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The Heart of the Story: Students Learn from Yale Student and Filmmaker

For the first day back at school, students in Catherine Reed’s World Literature class, Jenn Pelletier’s International Relations class and some of Colleen Olsen’s Global Perspectives students were treated to an extraordinary presentation by Patrick Sullivan, a filmmaker working on a documentary about his work with refugees in Greece. Sullivan is a senior at Yale and though his academic focus has been on the terrible injustices of incarceration in America, his trip to the detention centers on the island of Lesbos in the fall revealed to him the parallel ills of the refugee camps there.

The camps he saw are currently bursting at the seams and there seems no end in sight. One camp, surrounded by barbed wire and fencing, meant for up to one thousand men only, currently houses more than five thousand men, women and children. Waiting in line for many hours for a single bottle of water or a blanket is just one of the daily indignities suffered by these freedom and peace-seeking people. Sullivan also showed us a more hopeful development: refugees who have taken over a large hotel and have begun to make a new, collaborative, interdependent world for themselves there. Everyone is welcome and together they are building a thriving community right in the center of town. In his storytelling, Sullivan also seeks to keep the individual human beings at the center of their own stories.

Though many governments, not just in Greece, would prefer to expel or drive back to the borders any new arrivals, Sullivan’s documentary puts them right back at the heart of the narrative. His moving description of the people he met and their dreams for a better life struck a real cord in all our hearts. Thank you, Patrick Sullivan!