The Transformative Power of Art
Here at Life in the Bay, we support ALL of those who are making a new life in the Bay Area. In 2017 we worked with the International Rescue Committee which provides crucial services and support to newcomers who have completed the lengthy process of being granted refugee status in the US. But what about those who have not yet been granted settlement? How can we help the families and children who are en-route? Those who are living in immigration limbo in temporary shelter in places such as Greece, Germany and elsewhere in the world?
The plight of the Refugee
We were recently contacted by Vicki Trapalis who wanted to bring our attention to the nonprofit Love without Borders which is providing a special opportunity for those of us in the Bay Area to learn more about the plight of refugees and directly support individuals who are trying to make a new life in a new place.
Vicki is passionate about helping these refugees by sharing her experiences from the refugee camps in Greece, and by bringing attention to this worthy cause.
A Greek-American attorney raised in the Bay Area, Greece and Germany, Vicki has spent at least part of the summer each year for fifteen years vacationing in Greece. In the summer of 2016, having heard only a little, about an influx of refugees arriving on the Greek islands and the need for volunteers to assist, Vicki decided to spend a few days on the island of Lesvos helping out, before continuing with her vacation plans. She arrived on Lesvos and never left staying for the remainder of the summer. At the end of summer, Vicki returned to the Bay Area just long enough to request a one-year unpaid leave of absence from her employer.
In October 2016, she returned to Greece and remained there until October 2017, volunteering at the Elliniko refugee camp. The experience changed her life. She tells us that, “had I not witnessed the conditions in the refugee camps in Greece first-hand, I may have been skeptical that the situation was as dire and inhumane as I observed. At the camp, residents lived one family per tent, outdoors and unprotected from the cold and rain of winter and the heat of summer. The camp lacked electricity, cooking facilities, formal education programs, and adequate medical or dental care. During my time in Greece, I met fellow volunteer Kayra Martinez. I was moved by her dedication, her commitment, and her ability to make things happen.”
Love without Borders
Which bring us to Love without Borders which was founded by Kayra Martinez as a forum for refugees to express themselves through their art. Here is her story. Kayra is a United Airlines flight attendant. She started her volunteer work in 2015 helping Syrian refugees arriving in Germany. From there, she traveled to Northern Greece, volunteering at the Nea Kavala refugee camp in Thessaloniki. When she saw the tragic conditions in which refugees were living, she knew she had to do more. Kayra founded Love Without Borders for Refugees in Need, she began by offering art classes to residents from Nea Kavala camp in her home nearby. She has since expanded her project to include providing art supplies and classes to refugees throughout Greece. She has formed an exhibition of refugee art from her programs that travels world-wide.
The purpose of the exhibition is two-fold–to raise awareness of the refugee crisis and to provide a means of income for the refugee artists. 100% of the proceeds from the art is returned to the artists who are primarily from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The exhibition has been shown in several cities throughout the United States, Canada, South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and across Europe.
This exhibition stands as a powerful testament to the transformative power of art. Using limited materials, the works on display communicate the artists’ experiences, inner lives and wishes for a better future. Kayra has observed that “The children are at their happiest when they can draw and paint. It helps them work through their trauma while having some fun painting.” Please join us for a series of Bay Area Love Without Borders Refugee Art shows.
To connect with a wider group of immigrants in the Bay Area we have been meeting with local organizations that provide essential support to refugees.