30th August 2017
The trip, which was organised by Help Refugees, is part of our commitment to ensuring our work adheres to UK charitable law. Together, we went out to Greece in July to visit the projects run and supported by Help Refugees and some of our other collective funds. Help Refugees are one of Prism’s largest NGOs, supporting dozens of organisations across Europe and beyond. They focus on humanitarian aid in response to the refugee crisis, and work relentlessly across Greece to ensure they are filling the gaps left by larger NGOs. With over £10,000,000 raised by our collective funds for the refugee crisis alone, a large proportion of this has gone to help the crisis in Greece. We left the offices in London to experience the work carried out by dedicated volunteers first hand.
Starting the week in Athens, we visited the Khora Community Centre. Supported by Help Refugees, Khora provides the local community with a welcoming space across 8 floors for a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures. Services include legal support, food, education, women’s space, child care and so much more. On a daily basis, Khora work to provide the migrant community with essential information around the support networks available in Athens, so that they can choose the type of help they want and need.
Moving on from Athens, we landed in Lesvos, an island that has received hundreds of thousands of refugees onto its shores since the summer of 2015. Due to its proximity to Turkey, Lesvos receives a large portion of the migrant population into Greece. These people have made extremely dangerous journeys across from Turkey, almost always in inadequate boats with little or no life jackets. We visited the organisation, Refugee Rescue, who sail their rescue boat, Mo Chara, on a daily basis. The morning we arrived, 2 boats carrying dozens of refugees had approached the shores of Lesvos. Refugee Rescue react in an immediate and essential manner, saving thousands of lives at sea.
In Lesvos’s capital, Mytilini, we visited the project, Lesvos Solidarity, which is supported by the Worldwide Tribe, Agora and Help Refugees. Also known as Pikpa camp, they provide an alternative to large camps for the most vulnerable refugees, including families, pregnant women and disabled people. The camp itself is comprised of dozens of wooden shelters, creating an uplifting, autonomous space, built on the principle of solidarity. As well as shelter, they provide refugees with food, clothing and much needed medical support. We were truly impressed by the dedication and motivation of the organisation’s workforce, and their commitment to upholding the dignity of their residents.
The next part of our trip took us to Thessaloniki in northern Greece, where many of the larger refugee camps are situated. We visited a range of projects, from housing solutions to in-camp care. Supported by both RefuAid and Help Refugees, we took a trip to Katerini to see the organisation, Perichoresis. They focus on providing safe shelter to vulnerable refugees and have provided apartments to more than 450 beneficiaries. Not only do they provide housing for refugees, but also for Greek families who face financial problems. Through partnerships with larger NGOs, Perichoresis have affected real change in the northern Greece region. When visiting the families and seeing the apartments provided by Perichoresis, it was clear that this organisation is creating a long term impact for refugees settling in Greece.
One of our final visits was to see the work of Intervolve at Larissa camp. Supported entirely by Help Refugees, Intervolve provide the residents with food, psychological help, educational and cultural activities and community resources. Their work with the children of the camp (providing activities, a wonderful library space and general care) is an indispensable service. We were overly impressed by volunteers who work overtime to ensure the camp runs as smoothly as possible.
The above-mentioned projects are only half of what we visited during our week in Greece. It was astounding to witness the sheer number of people who dedicate their time to help refugees and local communities alike. Whilst the crisis is most definitely not going away, we were uplifted by the efforts made by the individuals we met. When larger NGOs have been unable to act, together with our collective funds, we have responded in an immediate manner, pushing past bureaucracy to deliver aid where it is most needed. In order for these grassroots groups to carry on their vital work, please click on the embedded links to find out how you can make a difference.
We want to say a huge thank the team at Help Refugees for taking us around for the week, coordinating the trip and showing us their passion for the extraordinary work they are involved in. We’d also like to mention our collectives, ReufAid, Aniko, The Hope Project, The Office of Displaced Designers, The Worldwide Tribe, Agora, RTI and Luck of Birth for their relentless work and dedication.