2017 - Bulgaria
This past week the #WAP2017 team has been in Sofia and Harmanli, Bulgaria, working within various refugee camps. We have had the pleasure of working with a range of refugees from a wide array of backgrounds. We’ve cuddled Syrian toddlers and have had epic cricket matches with Afghani adults. We’ve heard the stories of young men looking to join their families somewhere in this world. We’ve met individuals from four separate refugee camps, in two distinct cities, and each has their own unique story. However, they have all had one thing in common: sport and play grants them a few hours of unbridled joy.
In one of the refugee camps in Sofia, we were lucky enough to experience Afghani, Syrian, and Iranian culture through dance! We would see the individuals in the camp light up when we brought out our speaker. So, of course, we handed them the aux cord. In turn, they put on a jaw dropping performance of their native dances. I was blown away by their talent and the joy that the music from their home countries brought them.
I entered each camp knowing that there were obvious cultural differences regarding gender and participation in sport and play. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming nature of people in the camps. I was told that in Afghani culture, the women don’t dance. Naturally, as a woman, I thought this concept would apply to me as well. So, you can imagine my surprise when one of the young men approached me and vehemently asked why I was not dancing! After seeing that I had no reasonable response, he proceeded to pull me into the middle of the dance party that the refugees and WAP members were having. This little act of inclusion caught me off guard but also gave me hope. If these displaced men and women can come together through their mutual love of dance, bringing their beautiful cultures into one cohesive choreography, maybe others in different countries can also open up their dance floors to new and different dancing as well.
I hope these individuals never stop dancing. I hope that the passion in their eyes, which was accentuated during their dancing, continues wherever these people are situated, as it was is truly infectious.
Mariah and Colm