Sara Mardini has been with GSBTB since last summer and is now leaving us to join Sea Watch and engage in frontline humanitarian work in Italy. But her involvement as an activist and human rights defender goes way back. We interviewed her before she left Berlin.
Sara, you arrived at the shores of Greece as a refugee in 2015 and you then returned to the island of Lesbos as a humanitarian worker. People know you for getting arrested for helping and rescuing other refugees. You were at the frontline in a crisis situation. Now you are joining Sea Watch to work in the frontline again and this time in Italy. How do you feel about it?
I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed. There is a lot to do. But I also feel excited to be back on the frontline. The charges that were held against me prevented me from doing this, at least in Greece. But now I feel that it is time to take off again, and I feel ready for it.
At GSBTB, you were responsible for online campaigning, networking, community building, and management by bridging international and local events. Your work probably ended up being quite different from what you imagined when you started?
My time at GSBTB was unique and exciting. But yes, it was pretty different from what I had imagined because of the pandemic. I wish I could stay longer and experience the busy, hectic, full of life and crowded activities and events, but unfortunately, the pandemic took this from us. But I was thrilled to spend time at Refugio, a beautiful and unique place where I always felt comfortable and safe. Working with GSBTB also brought me back to Berlin and to the community here.
What do you take from your experience at GSBTB?
I always thought that having life experience was what you would need to work for an NGO, but then I realized that it was also essential to have specific skills, such as communication skills. So I would say that what I learned the most during my time at GSBTB is being patient and communicating better.
Can you see a potential collaboration with GSBTB in the future?
Yes, of course. There are so many projects that I want to work on with GSBTB. But I think that we need to wait for the end of the pandemic for those projects to happen. I will always be honored to be part of GSBTB in the future.
How do you see the connection between the work you will be doing at Sea Watch and your work at GSBTB?
I cannot say much about my work at Sea Watch but what I will say is that I will always continue speaking up for the rights of others and making sure that everybody is treated justly.
Being an active advocate for the rights of migrants and refugees, what are the conversations that you think we should be having around the topic of migration?
Since the beginning of my journey as a human rights activist and human rights defender six years ago, I tried to have the same conversation. I believe that people should be treated equally, whatever their backgrounds are, whatever they are doing, whatever language they speak, or whatever level of education they have. Unfortunately, migrants are still often seen as numbers and nothing more. And one of the things I´ll always advocate for is to include them in the solution, instead of seeing them as the problem. We need to include migrants and let them participate in improving the environment they are living in. We shouldn´t see them as an additional obstacle, because they are humans, just like you and me. They don´t want to sit in a refugee camp their whole life and not have anything to do. No one was born to do nothing and wants to do nothing.
As an online campaigner and social media manager, how do you see the role of social media for advocacy work?
Social media platforms are essential tools right now. Especially during Covid times, as it became one of the few tools to communicate and as more and more people started using them. I mostly use social media to inform people. And during my work at GSBTB, I also used it as a platform for other organisations. I believe that we have many people in our community who listen and trust us and that we can offer a stage to others to get their message across.
What would you like to achieve in the future? What are your personal goals?
A personal project of mine is to write my book. I have so many stories and adventures that I would like to write down. I also would like to pursue my passion which is fashion design. Hopefully, I can find a study course in the future. I would also like to reach to TV channels and create a platform for myself and others to speak up and tell their stories because everyone has stories to share. I believe in the power of ordinary people, like you and me, who wake up every morning to improve other people´s lives.
Many thanks for joining us, Sara, and we wish you the best for your new beginning.