Journalist: Apostolos Staikos
Operator/Editor: Simon Chabas
The table is set. The pastitsio has just come out of the oven and smells delicious. Akis is hungry, while Panagiotis asks if they are going for a walk this afternoon. Margarita asks for a glass of water. Facinet serves the food and brings water to the “children”. Panagiotis cannot eat on his own; Facinet feeds him.
Akis, Panagiotis and Margarita are adults who suffer from severe mobility disabilities. Facinet Sylla, a refugee from Guinea, takes care of these people that he affectionately calls “children”, on a daily basis.
“I am a caretaker of people with disabilities and I work at “Ariadne” Home. I help the “children” go to the toilet and take a bath. I even help them to eat and put them to bed to sleep. In the afternoon we play games and sing. If we have time, we also go for walks,” says 23-year-old Facinet.
The “Ariadne” Residential Home of supported living opened its doors in March 2022 and accommodates nine adults with severe mobility disabilities, whose family situation has made it difficult for them to stay at home. The facility was created by Cerebral Palsy Greece/Open Door and Facinet has been working there since the first day of “Ariadne”.
“Facinet has become an integral part of our team. The “children” trust and love him. At first he was a bit reserved, but he quickly opened up, improved his Greek and now feels confident about himself. He has been through a lot and has achieved a lot. He is worthy of admiration,” says Dimitris Pappas, the manager of the “Ariadne” Home.
Indeed, the 23-year-old refugee has faced many difficulties until he managed to find a job, rent his own apartment and start a new life. Facinet arrived in Samos in 2018. A few months later, he was transferred to Thessaloniki, where he joined METAdrasi’s Semi-Autonomous Living 16+ programme as an unaccompanied minor. He improved his Greek, finished school and participated in the national exams. From the very first moment he told the people of the Organization that his dream is to work as a healthcare professional A few years later, he saw his dream coming true.
“My job has its difficulties, but I love it. Ever since I was young I wanted to help those in need. My grandfather was disabled and my parents took care of him. I was young and couldn’t support him. I decided that when I grew up, I would stand by the side of people who need support,” says Facinet.
In July 2021, Facinet was transferred to Athens, where he joined METAdrasi’s 18+ Living programme. The aim of the programme is to create a safe environment for young adults to feel secure and to further develop their skills and abilities. Its long-term objective is to ensure proper integration of young refugees to the labor market and to further strengthen their autonomy and self-reliance.
In December of the same year, Facinet completed the training programme for support and care staff for individuals with cerebral palsy and mobility disabilities. The training was organized by METAdrasi in cooperation with Cerebral Palsy Greece/Open Door and was implemented with the support of Latter-Day Saint Charities. Twenty young refugees were trained by qualified professionals, and Facinet was immediately hired by Open Door.
“Facinet is a charismatic young man who put in good use all the opportunities that opened up to him. He works hard and contributes to the community. We will always be here for him, to support and assist him. But there is still a great number of refugees and asylum seekers who want to work and cannot. Bureaucracy is a major obstacle. On the one hand we see that there is a significant problem with the lack of labour force and on the other hand we have people who are not given a proper opportunity to find a decent work and stand on their own feet”, says METAdrasi’s President, Lora Pappa.
In recent years and due to the pandemic, the huge shortage of qualified professionals to provide assistance and care to people with disabilities has been highlighted. That is why METAdrasi, after the first successful training program, is implementing a new programme with the support of UNHCR.
The training of personal assistants includes 100 hours of theory, experiential exercises and practical training. During the course, the participants also attend intensive Greek language courses at METAdrasi’s educational centre for a period of four months, as well as certified seminars on child protection and prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
At Cerebral Palsy Greece/Open Door, they know by first-hand the shortage of personal assistants, which is why they support every effort to increase the number of qualified professionals.
“We are very lucky to have Facinet with us. He has empathy and honesty, he is serious and professional. We would like to have more people like Facinet. I wish more refugees would come to work with us. We need more caregivers. And we also want to help refugee families with disabled children. But since there is no registration system, it seems that the State is not doing its job properly. We have come across a refugee family with a disabled child in Victoria square; this is unacceptable!” says Daphne Economou, Founder and Honorary President of “Open Door”.
Facinet has a stable work and he now lives on his own. But he continues to make plans for the future. He wants to enroll to a nursing school so that he can also work as a nurse. He loves psychology very much and hopes that one day he will be able to to pursue his studies in this particular field.
In all that he has gone through, and all that is to come, Facinet knows that he is not alone.
“METAdrasi’s people helped me to build my life in Greece. They enrolled me in school and found me a home in Thessaloniki and Athens.” Facinet was recognized as a refugee, and with METAdrasi’s help, he got back on his feet. “I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have their support. I can feel the love and support of the people of the Organization for the refugees. And that is the most important thing,” says Facinet Sylla.
The time has passed. Akis, Panagiotis, Margarita and the other “children” have to go up to their rooms to rest. A walk in the park is scheduled for later, in the afternoon. They can also choose to stay in and watch TV, if they don’t feel much like going out. In the evening, they relax by taking a bath before dinner. Facinet, along with the other caregivers, assists the “children” to the bathroom and later on puts them to bed for their nap. He will remain by their side until the night drops, and they say goodnight.
“The children love me and I love them. We have become a family, a big loving family. My job is important because I help people in need. I am building a new life here in Greece. Clearly, it is not that easy, but I have people next to me who support me. I have METAdrasi and Open Door by my side. I am really optimistic about the future” says Facinet Sylla.