Play is Hope got its name in March 2016. Living for years in London, I came back home to Thessaloniki to work and play in refugee camps. It was difficult to see the dehumanizing conditions a lot of people were living. I felt ashamed, being Greek, European and human. I come from a family of refugees. My great grandparents were dislocated from Turkey in the First World War. I grew up with the wealth of living in between cultures, languages and homes. As a woman coming from that lineage, I got impacted by the trauma of a woman that one of her children died after that move, my great grandmother.
“What do you want to give?” my friend Russ from Canada asked me. I remembered a group moment of playing with my International Class, a group of people that came together from a diversity of backgrounds and nationalities to study Social Therapeutics in New York and around the world. ‘What is play?’ our teacher Lois asked. Play is hope. Back in Thessaloniki strolling down my house I walked all the way to the beach and back. During this hour I repeated hundreds of times: play is hope. And Play is Hope got its name.
What is play? What does it mean to play in contexts that are determined with legal discourses? What does it mean to play with life’s difficulties? What does it mean to create this play and work with our co-organizers, refugees, in close collaboration with USA, given the history between the Middle East and USA, and with Greece, given the conditions that many refugees are living in Greece now?
The making of this work and belonging in the communities that helped to build it has changed mine and others’ lives. It made me more confused, more unclear about what right and wrong means and how to respond to a situation that can be simultaneously so painful and powerful, hopeful. It taught me how powerless we can feel when someone else decides in arbitrary way where we can live and how we can still use this powerlessness to build new realities. It showed me that to take a boat, to leave a place that is your home takes courage and to love life. I don’t know when this work started. I don’t know if we can call it work and from time to time I also don’t know what it is, as it continuously emerges, responding to the history that we are living and creating now, which is changing rapidly.
I still wanted to give you the contexts that organized me to co-create this international, transcultural, collective and becoming organization, and the communities that support and inspire me. Milestones in my life were the moments that I/we discovered the power of performance, and the power of groups and international communities to engage and transform pain and alienation. And the moments that we failed.