10 questions with: Ben Taleb Zied (29)
From: Tunis, Tunisia
At City Plaza since: 07/16
- 3 words to describe your experience living at City Plaza:
Amazing, learning, deep
2. How does The City Plaza Bar work?
The bar is like the information point at City Plaza somehow. People sit in the bar, drink a coffee and talk about everything; their problems, their feelings, their projects.
It’s a meeting place too. It’s where we meet before we go out to play football or go to a demonstration and it’s also where the co-ordination and volunteer meetings are held. For sure The Bar is the most active and public place in the building.
So it’s not a real ‘bar’, no alcohol (laughs). We serve coffee and tea. But it works, we have a good team, good people. It runs like all the shifts here but it’s more open. Volunteers and refugees can choose whether they want to work here.
Zied working in the bar this afternoon
It’s my role to count the money (money from the bar goes towards food and toilettries) and to organise stock We don’t take a lot of money, but it’s ok, the bar is a really important place in the community of City Plaza.
There are 6 of us who ‘co-ordinate’ the running of the bar, organising the stock, showing people how to make the coffees etc.
3. What are the challenges you have faced working in this group?
So the wider picture is always to make sure the bar keeps running, to make sure we have enough stock, keep the place clean, to make sure we have enough people working behind the bar.
4. Why did you come to City Plaza?
I was working as a director in Tunis before working with No Border Thessaloniki and Watch the Med ALARMPHONE (a rescue hotline helping refugees travelling to Greece by boat). It was there that I met some friends who told me about City Plaza.
I said ok, let’s see. I took the train to Athens. I arrived early in the morning. I was welcomed, given the key to my room.
To be honest, in the beginning I felt lost at City Plaza. It was a completely new experience to live with 400 people in a hotel. I went between translating (Zied speaks English, Arabic and French) and working in the kitchen. After a while everything started to become clear and I learned how to be here, how to spend my days really helping.
5. What does City Plaza mean to you?
I have the feelings with people here that they are like my sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers.
It’s a crazy place. Crazy in a good way. Ok, everyone has their own situation, their own problems, but we support each other and find the time to smile. That’s the most important thing here.
6. How would you describe day to day life at City Plaza?
(Laughs) Crazy. Really it’s crazy. It’s crazy. I live on the 7th floor and I spend my day running between there and the reception on the ground floor. And at the end of the day, when you stop running… you realise that it’s late and the day is over. It’s then that we find the time to spend time talking and winding down.
I feel like I don’t sleep. People are very active here. When you finally arrive to your bed, you sleep directly.
7. Where is your favourite place to be in City Plaza?
The rooftop. From there you can see the whole of Athens. It’s the most beautiful place to be at Plaza, to watch the sunset to watch the lights of all the buildings of the city come on.
8. Why is it important for City Plaza to stay open?
Actually, what’s more important in a way is for City Plaza to close. I mean, if the borders opened then there wouldn’t be a need for the camps to exist, for City Plaza to exist.
But at least for now, while refugees are trapped in Greece, people have dignity here. City Plaza is a special place. It’s important that it exists and stays open. Why? Because people here have independence and privacy. This is so important for families. And there is more that exists here that you won’t find in the camps: classes, sports, arts, children’s activities.
9. City Plaza relies entirely on donations from around the world, why is solidarity important?
Solidarity means people carrying and supporting each other. We all get tired, we all need support from one another.
10. How long will you stay at City Plaza?
(Laughs and starts singing) “Should I stay or should I go?”. You know The Beatles song? (I ask why it is difficult to leave City Plaza) it feels like home. Home is not a place, it’s a feeling. City Plaza is home.
City Plaza is not supported by NGOs, it relies entirely on solidarity and donations from around the world.
However small or big your donation, every little will help. Everyone at City Plaza thanks you for your kindness and support in helping us to continue to live and work together in our home, to continue to live here in peace, togetherness and solidarity.
Donate here: http://www.youcaring.com/keepcityplazaopen