“From the highway all I can see is the road, but I know that beyond this lies camps with tents and portable boxes and people who still live in limbo, waiting to know their futures. And that’s the thing about someone who witnesses that reality: once you know, you have to decide what to do with that knowledge,” writes Daphne Morgan, reflecting on what it has been like to journey to refugee camps in Greece since her first visit in 2016.
In early 2017, Daphne met Hannah Brumbaum while the two were volunteering in a refugee camp in Ritsona. Hannah joined Daphne in piloting a youth arts program. As they interacted with the youth in camp and read the international news, they witnessed a huge disconnect between the stories making headlines and the realities of these young people. They experienced firsthand how the voices of displaced youths were largely absent from the narrative built around the crisis endured by migrants.
Through the lens of storytelling and art, they hope to change that through their project “Youth UnMuted.” Daphne and Hannah received a seed grant for their idea in 2018. Traveling with their “Mary Poppins suitcases” the pair organized week-long creative pop-up workshops that encouraged and facilitated personal storytelling, giving youth a place to safely express their voice, learn new skills, and gain peer-to-peer support.
Last year, in response to the Covid-19 lockdown and the impossibility of organizing in-person workshops, they created “Now You Hear Us”, a podcast to share the voices of young people who have experienced displacement. From refugee camps to host communities, it tackles thoughts on displacement, migration, politics, mental health, identity, friendship, art, and love. The core participants of Now You Hear Us form the all-female Youth Advisory Board, and include two young women from Syria, one from Afghanistan, and one from Iraq.
So often, we hear about new policies and restrictions and are upset on principle, but not involving people that we know and love who are affected directly. Hannah and Daphne hope that their work reminds people that there are very real individuals whose lives and futures are impacted. Instead of being upset purely on a philosophical level, they hope you remember the stories of the youth. From Rafa, who dreams of a life with friends and a dog named “salva vida,” to Tania who wishes to be an industrial engineer, to Gerardo, who wants to be reunited with his girlfriend and mother.
These are the stories that help Daphne and Hannah continue, even though their work is often extremely challenging.
“Every now and then, after hundreds of hours of working for little to no pay, learning new systems and software, navigating foreign countries, asking people for money, and living out of a suitcase we ask ourselves, “WHY?!” But we know why. It isn’t because we are “so good” or that we “want to save the world,” it is because we have seen the power of what listening, hearing and sharing stories can do. And in this world, at this moment, we cannot afford to not listen to our youth. We owe them that much.”