During Senior Fellow Angeliki Fanouria Giannaki’s internship at the Juvenile Court of Athens and, more specifically, at the Juvenile Probation Service of Athens, she came into contact with numerous adolescents who were facing criminal charges, or who had already been convicted and put on probation. Having the opportunity to interview many of them and, thereby, observe their life trajectories thus far, learning about factors such as their familial and financial background as well as their everyday life, Angeliki could not help but notice a quite common characteristic among most of them, that is, their deprivation from stimuli.
The deprivation of these teenagers from stimuli, broadly ranging from exposure to arts, sports and their social, political, and civic engagement, struck Angeliki as an integral part of the vicious cycle leading these young people to poverty, delinquency, stigmatisation, and social exclusion. In other words, the absence of these adolescents’ engagement with constructive activities undoubtedly stems from factors like restricted financial resources, limited familial support and exclusion from educative institutions.
The absence of these adolescents’ engagement with constructive activities undoubtedly stems from factors like restricted financial resources, limited familial support and exclusion from educative institutions.
Nonetheless, these phenomenas, which often included delinquency as well, are in turn reproduced -if not further exacerbated- across generations, as young people are deprived from opportunities to grow intellectually, broaden their horizons, develop their self-confidence and, along with the former, noble ambitions.
Having witnessed this experience, shared by most juvenile delinquents, namely deprivation from beneficial, as well as inspirational activities and ideas, Angeliki decided to take action. Already while at the Juvenile Probation Service, Angeliki and other students co-founded an association with the purpose of organizing educational recreational activities for adolescents involved in the Juvenile Court of Athens. The goal of this association, called “Sy.N.Athinas” (“Youth Association of Athens”- «Συ.Ν.Αθήνας- Σύνδεσμος Νέων Αθήνας»), was to engage young offenders in non-formal educational activities, thereby enhancing their self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy and their mobilization, as far as their personal life, and their social and political surroundings are concerned.
The main idea underpinning this Action Project was that if these teenagers experience interesting, creative and educational undertakings, it could serve as a “turning point” for them and as an experience capable of changing their life trajectories. More specifically, it is Angeliki’s firm belief that, “the benefits of such activities would be manifold for these young people. Ranging from simply encouraging them to choose to spend their leisure time on sports, arts or crafts, thereby keeping them away from illicit activities, or to helping them discover constructive ways to express their thoughts and feelings, or even to resulting in a decision to pursue their new interests through their studies.”
Angeliki believes that,
“By developing their self-awareness and their empathy along with their interests, these adolescents are quite likely to also prosper as social beings through realizing not only their position, but also their potential as members of society.
The goal of this Action Project was to engage young offenders in non-formal educational activities, thereby enhancing their self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy and their mobilization.
Deeply inspired by these ideas, and having attended plays organized and performed by an activist acting troupe, which mainly focuses on interactive socio-political theatre (the acting group wishes to remain anonymous, given its activist purpose and voluntary character), Angeliki discerned a wonderful opportunity arising from a possible collaboration between the latter and “Sy.N.Athinas”; the volunteers of the association could provide the theoretical background and the ultimate purpose of the Project, whereas the members of the troupe could yield a unique method of non-formal education, that is, interactive theatre.
Thus, with the purpose of translating Angeliki’s Humanity in Action Fellowship knowledge and experience into a meaningful Action Project, she arranged an interactive play, where a group of adolescents, who were on probation, were both the audience and the actors, while members of the acting troupe also acted, but most importantly facilitated the process.
Angeliki believes that “the benefits of such activities would be manifold for these young people.”
More specifically, four members of the acting group presented a play starring a young girl struggling with drug-related problems and trying to ask for help from her parents, teachers, and friends. As she found herself in a conundrum, the actors encouraged the participating teenagers to interrupt the play, impersonate one of the characters, and as such provide solutions to the complex situations presented. By taking part in the Action Project, the adolescents not only came into contact with an alternative form of entertainment, but most importantly, they had the chance to reflect on the social issues set forth by the actors and express their thoughts and feelings in a new, creative and constructive manner.