 exam and 1 for the B2 exam last January 2021. Your money will, hopefully, pay off in the end of May. Finally, we would also like to express our immense gratitude to the British Council Athens (organisation through which we have been registering our students since the end of 2017) for considering our special needs, understanding the unstable legal situation of our students, and kindly allowing our requested changes.

 

02.04.2021

News from Athens 28.09.2019

It’s been a few months since last time we posted some updates about life in Athens, once again not because the activity of the centre has decreased but all the contrary.

The summer was packed with the usual English lessons in the afternoons as well as different interesting short-term workshops in the mornings.

First, thanks to the donation of several laptops from the USA and the collaboration of Rick, a volunteer from the same country, we were able to plan a 2-week workshop about the basic use of a laptop and the introduction to MS Word, Google tools, and typing.

Without any time to breathe, Anne, a volunteer from Finland who has already collaborated with Habibi Center in other occasions, came to carry out a new art project. This time, the students created 2 self-portraits with the collage technique. One of them represented their inside, showing their fears, goals, skills, life experiences, and personal views of their daily life in Greece. The second one showed their external appearance. Alongside the 2 self-portraits, they expressed with words some of their personal information as well as the reasons why they composed the inside portrait in that way. After 2 weeks of intense work, we exhibited the work in a café, so that everybody could have a better idea of the thoughts of this youth.

Right after the successful art project, Rick turned the laptops on one more time to help carry out his second workshop with a new group of students. In addition, Stephanie helped others create their own CVs.

Next, it was Anahí’s turn, a photographer and volunteer from Spain who helped carry out a pinhole camera workshop. Several students made their own camera with a shoebox and played with them for 1 week as well as learning about the classic developing process. Although there wasn’t enough time to do as much as was planned, the students were able to experiment and enjoy this distinctive technique.

Finally, Javier, a Spanish friend who has supported Habibi Center since its beginnings, brought his experience to Athens and carried out a science workshop for 1 week. Two groups of students enjoyed learning about different aspects of science, such as the Universe, the Biosphere, the Hydrosphere, life and cells, the properties of the light, and the basics of electricity.

After a long summer, the regular course of Greek schools started again and all the students eventually came back to routine. At the same time, teachers in Habibi Center had again the difficult task of trying to accommodate to each student’s schedule as much as possible. Now that the groups have been finally set, around 40 students are able to continue attending regular lessons in the centre. Moreover, 2 of those groups have already started preparing for the following Cambridge exams, KET and PET, expected for next December 2019.

Once again, all these achievements are not only thanks to the volunteers who share their time here in Athens but equally important thanks to the help of many people spread all over the world, either with material and financial donations or simply spreading the word about us.

¡Gracias Madrileños!

Hace aproximadamente dos años y dos meses nació Habibi Center. Entró al mundo cargado de ilusión, fuerza y energía, pero también con cierto miedo e incertidumbre.

Una pareja de amigos de Madrid se interesaron por el proyecto y decidieron ayudar a amamantarlo. Pronto se sumaron a esa ayuda varias personas más de su círculo, posiblemente a causa de la curiosidad por conocer a ese frágil Habibi.

A día de hoy, el proyecto está más sano y fuerte que nunca, ha crecido y madurado a pasos agigantados desde sus primeros días de vida y, por lo que se siente y se escucha directamente desde sus estudiantes, está consiguiendo los objetivos para los cuales dio a luz – proporcionar educación e ilusión a una juventud que atraviesa por momentos duros de inestabilidad y vulnerabilidad.

Solamente unos pocos de vosotros ha experimentado la magia de compartir tiempo y espacio con nuestra juventud, pero no por ello habéis dejado de mimarlos y apoyarlos desde la distancia. Todos vosotros tenéis una parte esencial de culpa de que este pequeño pero ambicioso bebé esté donde está.

Gracias de corazón por todo lo que aportasteis en sus primeros días de vida, y mil gracias más por lo mucho que seguís apoyándolo para que continúe siendo una realidad.

Gracias por confiar en Habibi Center.

¡Gracias Salamanca!

Querida familia de Salamanca,

No existen palabras para agradecer vuestro apoyo a Habibi Center. Aunque, en realidad, en esta pequeña gran familia estamos acostumbrados a pocas palabras. Por el contrario, preferimos hablar con gestos, con hechos y con esfuerzo y trabajo.

Unos días atrás nos visitaron físicamente dos de vosotros. Físicamente, ya que con la energía y amor que desprendieron estamos seguros que una parte de todos vosotros también se desplazó a Atenas. Esperamos que cuando os crucéis con ellos en los próximos días también podáis sentirnos a nosotros, los que permanecemos por tierras helenas.

Desde esta esquina de Europa solo os podemos prometer trabajo, trabajo y trabajo para conseguir que nuestros jóvenes estudiantes adquieran valores y educación desde el amor y el respeto, y no desde el odio, la rabia y el miedo. Vosotros transmitís lo mismo y por esa razón os seguimos necesitando.

Un fuerte abrazo y, de nuevo, mil gracias desde Atenas a todos.

Careful! Wild Things Around!

Imprisoned identity, harassed dignity, vulnerable soul, it is time to wake up and fly free. It is time to shine bright. You now possess the right tools and know how to do it.

Some Wild things can be seen at the school. Luckily, they aren’t planning a wild rumpus anytime soon. They are special and positive creatures for all those who want a better World, unlike many powerful characters determined to keep creating numb sheep, unable to think and live independently and freely. Instead, these ones are determined to stand up for themselves, willing to face their future with optimism and joy. Wild things who want to have a voice in this endangered planet. Wild things who don’t want anybody to look at them as a victim anymore, but as a respectable human being.

To share a common and safe space where EVERYBODY has the freedom to express what they truly believe, where EVERY opinion and EVERY person is respected, where a funny comment or a silly mistake can be followed by healthy laughs, and where EVERYBODY feels empathy for each other – This is just what they need. It’s just what Habibi Center provided them.

It is difficult for the teachers to express what they feel with all that magic evolution. Imagine how anybody would feel if a scared girl started her ‘A, B, C classes’ five months ago and now she is able to recite profound poems about herself. Imagine how anybody would feel when a fifteen-year-old vulnerable boy started his classes seven months ago learning ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ and now he is going to start a new stage in his life in another adopted country as a well-rounded human being, able to make decisions by himself.

These Wild things were tired of feeling like a living death. They felt useless and underestimated by the society and themselves. NOT anymore. We are extemely proud of our beloved Wild things.

Thank you very much for continuing to support Habibi Center. We need more Wild things. We need less victims.

Time to move on

Habibi Center is close to its 2nd anniversary. During all this time, it has worked as an independent educational project. When it started, it needed total freedom of action as the situation with the youth was critical and chaotic. It couldn’t wait for any OK from third parts and leave this collective without education and integration for a single second more.

  1. That long-term independency, though, also brings some uncertainty in many areas of the project. Among others, the most important ones being:European and local agreements are amended and updated constantly while this humanitarian crisis moves on.
  2. Inability of long-term planning: It seems not true but, since Habibi Center’s birth, the longest planning has only been three or four months ahead. This short term planning affects in many different aspects:
  • Financial stability: Habibi Center would be nothing without the unvaluable financial help from its family. The donations, though, could have been more consistent sometimes but, mainly due to the sort-term decisions, the project decided to stop some of those.
  • Volunteering schedule difficulties: one of the main aims of Habibi Center is to provide the students with long-term teachers in order to increase their confidence. That planification is also continually disrupted.

All that uncertainty has made the members of the project think over the idea of setting up Habibi Center as an official and legally registered association.

Nothing major is going to change with this decision. Habibi Center’s priority is not to massively but staying as a cozy and close family for a long time and continue taking actions as independently as possible. As informed above, the main reason is to give more stability and be able to carry out better and more appropriate decisions in the future. The entire family deserves it.

Further information about this decision will be shortly announced.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH for keeping supporting these lovely students

On the shore – En la orilla

We present to you ON THE SHORE, a book written by Fernando Del Berro:

“What is the line after which a refugee who flees from war feels safe for first time?

Here is my book ON THE SHORE: photos and an extensive report with testimonies and texts collected in the Greek island of Lesvos.

100% of the profit from the sale will go to the rescue NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which is one of the few organizations that continue saving lives every day in the Mediterranean.

Price: 25 euros (£22 – $30) + shipping costs

Language: English (the book showed in video is Spanish version, but an English version is available)

Interested contact me by personal message or e-mail: fernandodelberro@gmail.com”

Fernando del Berro

– – –

Os presentamos EN LA ORILLA, un libro escrito por Fernando del Berro:

“¿Cuál es esa línea tras la cual un refugiado que huye de la guerra se siente a salvo por primera vez?

EN LA ORILLA, un libro con fotografías, textos y testimonios recogidos en la isla griega de Lesbos

El 100% de beneficios de venta irán para la ONG de salvamento marítimo Proactiva Open Arms, que es de las pocas organizaciones que continúan salvando vidas diariamente en el Mediterráneo.

Precio: 20 euros + gastos envío

Idioma: castellano (o inglés -25 euros-)

Interesad@s contactadme por mensaje personal o vía e-mail: fernandodelberro@gmail.com”

Fernando del Berro