An appeal…Are you a parent refugee on transit or living in a temporary camp?

I sat in front of my computer ready to write a blog on the Covid-19 pandemic and refugee families. I was planning to write about the difficulties the refugee parents in transit or in temporary refugee camps must have in terms of socially (physically is probably more correct) distancing in overcrowded places, the difficulties they may have in terms of hygiene as for example frequent hand washing, the frequent washing of clothes, hard and soft surfaces, of wearing and safely disposing used masks, of being tested promptly in case of being in contact with someone who develops the disease, of having access to medical intensive care and so on. I was going to repeat some of the advice which is around regarding the care of their children and the support the need and/or have or have not.

Then I realised that whatever I say, it can be said better and it will have a bigger impact if this was coming from someone with lived in experience rather than someone like me who is sitting is her comfortable home with all the creature comforts I need. So here’s the deal: This blog needs YOU! This blog needs the voices of refugee parents, it needs your description of the challenges you face, it needs you to tell the world about your suffering, about your wishes. Let’s be political! What do you want governments to do for you. Ask big as this is the time that you are most likely to be heard. The more voices we have the better. I know that the health carers, the volunteers, the administrators etc who are camp based do their best to provide you the basics for life and living, but they cannot bring about the changes that YOU believe are needed. Now more than ever, you must make your voices heard in big numbers.


I look forward to hearing some loud voices.

Irena Papadopoulos

Short Film: SOSivio – Film About Refugees

The short film “SOSIVIO” (lifejacket), created by young children and their teachers in Crete, Greece, is focused on the importance of practising empathy and compassion towards immigrants’ experiences and emotions…  A nightmare may be the mean to make us walk a mile in immigrants’ shoes… This film has been awarded in an international film contest.
Venetia Velonaki 
Assistant Professor
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens



So I have a new name – refugee.
Strange that a name should take away from me.
My past, my personality and hope.
Strange refuge this.
So many seem to share this name – refugee
Yet we share so many differences.
I find no comfort in my new name.
I long to share my past, restore my pride,
To show, I too, in time, will offer more
Than I have borrowed.
For now the comfort that I seek
Resides in the old yet new name
I would choose – friend.

Rubimbo Bungwe, 9 years old, (from Zimbabwe) NUT Magazine, Sept/Oct 2002 edition

Published on behalf of

Paraskevi Apostolara PhD, MSc, BSc , RN











Love Vs Hate

I asked a colleague to provide me with some information, which one of my international collaborators asked me to help them with. The information, which was spot on, arrived two working days after I had asked for it. The colleague apologised for her late response! Well, I certainly did not consider the response as late, and many of you wouldn’t either. I thought the colleague’s response (who I do not know well as she is in a different department) was kind and compassionate, and I told her so.

In contrast, we have all experienced the waiting game. I send an email, the person does not respond, I follow the email with a polite reminder a week later, no response….and when after three reminders the person still does not respond, but a response arrives three minutes after my sending the fourth reminder, which is copied to the relevant manager, then I am left wondering: why was the person ignoring me? I know they were not on holidays, and I know they are not busier than me, so what is their motive?

I am telling this story so that I can introduce my topic for this blog: Love Versus Hate. You may not agree with my analysis, but I hope you will agree with my conclusion. So, it is my belief that the first colleague’s response in the above story, came from a place of love. Love motivates us to be compassionate and do good for the sake of good and no other gain. Genuine compassionate acts from one human to another, do not need much thinking and analysis of facts. They are almost spontaneous and they come from the place of love. It makes one feel good when being compassionate to another human being, and that is enough. On the other hand the second colleague’s behaviour most probably came from a place of indifference (the opposite to compassion), spite and/or jealousy, all of which are components of hate. You may think I am exaggerating here and I am using a very strong word, as my example is not so dramatic to deserve the ‘hate’ label. Probably so, nevertheless it does not stop it from being harmful. There are myriad consequences to such harmful (hateful) behaviour, the accumulation of which could end up being explosive.

The corona virus has seen refugees waiting for improvements to their living conditions which could stop the spread of infection to them and their loved ones. Even though the front line workers and volunteers do their best – actions which demonstrate love and compassion- it often feels that the authorities and the ‘strong’ of this world is turning a blind eye – also called indifference. This type of indifference is not out of spite or jealousy, but is value based. When people are not heard, their plight is constantly ignored and their suffering is met with indifference, this can mean one thing: these people are being dehumanised. When dehumanised, they can be placed at the bottom of the human ladder and therefore they can wait and wait, until something catastrophic happens.

My conclusion to this brief blog is that love should always be chosen over hate (common sense you may say). Love is positive, love builds, love nurtures; acts of love will most probably be responded with love. On the other hand, hate is negative, hate destroys, hate drains the goodness in people; acts of hate or indifference will most probably be counter responded by hate, bringing suffering and catastrophes.

Let us choose love for a better world; a world without wars and power games, a world where all humans are equal, a world where natural disasters, such as pandemics, are confronted with all the human ingenuity we can muster, a world that cares for the vulnerable irrespective of the cause of their vulnerability.

Irena Papadopoulos

2nd June 2020

This blog is dedicated to Fiona.

The manure of our soul!

I recently came across a saying that i hadn’t heard before. It goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with others”. My searches for its origin suggest that this is an African proverb. I was reflecting as to how this may relate to young refugees. I guess when one is in the middle of a major crisis, a life or death situation, a decision has to made as to whether to remove him/her self from the danger fast with high possibility of saving his/her life, or whether one risks the dangers to organise a family exit.

Some years ago, I conducted a study with unaccompanied refugee minors from Ethiopia. These young people told me that during the Ethiopian conflict, very young people (as young as aged 10 and above) were recruited by the various factions as boy soldiers. Seeing the danger that this would have on their young sons, many parents tried hard to gather some money as fast as they could, to pay people smugglers so that their sons could be taken to Europe, out of danger and for a better life. The young people in my study suffered tremendously before reaching the UK, and even when they were ‘settled’ in the UK, they were still suffering. They were missing their parents, their siblings, their extended family and friends. Yes, they reached their parents’ desired destination fairly fast, but they found themselves stuck, their long term prospects in limbo, their future uncertain. At their tender age, they had no one to provide them genuine love, kindness and understanding. Instead, they experienced exploitative friendships, abusive ‘love’, and loneliness.

“It takes a village to bring up a child”, another African proverb reminds us. Are the Syrian children, who are travelling with their families and with ‘the whole village’, in a better position than the lone child who travelled with strangers? One may argue that these children are indeed in a better position, even though their journey is longer, more difficult and almost always more challenging. But I hope, that being with members of their family, they are feeling safer as they receive the love of their parent/s and or grandparents, brothers and sisters and the friends they make during the long journey. To grow and thrive, we all need the nourishment that food and love provide, but this is especially important for children and young people. And just like a small seedling and a young tree will grow strong roots with the help of the sun, the rain and some manure, so will the young refugee children grow strong roots helped by people who love them and by those who surround them, ‘their village’.

Of course, many of the young people who reach their destination faster but alone, will also grow strong roots, even though it may take them longer, because in my humble opinion adversity is the manure of the soul, and our soul is the powerhouse of our character and identity, in other words, our roots. Both the ‘fast’ and the ‘further’ groups benefit from the manure of the soul. Adversity like manure, is not appealing, it ‘smells bad’, some may call it disgusting. But just like the manure nourishes the young tree, so does adversity nourishes the young person. Let us all in the ‘village’, help both the ‘fast’ and the ‘further’ groups as much as we can. For, who knows when we might need a ‘village’.

Enjoy the summer. Stay safe and healthy until the corona virus is no longer with us.

Irena Papadopoulos

25th May, 2020


I just looked out of my window and saw a very big and bright rainbow. In my culture this means hope and happiness. I wanted to send this rainbow to all mothers, fathers, and grandparents who have been displaced from their homes and are currently walking to safety or are living in a refugee camp miles away from home. Well I cannot do this, but I am dedicating one of my favourite Elvis Presley songs which talk about hope. I hope you like it. You CAN dream and you SHOULD hope.

Rena Papadopoulos


If I Can Dream

Elvis Presley

There must be lights burning brighter somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
oh why
There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why won’t that sun appear

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly
Deep in my heart there’s a trembling question

Still I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow

Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle

And while I can think, while I can talk

While I can stand, while I can walk

While I can dream, please let my dream

Come true, right now

Let it come true right now

Oh yeah


The importance of parenting skills

Parents have influence on their children behaviors, their social skills, and their intelligence and considering the fact that parenting skills can be acquired on future generations, continuous efforts to improve the quality of caregiving is important. Parenting is a vital component in a child’s life. With appropriate parenting motivation and quality, it may protect children from harm and guide them to healthy physical and emotional wellbeing

The degree and variability that a caregiver displays in positive-interaction parenting may be explained by differences in care giver characteristic such as education, support, age and cultural backgrounds

Its important to support parents to strengthen parenting skills in order to improve the lives of children and their parents, affecting children by creating changes in parent’s attitudes and behavior.

The importance of parenting arises from its role as a buffer against adversity or mediator of damage. Firstly, care protects children from harm and encompasses promoting emotional as well as physical health. Secondly control involves setting and enforcing boundaries to ensure children’s safety. Also development involves optimizing children’s potential and maximizing the opportunities

Most parents care for their children, yet motivation to nurture and protect children is not inborn in humans but acquired and shaped through pas experience and current circumstances. We know that factors such as severe poverty seriously distort parenting process but under those circumstances parental qualities and skills are more important.

General practitioners, community pediatricians, and primary health teams are in a key position to promote services for the whole child, delivered through supporting better parenting. Together with social services and education, they can institute programmes that teach and enhance parenting skills so that parents can take a more effective role with their children.

Written by Miss Tsorou Christina, Nurse, MdM Greece

The death ruin my heart

Recently, I caught my eyes an article in an electronic mass media with the title “Death marked him and he came to Cyprus to become a doctor” and a photo showing a teenage boy staring the photographer.  I went through the whole article and it was about a 14 years old refuge boy from Syria between many others Syrian refugees, who they spent their lives crowning letters to reach Cyprus by boat. The Syrian refugees in Kokkinotrimithia’s reception area had gathered in a circle and began to described a journey of horror, with some of them lifting their t-shirts and showing the bruises caused to their bodies by the roar.  I looked again the photo of the teenager refugee from Syria, who came to Cyprus unaccompanied by a boat to find his father and instinctively my thoughts went to my son, who is far away, somewhere in South Atlantic Ocean, as cadet in a tanker.  Of course, my son is not in the same position with this Syrian refugee boy, but as a mother, my thoughts went to the mother of this boy, I felt empathy and compassion for this woman who was forced to sent her child to a foreigner country in order to save his life.   The journalist was discussing the circumstances of their dangerous journey with the refugees and the boy said “ I thought my heart would stop. It was scary. I was afraid we were going to die ”.    He said he came to Cyprus to find his father and that his family paid five thousand dollars to Turkish to travel to Cyprus with a boat.  His mother and the six other children stayed to Syria and they moved to another safest place.  Indeed, how difficult it is for a family to be separated in such difficult circumstances of a war.  They asked him if he has lost any relative in the war and the boy’s look suddenly changed and he turned his face to the side.  Silence.  It was obvious that memories woke up.  It is clear that 14-year-old Ibrahim has gone through many hard events, which have marked his childhood.  “My cousin was killed. He was about the same age with me. We hanged out a lot”.  Τhe memories of his neighborhood are shocking.  “What I remembered are the dead peopled laying down.  Many of my neighbors were killed”.  Ibrahim came to Cyprus to go to school.   He has not been going to school for years. “What I remember before the war was school. I was a good student. I have to go to the fifth grade”.   His memories of school made him somehow resolved, “I was reading home alone,” he says proudly.  I concluded that Imprahim is still a child with his own dreams like other children of his age, although he lived a violent war in his country.  He is dreaming to study and become a doctor, to go back his country and help other people.  My little boy I wish you,  your dream come true.  Good luck.

Refugee parenting during transit and beyond

Although the IENE6 project is coming to an end, we have some good news to share with you. A new project (IENE8) entitled “Empowering migrant and refugee families with parenting skills” , co-ordinated by the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) will be starting soon. The new project will expand the IENE6 Knowledge Hub by focusing on the parenting needs of refugees whilst in transit and after they have settled in refugee camps.  I have copied and slightly edited some text from the IENE8 application which provides more detail about the project:

“All children fleeing conflict, especially those travelling alone are vulnerable to abuse of different kinds: sexual and labour exploitation including trafficking, being sold and being coerced into marriage, in their homes, communities, society or in places where migrants and/or refugees reside – including reception centres, refugee camps or informal settlements at source, transit and destination countries. There is an emerging need in understanding the diverse conditions of migration, how they may influence children and what professionals and volunteers can do that effectively and positively affect the well-being of these families. Thus, there is a need to protect and prevent unwanted situations within the migrant and refugees families, focusing on children. The developmental paths for very young children in immigrant families remains poorly characterised. Ecological-developmental models generally recognise that the parents’, as well as the child’s, experiences help shape the course of social development for young children; but little is known about how key aspects of parental or child-rearing history, including immigration, affect components of social development across children from diverse national origins and ethnic groups.   Here we consider the family- cultural aspects, and its influence on parenting practice and subsequent child social development.
Understanding the impact of migration on children’s and families within their own community and host country is a multi-factorial and transnational issue. It requires considering not only the cultural origins of the parents but their own migration histories. IENE projects highlighted the need for training of health workers, volunteers on transcultural issues aiming to provide culturally competent and compassionate care and it particularly refers to psychological support. The IENE 8 project aims to provide education and training to professionals and volunteers working with migrants and refuges in regards to parenting skills, health care of the family and psychological support. It aims to enable them in providing support, knowledge and empowerment to migrant and refugee parents, which will help them to nurture, protect and educate their children under difficult circumstances. The project will expand the existing Knowledge hub (Khub) (IENE6) for nurses, other health professionals and volunteers ( Khub is a centre or focal point for exchange of knowledge, support, development, ideas and useful tools”.

My colleagues I and will continue to use this blog to discuss relevant issues and bring you news and developments. We invite  all our supporters and readers of this blog to offer feedback and blog postings by sending their contributions to me at

Wishing our new project lots of success!

Thank you all and waiting to hear from you.

“Immigrants” A  Cypriot Art Project


The first time I had heard about the project “Immigrants” was from my daughter, which came excited  one afternoon from school and told me: ‘ mom, our teacher  won the first prize in the 5th national competition for fine arts of secondary general education» .  She was very proud and feeling much admiration for this event showing me the photo of the project  which won the prize.

The project depicting figures of drowning adults and children, which have been made of expanding foam, and arranged on an old fishing boat, received first prize in the competition titled “The Saatchi Gallery/ Deutsche Bank Art Prize for Schools 2016”.  It was created by students of Apostolos Loucas district lyceum in Kolossi, under the supervision of their art teacher, painter Popi Nicolaou, for the 5th Cypriot Arts Competition among schools.  It portrays very successful y, the refugee and immigration tragedy that unfolds in the Mediterranean Sea with the thousands of people who seek a better tomorrow.

I felt very proud about the distinction of Cypriot school students and their teacher for their expressive way of art.  I feel the need to thank them from the depths of my heart, because by their work they expressed what many Cypriots feel about the Syrian refugee drama.  Cypriots know very well, what it means to lose everything in a moment and to become a refugee and we are shocked by the endless drama of these people. There was no better way of conveying compassion feelings to Syria’s people , not by famous artists but from young Cypriots.

Looking the art project you can see the immigrants’ expression reflecting their anxiety.  Their faces are horrified, their eyes are wide open, waiting for a promising sign and their lips are sealed and the taste of bitterness because of frustration.

Αs Ms Nikolaou says: “Syrian refugees betrayed by their country are experiencing an untold terror, are fighting for their lives, because of the war.  They choose life before death comes.    They travel in a boat, between huge waves, having on bow the hope.  Their unique expectation to see the distant horizon of an island, which would put an end to their nightmare”

Elena Nikolaidou