By Avra Fiala, IFRC

When they met in Skaramagas camp, Mariam, Houssam and Muhannad discovered fleeing the war in Syria was not all they had in common.

Each an accomplished musician in Syria, they began jamming together in the camp and are now sharing their skills and love of music with other people living at Skaramagas.

“When listening to the music people feel a sense of freedom,” said Mariam. “There’s so much pain and suffering in this camp. Everyone living here has gone through a so much to reach Greece. But music brings back our sense of joy and passion and spontaneity.”

The three friends have teamed up with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to teach music lessons to almost 50 students aged between 13 and 20. They offer a range of instruments including guitar, oud, singing and music theory. The trio also perform together in the camp.

The music lessons are part of the Red Cross’s psychosocial support activities at Skaramagas. Red Cross psychosocial support includes activities and safe spaces for people living in the camps to either talk about what’s happening and how they are coping or to participate in an activity that enables them to either learn or share a skill, have fun or simply let off some steam.

The European Commission’s Directorate for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection funds Red Cross’s psychosocial support (PSS). ECHO’s Marilena Chatziantoniou says these types of activities are crucial for people who have suffered so much: “Music lessons, like other psychosocial support services, are provided to boost the natural resilience of people, families and communities. For most people, the effects of stress can be buffered by social support of this kind.”

Mohannad has been playing the oud, a middle eastern lute, for more than 30 years. He said: “I love music and by teaching music I turn all the worry I have into joy. It’s such a great chance to socialize with people in the camp and bring people together.”

Houssam has lived at Skaramagas camp with his wife for 10 months. He explained: “I’m a musician and an artist. Music brings us together and gives us hope. But my wife and I are desperate to meet our son in Germany. He is 14 years old and we sent him with his uncle to escape the war. He’s been there for a year and a half. I miss him so much.”

The IFRC and Hellenic Red Cross provides instruments and space for the musicians to provide lessons to people living in the camp. In addition to music lessons, Red Cross works with people living in camps across Greece to organize language lessons, sport sessions and matches, arts and crafts, skill sharing and safe spaces which give people a small break from camp life.