March has been a busy month for OHF!
Soon after bidding farewell to our beloved community centre on Lesvos and the hand over to Europe Cares with a wonderful event that felt like old OHF days, the team went to Athens to work on the preparations of our new community centre: OHF Victoria Community Centre, which will be run in partnership with Drop in the Ocean.
We’ve been cleaning, tidying up, organising, decorating, arranging the storage, securing the supplies that we need, having the electricity and IT network installed and the plumbing checked, talking to potential partners, receiving visits of friends and coworkers from other organisations, working on budgets and admin, etc. All this couldn’t happen without the support of our former coworkers, especially Julia and Ahmad, who created a cool haven at the Cafe area, and Marcel, who helped us immensely with the network installation, as well as all the others who helped cleaning and painting. We are grateful to all of them!
At Filis 68, the address of our new Community Center, it is beginning to feel lively! Drop in the Ocean has already started their computer and English classes. Some of our partner organisations have also started using the space: the IRC MHPSS (Mental Health and Psychosocial Support) sessions take place in two of our rooms, and Project Armonia is temporarily using another for their office work. Also, one of our dear friends from Lesvos, the Boat Theatre Group, is holding their rehearsals at our community centre. Others will be joining us soon: ReFocus will use the space for their classes and various activities, Lighthouse Relief with their street work project, Wave of Hope for art activities, Glocal Roots to create a kids and women space, and legal aid will be offered by European Lawyers in Lesvos(ELIL).
On the 28th of March, we welcomed our first visitors, and of course they were a special group of guests: our former community volunteers. Currently we are running the Cafe and we are planning to open our rooftop soon, which will be even more beautiful with the support of Sporos Regeneration Institute!
We have as well started the recruitment process of new team members, and hope to finalise it shortly. We are also planning to have an opening event soon, to which we will invite other organisations and partners. In the next newsletter we will surely report about this event.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have contributed with their hard work during this transitional phase. The coordination team and other people on the ground have done a great job and we are very grateful for all their dedication during this emotional time. Since the beginning of the year we also counted on the board in Switzerland’s support on the ground; many thanks for this commitment, especially to Nina and Jael, who contributed significantly during our last days on Lesvos.
Insight into our continued project on Lesvos
Providing hygiene products was always a part of OHF’s work on Lesvos. For many years visitors could cover their needs in the OHF free shop using our Drachma system. When the pandemic started, this became impossible for visitors due to movement restrictions.
But we found a solution and are proud to present to you our user friendly Online Free Shop system in this video!
The project does not only offer basic needs such as hygiene products and dry food, but it’s a dignified means of distribution, as just with a click away camp residents can choose what they need by themselves and once they receive the order collection sms they can go to collect them from the free shop.
Despite the OHF community centre relocating to the mainland, we have decided to leave one foot on the former OHF community centre, now run by Europe Cares, after assessing the value of the online shop and what it means to the community.
Soon after we added dry food and extended the service to women who expressed their wish to be included in the online free shop service as well, the number of people we serve through the shop increased from an average of 600 to 800 people per month. The logistics team has since worked tirelessly gathering enough products to run the online free shop.
We rely on in-kind donations for most of the products distributed at the shop, but we have had to additionally purchase washing powder, toilet paper rolls, wet wipes and all the dry food, as those are highly demanded items very much needed by our visitors.
And of course, the project would not function without human resources. We therefore also support our community volunteers who largely run the project with a basic salary and/or benefits.
In order to continue supporting the community who profit from the free shop, we need to ask for your backing in order to cover the costs of this project.
Read more about it in the section ‘What can you do’.