Wave - Thessaloniki
Medical Volunteers International
Mobile Information Team
FIX in Art (https://www.facebook.com/fixinart/) Amala (https://amalaeducation.org/) Refugee Trauma Initiative (https://www.refugeetrauma.org/) Terre des Hommes (https://www.tdh.ch/en/)
To ensure the most vulnerable refugees in Greece will become European when granted asylum, we work to equip them with all services necessary to integrate socially and culturally. We will host English language, European culture and food exchange classes with official diplomas in our community centre. The approx. 200 homeless beneficiaries participate in our classes, help maintain the centre, and learn about European culture through first hand experiences, while gaining applicable skills.
In the outer areas of Thessaloniki, close to the red-light district where many squats are located.
Greece is the first country many people on the move (POM) arrive to when entering Europe, and Thessaloniki is a key transit zone. Currently, new arrivals reaching the country are experiencing heightened levels of violence and discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown conditions, and events at the border (https://www.trtworld.com/europe/refugees-share-ordeal-of-torture-by-greek-border-forces-34354).
The financial crisis, unappealing media representation, and popularity of the right wing government have all led to a deepening cleavage between the local population and POM. These conditions have led to reduced funding in the region, and beneficiaries now also depend on NGOs for basic needs (food, medical care etc.) which must be arranged before any integration project.
To mitigate these challenges, we have been providing all basic services necessary to create an environment in which beneficiaries can learn and integrate with local groups. Our aim now is to set up a community space where a number of actors can collaborate to equip this group with essential skills in navigating complex asylum systems, European culture, and everyday life in Greece. Through a range of activities we aim to empower the community to be better informed, and thus more active citizens. Currently volunteers from Greece, and across Europe are working together to provide for our beneficiaries in these times. Sharing the community centre as a public space where refugees from all backgrounds, and Europeans from all member states can come together is the end goal.
Ordinarily, we work with young men and unaccompanied minors from a wide range of refugee-producing countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Algeria etc. fleeing war, discrimination, corruption, or persecution due to sexuality. Many camps have closed their doors in the national lockdown meaning more POM from all backgrounds are now living in informal conditions and requesting our services.
Furthermore, local Greeks have been further moved towards social exclusion due to extreme right populist politics that are taking over with the new government. Through our partnerships with local cultural organisations we work to bring disparate groups together and foster a sense of solidarity in the region.
In our old centre we teamed up with a variety of social and cultural partners. Due to a partner NGO defaulting during COVID-19, we have had to leave the old centre. We have been offered an amazing new space which could serve this purpose, and is available to rent long-term (pictures on request). It will need a one-time reparation project to host the community in the way envisioned. An investment at this crucial time, in a strongly underfunded region of a debt-riddled country, will ensure the future stability of the project for the most vulnerable group of POM. With this centre, we will be able to attract new donors and funds, meaning an investment at this point might be leveraged for years to come.
On a daily basis we serve ~300 people so, in one years time, on a basic level we will have provided over 100K meals and essential supplies. In this new project, we will be working with Amala to provide English language courses, with FIX in Art to provide cultural food exchange programmes, and with Steki - Migrant’s Space to offer classes in Greek language and social integration. The first two of these will award diplomas at the completion of the course. By enrolling around 10 people in each of these classes on a rolling basis we hope to award up to 240 diplomas.
More broadly, we hope that our community centre will have fostered an inclusive working environment where Greeks, refugees, and other Europeans can come together, learn from one another, and work in solidarity.
At a time where fences and walls are being erected along European borders, harsh asylum regimes have become the norm, and delegation to the EU level in asylum matters is being thrown into question, daily life has become even more difficult for POM, especially those who are homeless, or undocumented. We are committed to the principle of democratic Europe: that every individual has the right to seek protection, and engage with civilian life. Our project seeks to equip individuals with the necessary skills to do so, empowering them to engage actively as citizens and speak out for their own rights where possible, rather than being forced to rely on larger international organisations to advocate for them.
Over the past two years we have watched the project grow; it began with take away boxes out the back of a van and is now aiming to provide a fully functioning community centre. The need for stability and sustainability has been the driving factor for our motivation to push the project forward.
Our mission is to serve in solidarity with one of the most vulnerable, and often overlooked, groups in the region. We seek to meet basic, primary survival needs indiscriminately. This fund gives us an opportunity to push our project forward so that we can go beyond providing just the basics. Having stabilised our capacity in providing a hot meal daily, and basic hygiene supplies it is now our mission to equip this group with the skills they need to live dignified, empowered, independent lives.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel (construction worker) - 750EUR
Production (material for community space: wood/floor tiles/roof construction, toilet) - 8,875EUR
Contingency and maintenance- 3,000EUR
We would love to hear how we might improve our project, if anybody would be interested to collaborate, or has experience from working on similar initiatives. We are always looking to grow and improve, and so any constructive criticism is always welcome in our direction!