"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Hudson Mclane '16 | Working Alongside Refugees

“It’s very easy to forget you have kids in cages in Greece and they’re not called detention centers, they’re called refugee camps.” Hudson McLane ’16 is currently an undergraduate at SOAS University in London; during each summer and holiday break from school, he works as a grassroots activist for refugees in Greece. “Even when run by the better organizations, you are still putting people in tents or containers. What kind of life is someone going to live if they are living out of a box?” 

Originally bound for Occidental College, Hudson took a gap year after graduating from Friends Seminary that changed his life path. After taking an internship at the International Rescue Committee in Elizabeth, NJ, Hudson was referred by a family friend to the Khora Community Centre in Athens, Greece. In its original form, Khora was a seven-story building, providing different services to a community of refugees on each floor. “At least 30% of the volunteers were from refugee and migrant communities. It’s not like I am the giver and you are the receiver of my aid or relief. It’s something more in solidarity, more in building relationships.” At Khora, more than 600 hot meals were served each day; educational classes were provided in English, Greek, French, Spanish and German; there was a fully licensed and functioning dentistry floor, as well as a floor with lawyers and recent law school graduates to support those seeking asylum. Hudson spent most of his time in the family space, where children could come and play. “There were lots of programs—cooking classes, arts and crafts, yoga, even a skateboarding group every Thursday called Free Movement.” Simultaneously, Hudson began working in informal settlements. Following the economic crisis in Greece, Hudson estimates approximately one in five buildings in Athens were abandoned; these spaces became occupied by refugees and activists, and self-determined communities arose within them. “It’s not an entirely viable solution to homelessness, but definitely a pathway that hadn’t been properly explored. In the end this occupation was criminalized and they were evicted. They’ve soldered the gates where I’d been working and no one can go through. It was quite traumatic, the evictions.” 

Inspired by the Quaker testimony of Peace, Friends Seminary was the first independent school in New York City to offer an Arabic language program which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Many of the refugees who Hudson worked alongside were from Syria, and he was able to put his four years of Arabic language education from Friends to good use. “By the time I got to Greece, I was speaking Arabic everyday for many hours. I adopted a Syrian dialect.” 

Looking to the future, Hudson imagines a world where self-determined communities and grassroots activism will be supported by policy. “Supporting those small solutions creates a somewhat better world, closer to what ought to be. It’s not perfect, but I think it is, in a lot of ways, better.” The Quaker practices of unity and a belief in the Light in every person infuse both his personal ethos and his work. “I’ve worked in places that operate in a way that is quite different from the mainstream. I’ve really come to believe in and appreciate the kind of activism that involves listening and building networks of solidarity.”
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