Helping as Learning: UH and Metadrasi

Last winter we realized that when we took our group to Greece, we would likely be entering the epicenter of a massive migration crisis. We certainly weren’t afraid to address this as a part of the trip—but how?

We quickly decided we should contact a Greek NGO as a way to get a view of what the Greeks have been going through over the past two years during this unprecedented crisis. When we asked around, everyone gave us the same name: Metadrasi. The name might be hard to say for an English speaker, but it’s a pun on metafrasi or “translation” in Greek.  They perform “trans-action”—meta-DRASI—working to plug the gaps in crucial services for migrants, from translation (a basic human right in their view) to legal assistance and aid to unaccompanied minors caught up in this crisis. (Go here for an NPR story on Metadrasi.) This last component really caught our attention, since we in Texas know very well what a complicated issue unaccompanied minors present—and how much they are at risk from human traffickers.

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Donors showing love for Metadrasi

We decided that we couldn’t come to talk to Metadrasi empty-handed, and so we hatched a plan to raise money for them. Working with the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, we put together a wine-tasting event that sold out pretty fast, thanks to our great ally in this endeavor: Evan Turner, co-founder of Helen Greek Wine and Food, a master sommelier and passionate evangelizer of Greek cuisine and especially Greek wine. Evan lived in Greece during some crucial years of his life, and is an eloquent spokesman for Greek values. Thanks to Evan’s donations of wine and food and our donors’ willingness to give, we quickly raised around 5,000 euros for Metadrasi. (More on the event here.)

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Evan Turner (co-founder of Helen restaurant) teaches about Greek wine and hospitality at the Hilton College

So in May, we were very pleased to meet our new Greek friends in Athens. Orsa Pappaioannou  (Donor Relations Manager) and Evdokia Grillaki (Guardianship Network Coordinator) came to talk to our group at our hotel—which up until a week before our arrival had been housing refugees—and they related some very moving stories about their work. Evdokia spoke at length about their efforts to provide shelter and emotional and legal support for children who find themselves in Greece without their families for various reasons. She explained the cases of specific refugees aided by Metadrasi recently—some with happy endings, some without. It is clear that their agency is able to form a very special and supportive bond, so much so that the children maintain contact with them even after they move on.

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Evdokia Grillaki of Metadrasi relating stories of their work with unaccompanied minors to our student group in Athens

They were also able to tell us (though details of course cannot be divulged for privacy reasons) that the funds we raised in Houston were applied to the successful reunification of two different children with their families.  We always knew we were trying for a qualitative, not a quantitative intervention—we couldn’t expect to raise millions and fix all the problems. But this alone shows that we truly helped to make a difference, and Metadrasi is very grateful for this help from afar.

So why stop now? Let’s keep up our support. There are still thousands of migrants stranded in Greece, and finding solutions for the unaccompanied minors among them takes time and money. Please consider giving what you can to our crowd funding campaign, and get the word out about Metadrasi.  Part of the Honor in an Honors College, after all, is standing up for a good cause when we see one.

—Richard Armstrong

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