LGBT students make a difference in Greece
A year ago, a group of University of Louisville students and two leaders went to Greece for the university’s first LGBT-themed study abroad trip. While there, they met with a small, grassroots group that teaches about LGBT families and advocates on their behalf.
The group had written an illustrated children’s book about living in different types of families, but couldn’t publish it because they didn’t have the funds. Greece had been hit hard by an economic crisis, and LGBT families were especially impacted by higher unemployment and a lack of access to services that were available to others. The book was a critical part of the group’s outreach to the community in Athens, since no children’s literature existed in the Greek language that featured LGBT families.
Inspired, the UofL students decided to change that. Led by theater arts major Ryan Coomer, they resolved to raise the money to get the book published and pay forward some of the goodwill they’d experienced from the local LGBT community in Greece. This year, with a new group of students studying in Greece who had heard the stories about the book, faculty leader Anne Caldwell made sure that the curriculum included a visit with the Athens group Rainbow Families. They celebrated with a joyous party featuring the group’s new book, published with hundreds of dollars in funds raised by the students.
The book tells the story of two eggs imagining the families they will eventually find, and what qualities make a family. They learn there are different kinds of families that aren't just a mom, dad and children. Sometimes there are two-mom families, single-parent families, bi-racial families.
"Something that really struck me when they were presenting the idea of this book to us was the fact that no one was left out, every child in Greece will be able to pick up this book and feel reassured that their family life is acceptable and that just because other literature only depicts children as having a mom and dad that they have a normal life, too," Coomer said.
Coomer said he was inspired by his mother, a librarian, who taught him the importance of reading and having literature for young audiences.
“Seeing that book for the first time was the highlight of the whole trip for me,” said Brian Buford, assistant provost for diversity and LGBT center director. “To know that our students helped make this important material available to children in Greece for the very first time blows me away, and reminds me of how much good we can do when we look for the opportunity.”
According to Buford, this year’s student travelers have already identified a new project they want to launch to continue supporting LGBT work in Greece. They plan to organize fundraising efforts to help Greece’s only recognized LGBT organization for young people, Colour Youth.
To find out more about the trip, visit the students’ blog.