Musical approach to refugee support

Keith Olsen
Keith Olsen
A keen music teacher from the Catlins is returning to Greece to help entertain and educate refugees there - this time working with people from an ethnic and religious minority group who have fled to Europe to escape Isis.

Papatowai resident Keith Olsen spent four weeks in Ritsona refugee camp last year.

At the end of the month he will return to work at another refugee camp, this one comprised exclusively of Yazidi people, who hail from northern Iraq, northern Syria and southeastern Turkey.

Mr Olsen will be based in the Serres area in Northern Greece, and will work at an education centre just outside the refugee camp.

"I'm very much looking forward to it, " he said. "It will be different."

The agency he is with, Lifting Hands International, works to provide humanitarian aid.

The Yazidis had had a "particularly bad time" at the hands of Isis, and he was expecting to work with people who had been through some traumatic experiences, Mr Olsen said.

While Isis recognised Christians and Jewish people as belonging to the same group of religions, it had no respect for the Yazidis - whose religion combines ancient Mesopotamian religions with some aspects of Abrahamic ones.

As with the refugees Mr Olsen helped in Ritsona, the Yazidis now found themselves stuck in Greece.

"They were hoping to settle into a European country.

"[Then] suddenly the other countries locked their borders."

He would be teaching music and art as well as organising some outdoor activities, and had already raised $2238 via Givealittle to put towards the cost of instruments, equipment and arts materials.

"They have some special classes and they teach guitar, ukelele and harmonica, all of which I can play," he said.

He was grateful for the community support received so far.

"I sort of thought that, having done this [before] people would think maybe not this time, but in a few days people [have been] very generous. It's great."

Any leftover money would go towards the organisation he was working for, he said.

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