Museum Without a Home, but with a Hope!

This entry posted by Martha Roussou, Advocacy Officer in Oxfam in Greece, on 26 October 2017.

As an advocacy officer, I have written various reports on the situation of migrants and refugees in Greece. I know the numbers, statistics and legislation by heart. But the people and the human stories behind the numbers and statistics are my driving force.

When I started looking for stories of items Greek people had given to migrants and refugees, I thought people would talk about functional things: clothes, food, water. And this is indeed what many Greek people said they had offered.

A compelling solidarity

I was very surprised though, to see that people on the receiving end talked about a hairbrush, a face cream or a cup of coffee as the most important things they had received! These were the things that made them feel human. These were the things that NGOs and government distributions did not cover. These were the things that showed them that they were accepted, not as poor helpless people, but as dignified human beings.

The campaign, designed and run by Oxfam and Amnesty International to celebrate the solidarity showed by the ordinary people towards migrants and refugees, was a success.

The compelling and moving video stories of the original items-exhibits of the Museum Without a Home received thousands of views, the exhibits received extensive media coverage when they were displayed in museums across Athens, including the Acropolis Museum, and people from all the ages and around the world offered enthusiastic comments on social media!

Dignity and safety for migrants and refugees

But nothing prepared me for the pride and joy I would feel from the overwhelming emotion the campaign brought the very people that it was about.

I remember showing little Ali in Filippiada his video and giving him a campaign poster of his 'touberleki.' He was so happy and proud of himself! (photo below.)

It was only 2 months after interviewing him and he could speak Greek fluently! He insisted I take pictures of his Greek notebooks to show the film crew.

Ali sees the poster with his touberleki. Photo: Oxfam

Or Spyros from Konitsa who saw via his mobile phone the video with Nassouh speaking about the jacket Spyros had given him. His eyes watered and he remained speechless for some time. He lit a cigarette and after a few minutes of silence he spoke: "Thank you for this. I hadn’t realized a jacket can be so meaningful and mainly I didn’t know Nassouh felt this way about me."

A year after the launch, the Museum Without A Home, An Exhibition of Hospitality has received the European Excellence award for best NGO campaign in 2016 and has travelled from Serbia to Ireland, from the UK to New York, while there are more plans for this unique Museum to be hosted in Canada, and beyond. It has made a lot of people proud to be part of it and has showcased and celebrated the solidarity of the Greek people.

Protecting human rights

At Oxfam we believe that this campaign was so successful because when you take away the politics and the negative images and rhetoric used to frighten people about refugees and migrants - they know in their core opening our communities to people is search of safety and dignity is not only the right thing to do but also enriching.

As Oxfam, we are calling on governments around the world to stand up to their obligations and commitments under human rights and refugee law and follow the example of the Greek people. We hope and do know that it is not too much to ask…

This entry posted by Martha Roussou, Advocacy Officer in Oxfam in Greece, on 26 October 2017.

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