Emily Meixner – European Solidarity Essay Prize

Emily (6i) took part in the essay competition

“The 1st European Solidarity Essay Prize”

(Action for Education) and convinced the jury with her compelling story

“In the same boat?”.

She came first in the category 13-15 year olds.




1th August 2020 | Greece 

Action For Education is delighted to announce the winners of the 1st European Solidarity Essay Competition.

Action For Education has been providing safe spaces for asylum seekers and refugees in the Aegean Islands since 2017. Frustrated by Europe’s complacency, we have recently been investing more time in raising awareness in communities across the continent. Launching an essay competition was our way to encourage young Europeans to conduct their own research into refugees and the issues surrounding them.

The competition launched in June and participants could respond to one of two prompts focused on solidarity;

13-15-year-olds were asked to write a creative story that “compares your experience of lockdown with the experience of those in a refugee camp”. Younger students were required to use empathy as a form of solidarity. The whole world is facing the current pandemic. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, we are all fighting the virus. Facing the same problem was the starting point for younger students to imagine life as a refugee. To help their story writing, we encouraged students to research into refugee camps. We particularly appreciated our winner, Emily Meixner’s self-reflection: “I love to write and know a bit about refugees through my mum and friends. There are some videos for research. I click on them and watch them all. What I see devastates me.”

Link: Action for Education

Emily´s Essay

In the Same Boat?

People say that we are all in the same boat in the corona crisis. But the truth is we are not. Some are on a luxurious yacht. Others are on a rubber dingy. Floating through the sea. With fifty other people. Facing all the terrors the journey brings. The worst part is, that when they hit shore it does not get better.

Life here in Moria has always been horrible, but nothing compares to what it’s like now. There’s a new disease, they said. It’s called Covid19. It is dangerous. It can kill you. They told us we should take safety precautions. We should wash our hands and stay two meters away from each other. My only question is: how?

Austria has been in lockdown for a week or so and I’m starting to get used to it. It is hard to imagine that ten days before I had to stay home, I was skiing with my school. Things are happening so fast! I guess we might not be able to go to England over Easter! I haven’t seen my family over there for almost a year and now I’ll have to wait for even longer. I had a fight with my sisters this morning, about who can use the computer today. This home school thing will take a while to get used to.

I wonder if it has reached my grandparents, back home. I haven’t heard from them in a long time. It’s sad to think, that I will probably never see them again. Do they know we are still alive? Do they know mum didn’t make it? What would they say, if they knew my family shares a tiny container and that the whole camp is completely overcrowded. There are some 20 000 people here. It was designed to hold up to 3000 people. How should we keep two meters apart from each other? Every day I spend hours squashed between people, standing in line. For food or for the few litres of water we get per day. I fought again with my brothers. About who can sleep on the good mattress.

I miss my friends. I miss my class. Most of all I miss my family in England. Video chats are just not the same as being there. When I went for a run this morning I tried to stay as far away from other people as possible. At home, I went straight to the toilet to wash my hands. It is recommended to wash them for twenty seconds at least. That’s as long as the chorus of “Hit me baby one more time”.

At the taps, I instantly cover my nose. There are big bags full of rubbish right next to them. A shiver runs down my spine, as I think of how that rubbish could affect the water. Astoundingly there is no queue. I turn the tap on and find the reason. No water. Again. I should take a shower or wash my hands at least. That is what they told us to do. Wash them with soap and for twenty seconds. We don’t have soap. We don’t have disinfectant. The supply on the island is running out. As I make my way to the filthy, overcrowded, partly broken shower block, I pass the portaloos. There is no queue, so I go in. The smell is unbearable and no words could describe the state the toilet was in. They say we should take care of our hygiene. How is this hygienic? I sit down and realise my period has started. I start crying. One more thing to take care of. I wish mum were here.

My period has started. Great, now I have to go to the shop and buy some more sanitary products, because mum forgot to get them. Again. We must wear masks in the shops. I don’t like it at all. They make me nervous.

Now I must go to the shower block. There is no way around it. And I should hurry. It is going to be dark soon. Father said, I should not walk around the camp alone, especially not when it is dark. That is when the fighting starts. I hurry past people. Lots of people. Brushing up against me. There are no two meters of distance between us. Not even one. I pass medical workers looking after children. One boy is coughing. Panic hits me. Father says, if it reaches camp, we should start digging our own graves. If the virus reaches us, there will be no hope. No way to stop it spreading. The medical workers have proper masks. I have no means to protect myself. The camp is locked down. There are fewer workers, which is bad. There is no hope of leaving anytime soon. Which is worse. I have been through so much. Seen so much terror. But this is a new threat. It has the potential to wipe out the whole camp. All 20000 of us. I am terrified.

My dad is going to buy a boat. A small one, for going on rivers. As we probably will not be able to go abroad this summer, we are going to row down a few rivers and camp for two weeks. I managed to get the computer for the afternoon. The first thing I do is check my e-mails. My teacher has sent us information about an essay competition. It is about solidarity and corona and refugee camps. I know I will take part. I love to write and know a bit about refugees through my mum and friends. There are some videos for research. I click on them and watch them all. What I see devastates me. I know I cannot do much, but maybe I can shed a little light on the terrible matter. So, I start to write: People say we are all in the same boat in the corona crisis. But the truth is we are not.


Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.