We have some exciting updates for you about our projects in Greece. We recently made the decision to rent a property in Athens for at least one year with the goal to provide an open community centre to the asylum seeker and refugee population living in Athens. The place is located close to Victoria square, an area which is frequented by many displaced people. We intend to work together with several partner organisations at this place, in order to offer a variety of services like education, integration support, social activities, access to information, public Wi-Fi, a coffee/tea corner, a library, meeting- and workshop space, an urban garden etc. The building has around 20 rooms, a rooftop terrace, balconies and a yard. Our main focus in the coming weeks will be to set up this new space and transfer materials and equipment needed from Lesvos to Athens, with the goal to start operating a new community centre from March on. We will try to make use of all the experiences and skills we have gained over the years, and hope that the centre will become an impactful and relevant place for refugees and asylum seekers living in Athens.
Concerning our activities on Lesvos, with a very heavy heart we need to inform you that we decided to finish the community centre activities, which have been running for almost five years, by the end of February 2022. As some of you witnessed, this decision was a very difficult one to make, however we believe given the situation, this is the responsible step to take. The number of beneficiaries/visitors of the centre has been going down significantly over the last few months, both due to people leaving for the mainland, and most importantly people being prevented from leaving the camp to join activities and classes. We reached a point where the effort and financial resources that go into our beloved community centre don’t have a proportional impact anymore; and we feel that our resources are much better spent in this new project in Athens where the needs are endless and where hopefully more people will access and make use of our services.
One Happy Family will not be leaving the Island of Lesvos completely. We decided to continue operating our online free-shop on Lesvos, through which we have distributed more than 75’000 hygiene and food items since its start during winter last year. Furthermore, we are currently in discussion with some of our partner organisations on Lesvos regarding possibilities that the premises of our current community centre could continue to be available as a place for various organisations to offer their services to camp residents, and hope to give you a definitive update by the end of January. In case we don’t find a solution, we will start dismantling the place at the beginning of March and leave at the end of May at the latest, while the Free Shop would continue to operate in another space close by.
Your support over the past years was massive and has enabled us to build up a beautiful and collaborative community centre here on the island. We hope that we can also count on you to make our space in Athens as amazing and impactful as OHF Lesvos. Together we achieved many things over the past 5 years and together we can do even more. We will keep you posted about our plans, how you can get involved, how you can support and how – together – we can continue providing impactful services for displaced people in Greece.
To start and run our new centre in Athens and keep our free shop on Lesvos running, we need your support! Find information on how you can donate on our website https://ohf-lesvos.org/en/donate/
If you have any questions, want to help us during this process or have ideas, please contact us via email email@example.com
Activities on the OHF ground
The weather is very changeable at the moment and on some days the temperatures are below zero. But every time the sun comes out, people are drawn out and our partner organisation Cabuwazi is again offering circus activities for young and old, visitors and OHF staff. This offer is very popular and brings a smile to many people’s faces.
Makerspace offers continue to be very popular. People are busy repairing everything from electronic devices to bicycles and clothes. MVI’s clinic also continues to be well frequented. Here, children and adults continue to receive psychological support in group or individual therapies. Of course, our other partner organisations are also still very active.
We are also very pleased to share with you that there have been many positive developments with our community volunteers. A few of them have received a positive asylum decision during the last few weeks. We are very happy with them about this news. We were also able to hire another community volunteer on a permanent basis. He now has an official employment contract and a secure income.
At OHF, on the second Friday afternoon of each month, we say goodbye to our last visitors for the week and then have a special team lunch and a team meeting. We share a nice meal, make announcements, ask questions, discuss important topics, and get to spend some relaxed time together to ease into the weekend.
After several days of freezing winds, on a warmer day the sun smiled back at us and we had one of those nice gatherings. And we also celebrated the birthday of our beloved Falak.
Our Athens office is open and busy
Two coordinators from Lesvos travelled to Athens to help our Athens coordinator, Yahia, to set up the office. We cleaned, painted and fixed things, purchased and assembled furniture, printed and hung up our signs , placed our fire-extinguishers, and finally our office is up and running!
Now that we have a proper space to welcome our people, we started having 1:1 talks with all our former community volunteers now living in Athens, to catch up, to see how they are doing, understand what their needs are, and to get their opinions about our existing project and future ideas. We had colleagues from Lesvos visiting us, and ran into many former community volunteers on the streets of Athen. A truly wonderful experience!
This month we have 10 community volunteers on the ground that are working for 4 organisations like Attika warehouse, Lighthouse Relief, Better life with refugees and Cribs free shop. Our community volunteers are providing volunteering support of around 500 hours monthly. In January we also had our gathering where we met each other and we had dinner together. Around 14 members joined it and we had a good time. And thanks to the Meaalofa Foundation, we have also been able to install two desktop computers in our office. Here our team members from the community can now come and use them for their needs such as applying for jobs, making CVs etc.
Furthermore we started doing a survey for statistics of the community needs assessment with Lighthouse Relief and we are providing 2 community volunteers for that purpose as interpreters. We also had meetings with other organisations and relevant individuals to understand the needs in Athens, and to discuss new ideas and possible collaborations.
Last but not least we are having visitors in the office from the community and staying true to OHF spirit, our office is also being used by our long-time partner organisations for their meetings and gatherings. Yahia, our coordinator and the whole team want to thank everyone who supports us for moving forward and making the lives of people happier and easier.
“We are very happy to have a space where our community can visit anytime and be more in contact with each other.” It is open from 10:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday.”