Our days in Athens have been busy and productive.
During our stay, we visited our partners and also other organisations, who kindly gave us their time, welcomed us in their space, informed and updated us on the ever changing situation.
With the complete closure of the European Estia housing programme, many people had to reluctantly accept to live in enclosed camps, all situated well out of the city. Others have had no choice but to live in squats or on the streets, vulnerable to trafficking, drug and violence.
First stop the Nest.
Run by the Action for Education team, this is a warm and welcoming place, accommodating different play stations for children to explore, create or express themselves, accompanied by Daniele and Camilo and their team of volunteers. The sessions last two hours and are run three times a day. During that time, the parents can attend English classes or relax safely in the two adjacent rooms.
Later in the morning we catch up with Akis at the Victoria Centre, a building on three floors which offer spaces where partner NGOs can offer legal services or run activities: English, Greek or computer classes, a cafe and food distribution project, or a woman centre with a sewing station, a little playroom and a quiet corner.
The centre is visited by around 100 people a day.
For lunch we meet with Hiphop for Hope, a new Three Peas partner.
HH4H offers dance classes in shelters, schools and community or sport centres, and organises open air street events.
They cater for a part of the refugee and asylum seeker population often neglected, the late teens and young adults who are too old to attend school projects and receive very little support and services. Big hearted, quick to put in action their many ideas the HH4H team members bring energy and good vibes wherever they go.
in the afternoon we visited our partners at YSFR Athens, a sport centre we support since its foundation in 2019.
The centre has evolved since its first days over three years ago. The body building space on the ground floor is open throughout the whole day, while the basement room is used for classes from boxing to yoga.
The centre is open to all, and supports the mental and physical well being of those who attend, offering a strong, positive and dynamic community.
In the evening, we catch up for a quick drink with Ruhi, a relentless supporter of the refugee community in Athens and on Chios island.
Defence for Children International (DCI) Greek branch
In a quiet street, out of the centre of town we arrive at DCI offices.
Defence for Children International Greece provides legal help building up a case, from registering for state support to applying for reunification, from the first step to the last. How to speak about the harrowing events most have encountered in their life or on their way to Greece? DCI will help them own and give meaning to their narrative with psychological support, and give them knowledge of their rights.
The team also works intensely in advocacy, intent on changing the way children’s rights are ignored, with interventions at seminars and conferences on a local and European level.
Thank you to Nantina, Iris and Irene who gave us their precious time; and it was a pleasure to meet Manal, representative of Defence for Children Lebanon, who had just flown in that morning.
An inspiring group of women!
Back in the centre of town, we visit our partner Steps. They offer food pack distribution from their space and also organise outreach work on the street of Athens. They have invited us to join them for the afternoon.
We split in two groups: one for legal support with Tatiana and the volunteer lawyers, another for medical intervention with Tassos and the volunteers from MVI (Medical Volunteers International.)
We witness the care and dedication those teams give to those who have nothing left. Whether Greek or from abroad, the Steps teams simply offer their presence. Soon, a few people will approach and enquire about their files with the police, or ask how to get a new ID – other will ask for treatment for wounds that have been neglected. It is hard to look for yourself when you have no access to shelter, water, warmth or safety.
When there is no more demand in a specific spot, we move on to the next.
Steps will come back in the following days to give news of a case or follow up on treatments.
We are shocked by the harshness of what we witness and in awe of Steps dedication. They hold those who have been forgotten.
Thank you to the entire Steps team for trusting us enough to invite us along, and sharing your time.
We meet with Christina from Meaalofa Foundation and discuss their housing project. They house up to forty people with a focus on women and their children but are flexible: all enquiries are welcome. We are on the lookout for a safe flat for a woman and her three children. They might not have the space but will share the request, as they cooperate with other groups specialised in safe housing for victims of trafficking and violence.
Attika Human Support
We then travel to the outskirts of the city, where Aris picks us up to take us to the Attika Warehouse. Attika Human Support is one of our oldest partners.
Marleen and Tord welcome us to a tour of the place, an impressively organised space, lined with marked boxes -they know where everything is from nappies to men’s jumpers- and goods arriving are sorted. Attika will then distribute as needed to NGOs working in Athens, Samos, Lesbos or Chios.
Work in the warehouse isn’t often in the limelight but this is a fundamental work in the chain of support to people on the move.
Goods arrive from all around the world in containers and boxes that need to be sorted: clothes by size and gender, hygiene products, food items and even furnitures. This is back-breaking behind the scenes work that is rarely recognised. Without those relentless workers, the goods we all send cannot reach their beneficiaries. To ensure reception, storage and distribution of goods, a group needs fund for rent, electricity and fuel bills, as well as wo-manpower. Both are in short supply at the moment.
So if you’re thinking of volunteering, contact us at threepeasinapoT@outlook.com We do not run volunteer programmes, but can put you in touch with this fabulous team.