Jun 7, 2021

June update from Lighthouse Relief

On May 15, Greece lifted its national lockdown after more than six months. While the country is now open for tourism, asylum seekers and refugees are facing new challenges. Ritsona Camp is now one of several camps on the mainland around which three meter high concrete walls are being built. While the implications of this new project, partly funded by the European Union, remain unknown, the wall is further increasing the isolation and stress which residents are experiencing. 

Meanwhile, in Athens, as the city resumes its rhythm, people experiencing homelessness are adapting to the post-lockdown summer heat. Thousands of asylum seekers living outside of official structures, are also facing increased precarity in the coming months, as their cash assistance is cut from July 1st. 

Read on for some of the ways we have been supporting forcibly displaced people in Ritsona Camp and Athens, during this difficult time. 

Changes in Ritsona Camp

There have been some big changes in Ritsona Camp over the past weeks, with many new residents arriving from camps on the islands, and others leaving after receiving their asylum decisions. Throughout, we have been welcoming newcomers to our spaces and activities!

In early May, we observed the five year anniversary of our Child Friendly Space (CFS), a safe and creative space that has evolved over the years to meet the needs of young residents. Under our May theme of Animals, children delighted in creating colourful caterpillars, painting brilliant birds, and decorating glittering cats!

The team has also started to introduce new songs, dances, and active games as part of the sessions, including obstacle courses, balancing exercises and fun choreographies!

Our CFS team has also been busy doing outreach to new families with young children, and introducing them to the CFS. There’s been a marked increase in the number of children attending the space, and the team is already seeing great improvements, as they become more familiar with the songs, and structure of the space!

Meanwhile, our team in the Youth Engagement Space (YES) spent the beginning of the month giving the space a much needed summer makeover! With the help of residents and Resident Volunteers, the team set up gazebos to provide shade, and allow for programming to continue outdoors and in a COVID-safe way. 

In the past few days, we’ve set up volleyball nets, much to the delight of residents, and our YES Intern led a new bracelet-making  workshop. There are plans to offer more workshops and sports activities in the coming weeks! 

Over under the shade of the tall evergreens, the Sports Programme has been inviting children aged 9 to 12 join a variety of inclusive games aimed at increasing their cooperation skills. From “fruit salad” to hula hoop races, the sports activities are full of laughter, football, and playful energy!

Once a week, Ioanna, a Greek yoga instructor, comes to Ritsona Camp to lead yoga sessions for Resident Volunteers. These sessions have been a great success, and RVs have been attending regularly, and particularly enjoying the relaxation exercises.

All of these activities have been supported by our amazing team of nine Resident Volunteers. We’re looking forward to welcoming six potential new RVs to the programme, who will receive training and psychosocial support!

Lockdown lifted in Athens

On May 15, the national lockdown was lifted, bringing with it an end to movement restrictions. Shops and restaurants have also reopened. While Athens is returning to its pre-lockdown levels of activity, people experiencing homelessness have been forced to move to new places to avoid the crowds and the intensifying heat.

Over the past month, our Streetwork team has assisted 131 families and individuals, representing a total of 304 people, including 131 children. one of whom was unaccompanied.

In May, 43% of the families and individuals we supported required medical assistance. Our team supports people by scheduling medical appointments, and works with our partners Medical Volunteers International to provide guidance and information about medical care. We also liaise with partners to provide interpreters, without whom people risk being denied the care they need. 

During the month, the team distributed non-food items to 48 families and individuals, as well as 29 food packages consisting of juice, a croissant and a bottle of cold water. In the last week of May, Danish organisation Act for Life joined the team. They raised awareness of the situation in Athens, and created a fundraiser to purchase baby items, shoes, food items, and to support essential services we offer. 

In May alone, the team managed 19 complex cases, providing holistic support and guidance. 28 cases were referred to partner organisations for specialised support. With most shelters at full capacity, and lengthy approval processes the team is proud to have supported three people in finding shelter. 

How you can help!

  • If you would like to voice your objection to the walls being built around Ritsona and other camps across Greece, we invite you sign the petition below.
  • Mark your calendars for an upcoming matching Opportunity on GlobalGiving! Wednesday July 14th is July Bonus day at GlobalGiving. While funds last, all donations over $100 to Lighthouse Relief will be matched!  We will be eligible for up to $3,000 in matching funds and we need your help! Reach out to us at communications@lighthouserelief.org if you’d like to learn more. 
  • Your donations make our programming possible. As the context in Greece becomes ever-more challenging, we need your help to ensure we can continue crucial psychosocial support and emergency response. Visit our GlobalGiving page to make a donation.

Links:

May 14, 2021

A Glimpse at the Past Year, While Planning for the Future

Today, we are delighted to share our Annual Report for 2020 with you. The report covers the work we've been able to accomplish throughout the year in Ritsona Refugee Camp, Lesvos, and Athens, thanks to your generous donations. 

Over the past year, our teams adapted programming to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, including: 

  • The Youth Engagement Space launched its Online Youth Space in April, providing workshops (including language, arts, and sports), as well as psychosocial support remotely. 
  • The Child Friendly Space shifted its programming to focus on three and four year old children - who otherwise have no access to early childhood development activities.  From October through December, the CFS provided a safe environment for 69 children to play and socialise per week.  
  • We launched a new, formalised version of our Resident Volunteer Programme, engaging members of the community in our programming, and ensuring that it is accountable to the community. In the second half of the year, we offered four trainings, including in Child Protection and Conflict Resolution, and inducted 11 Resident Volunteers. 
  • After suspending our programming on Lesvos, we launched a Streetwork project in Athens, providing holistic support to asylum seekers and refugees experiencing homelessness. In the pilot phase, we supported 145 families and individuals experiencing various forms of homelessness.

We started this project in 2017, as the situation for refugees in Greece was fading from the world’s attention. You stepped up to provide vital support to us at the most pivotal moment. Through the years, you have made it possible for us to achieve so much - to launch multiple editions of the Ritona Kingdom Journal; to start our Resident Volunteer Programme; to provide support to people seeking safety on the north shore of Lesvos, upon their arrival, and at Stage 2 Transit Camp, especially when arrivals increased dramatically in the summer of 2019. 

Today, we are closing this project in order to focus our efforts on our current GlobalGiving campaign, which addresses the most current and pressing needs in Greece. Your monthly donations are still very much needed, and will be carried over to our current project “Critical Support for Refugees in Greece”, and will continue to support our programming, offering relief to asylum seekers and refugees in Ritsona Camp and Athens. 

We have come a long way, and achieved some amazing things since launching this campaign, but there remains so much to be done. The recent pandemic has only highlighted the severe injustices which forcibly displaced people face every day in Greece, including tenuous access to housing, education and healthcare. They continue to wait for increasing periods of time for their asylum requests to be processed, many in camps now surrounded by walls, and once their refugee status is recognised, they find themselves without any support after only 30 days, having to navigate complicated Greek bureaucracy to access their basic rights. 

Lighthouse Relief continues to shine a light of compassion, providing dignified, sustainable and accountable support to the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees. We couldn’t have gotten this far without your support. But there is still further to go.

Sincerely, 

The Entire Team at Lighthouse Relief 

Links:

May 14, 2021

Read our 2020 Annual Report!

Today, we are delighted to share with you our Annual Report for 2020! 

The report covers the work we've been able to accomplish throughout the year in Ritsona Refugee Camp, Lesvos, and Athens, thanks to your generous donations. 

It also details some of the ways our teams adapted programming to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic: 

  • The Youth Engagement Space launched its Online Youth Space in April, providing workshops (including language, arts, and sports), as well as psychosocial support remotely. 
  • The Child Friendly Space shifted its programming to focus on three and four year old children - who otherwise have no access to early childhood development activities.  From October through December, the CFS provided a safe environment for 69 children to play and socialise per week.  
  • We launched a new, formalised version of our Resident Volunteer Programme, engaging members of the community in our programming, and ensuring that it is accountable to the community. In the second half of the year, we offered four trainings, including in Child Protection and Conflict Resolution, and inducted 11 Resident Volunteers. 
  • After suspending our programming on Lesvos, we launched a Streetwork project in Athens, providing holistic support to asylum seekers and refugees experiencing homelessness. In the pilot phase, we supported 145 families and individuals experiencing various forms of homelessness.

You can read our full Annual Report here.

You can also watch this short video with some highlights from the year. 

None of this would have been possible without you. Your vital support has empowered us to innovate in our programming, to better serve the forcibly displaced communities in Greece. 

On behalf of the entire team at Lighthouse Relief, we would like to thank you for your generous support, which enables us to continue providing dignified support to refugees and asylum seekers in Greece, during this pandemic and beyond. 

In the past months, we have welcomed spring in Ritsona Camp and Athens. In Ritsona, we are continuing to provide psychosocial support to residents, as they face the challenges and uncertainty of displacement. In Athens, we are continuing to build our Streetwork project, working with partner organisations to provide support - including to over 197 individuals and families in April. We look forward to sharing more regular updates with you this year, to give you even more insight into how your donations are making a difference.

From all of us at Lighthouse Relief - thank you for your support. 

Links:

 
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