Tavros is a working-class neighborhood of Athens that is home to many immigrants from different countries for the past twenty years. It was a natural choice for a school immersion program for refugee children living in the nearby Eleona camp. The program runs every afternoon after the Greek students finish their school day. Refugee children are bussed in from the camp to spend a year learning the Greek language to prepare them for mainstream schooling next year. For many of these children, it is their first school experience and love and hugs are the largest component of the program for these often traumatized children.
The principal is the wonderful Dimitris Fileles, who has been at Tavro for thirty years, most of them as a teacher. We interviewed him as well as a parent volunteer, Geli Vlahopoulou, who had been one of his students years ago. She told us of the efforts the local community has undertaken to make the children feel welcome. We spent time in several classrooms, as well as filming interviews with two teachers, the warm and remarkable Vanessa Livani and Adriana Gkota. We also watched Teti Nikopoulou, a dancer, lead the students in gymnastics.
A week before our shoot, Mr. Fileles sent permission forms home with the students and we filmed those students whose parents returned signed forms. Because we did’t want to take them from their classes, we did not interview any of the students. We are looking forward to our next shoot, when we will talk with refugees, as well as the Greeks who are working with them
We were moved by the special comfort given to all the children by the entire staff of the school.