Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore

by Lighthouse Relief
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Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore
Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore

We launched “Help LHR Face Challenges Beyond the Shore” in late 2019 to provide vital support to forcibly displaced families and individuals seeking safety in Greece. Followings several recent policy changes that have reduced assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, this population remains in urgent need of essential services, including shelter, food, psychosocial support, and legal and medical aid. 

Over the past two years, you have helped us raise more than €62,000 and we thank you! Your generous contributions have sustained our work through increasingly challenging times (if you are interested in learning more about recent developments impacting the lives of people seeking refuge in Greece, please read the section at the end of this report). 

Although we have reached our funding goal for this project, our work in Greece continues as refugees and asylum seekers here face greater challenges than ever. We are responding to a growing number of requests for basic support services, most notably for housing, food, legal and medical aid, and psychological support.

In Ritsona, Greece’s largest refugee camp, we continued offering recreational activities (including sports, arts and crafts, music workshops and more) for children and youth. During the Covid-19 pandemic, these activities assumed even greater importance as children had little to no access to school due to COVID-19 measures, over capacity classrooms, and transportation issues. In our safe, inviting spaces, children and youth have the opportunity to be themselves, make friends across cultural and linguistic divides, pursue their creative or athletic passions, and build their skills, including learning English. 

Since December 2019, we have welcomed a monthly average of 98 children between the ages 3 and 4 years into our informal daycare centre, where they can play, make friends, learn techniques to cope with their emotions, and develop their skills. Through our Sports programme, school-aged children played games designed to instil values of equality and respect for others, and also learnt healthy hygiene habits such as hand-washing and teeth-brushing. They also practised football, volleyball, and more! In our youth and community centre, a monthly average of 90 residents aged 15 and up have passed through our centre to drink tea, learn a new song on the guitar, or play a game of chess. We also continued to invest in our Community Volunteers - refugees and asylum seekers living in Ritsona Camp who chose to contribute to our programmes for children – through training and capacity building workshops.

In Athens, our emergency response team answered a growing number of requests for help from people living in precarious conditions. Since launching this programme in December 2020, we have supported over 4,800 people, including 1,706 children, of whom 28 were unaccompanied by parents or guardians. We assessed their needs, booked medical appointments, provided guidance on navigating the asylum process and accessing social services, and referred people to providers of legal and housing support. We have also distributed 366 food baskets, more than 60 supermarket vouchers, and 759 baby supplies (including diapers and baby formula), and 15,194 other essential hygiene items (such as soap, toothbrushes, sanitary towels etc.), as well as 541 items of warm winter clothing to families in vulnerable situations.  

We hope that you will continue to support us in our relief efforts by contributing to our other project on GlobalGivingTogether, we can continue making a difference! 

Thank you sincerely for standing in solidarity with people fleeing conflict, disaster and persecution. We are grateful to count you among our loyal supporters.

Overview  of recent changes affecting refugees and asylum seekers in Greece:

New arrivals on the mainland, Crete and Rhodes currently have no way to register their asylum claim, leaving thousands of people with few avenues to access legal protection, medical support, housing or food. Gates and surveillance technologies are being installed around walled-off camps, the final step in creating closed, prison-like camps across Greece that will restrict residents’ freedom of movement. The amount of cash assistance that certain categories of asylum seekers receive every month has also been reduced to €75 (meanwhile most receive zero). Food insecurity continues to be a devastating issue for residents of Ritsona - in February 2,600 people resided in Ritsona, of whom 1,600 were considered “ineligible” for food distributions. Government accommodations, including the ESTIA II programme which housed vulnerable asylum seekers, has been reduced and will be phased out by the end of this year. In January, the worst snowstorm in 14 years hit the Athens metro area, leaving thousands of people living on the streets and in low-quality housing in need of emergency warm shelter, winter clothes and blankets. In Ritsona, the snowstorm left the entire camp without electricity and potable water for some days. 

These obstacles exacerbate the long-standing, perennial struggles that thousands of forcibly displaced people across Greece were already facing. Those attempting to cross Greece’s land and sea borders continue to be met with violence, intimidation tactics and illegal pushbacks. Turkey has been designated a “safe third country” by the Greek authorities for asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bangladesh and Pakistan, meaning applicants from these countries face immediate rejections and the risk of deportation. Those in Athens continue to face uncertainty, poor housing, and limited job opportunities, whilst those in Ritsona Camp face waiting times of up to three years on asylum claims.

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For asylum seekers and refugees in Greece, 2021 has been a particularly hostile and challenging year. Gaps in essential service provision have continued to grow, with people unable to access food, shelter, medical care and legal aid. These changes have  left thousands of displaced people across Greece in destitute situations. 

Across Greece, asylum seekers and refugees also lost access to cash assistance as responsibility for distribution shifted from the UNHCR to the Greek government. Those living outside of “official structures,” such as camps, haven’t received cash assistance since July, whilst those living inside camps haven’t received financial support since October. In camps, including Ritsona, replacement food distributions have been set up - however, food is of poor quality, and many residents are completely excluded from receiving it. 

In both Athens and Ritsona Refugee Camp, these cuts to essential support services have  pushed asylum seekers and refugees into   vulnerable situations. Your continued support has enabled our teams to   respond in a swift, dignified manner, providing emergency and psychosocial support to those in need.    

In Athens, your support has enabled our Emergency Response team to continue providing assistance to asylum seekers and refugees experiencing homelessness and precarity. In 2021, our team provided support through distributions, outreach shifts, case management, and referrals to essential services. 

Whilst in Ritsona Camp, your support has enabled our team to continue supporting camp residents as they grapple with this distressing change by offering consistent psychosocial support. We also worked with another organisation to coordinate a   distribution of dry food to residents who were excluded from food distributions. 

As the New Year approaches, we are more committed than ever to remaining in Greece, providing dignified, immediate and long-term support to asylum seekers and refugees.  With our new 2021-2023 Strategic Plan in place, we are equipped with clear objectives and a values-driven mission, with the goal of shaping programming through a participatory approach. 

As we look back on this year, we would like to share an overview of everything we have achieved, thanks to your generous support. 

Athens Emergency Response

Throughout 2021, relocations from refugee camps on the Aegean islands saw a growing number of asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Athens. For most, their arrival was met with inadequate support and shelter, and limited access to social, medical and legal services. In response, throughout 2021 our Streetwork Programme has grown to meet emerging needs: providing essential items, facilitating access to services, and offering case management to asylum seekers and refugees experiencing homelessness and/or facing precarious situations. Over the past year, we supported 4,214 people, including 1,555 children, of whom 25 were unaccompanied. 

Ritsona Camp

Child Friendly Space (CFS)

In 2021, early childhood development activities in Ritsona Refugee Camp were either limited or non-existent. The absence of vital, educational activities continued to have a profound, long-term impact on the social, psychological, and physiological development of displaced children. In response, our CFS team continued to provide targeted psychosocial support that bolsters resilience - through free play, crafts, songs, and emotional regulation exercises. Activities such as emotional regulation sessions, breathing exercises, and costume role-play ensure that children living in the camp can access development and learning opportunities in a safe, supportive environment.  

Sports Programme (SP)

For several years, children living in Ritsona Camp have struggled to access the formal education to which they are entitled. However, since the start of the pandemic, the situation has deteriorated. Whilst some children can now access school, the lack of educational and structural activities for young people in Ritsona Refugee Camp affects both short-term and long-term developmental outcomes. In 2021, our Sports programme continued to provide physical and cooperative education to children aged 7-12 years old, offering a much needed stimulation and structure in the absence of formal education. The team has led  a variety of sporting activities including football, yoga, volleyball, and much more! 

In the Spring, our Sports programme introduced yoga classes for women aged 14 years and above. Classes draw upon restorative yoga teachings, covering different poses and breathing exercises which are designed to alleviate stress and teach mindfulness and coping mechanisms. These classes have proven to be very popular and have a committed following. 

Youth Engagement Space (YES) 

Young adults in displacement grapple with limited support, and there are few opportunities to further their careers or connect with their peers. This has serious implications on mental health and well-being. Throughout 2021, our YES responded, and continued to provide a variety of psychosocial activities and informal counselling to youth aged 15 years and above. The YES is a space where all camp residents can gather together to socialise, build friendships and create support networks, regardless of nationality or language. 

Resident Volunteer Programme (RVP)

In 2021, Greece still lacks a sustainable integration model that covers both employability and social integration. Because of this, camp residents have few opportunities to develop skills that will support self-sufficiency. In response, our RVP supports the personal and professional development of camp residents through a variety of trainings. As part of the RVP, our Resident Volunteers spend time volunteering with either the CFS, YES or Sports programme with the aim of gaining on-the-job experience and building skills that can be used to obtain employment opportunities. 

Looking towards 2022, we anticipate that the need for urgent and critical support amongst asylum seekers and refugees will  continue to grow, whilst gaps in service provision are also expected. Your continued support will enable us to ensure our programming remains accountable, adaptable, and centered around the needs of the people we serve. Thank you for all that you do to support Lighthouse Relief.

 

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Today, we invite you to take a look at the work we’ve been able to achieve so far in 2021 thanks to your invaluable support. The past months have often been difficult but also inspiring and rewarding, as our teams have come together to tackle momentous challenges head on. You have played a vital role in this. 

Last month, donors such as yourself enabled our team to be on hand to provide emergency relief as approximately 2,000 asylum seekers and refugees were evacuated from Malakasa Camp to Ritsona Camp due to dangerous wildfires in the area. Our team worked tirelessly through the weekend, supporting distributions of food and essential items, helping vulnerable families find shelter, and assisting other organisations with coordination and cleaning. On Sunday, the team also assisted with the transfer of residents back to Malakasa, and helped organise a large food distribution in Malakasa Camp. It is moments like these that show us the strength of the international Lighthouse community! 

As we look back on these past months, we  want to share an overview of everything we have been able to achieve, thanks to your generous support.

Here’s a look back at the achievements of our Psychosocial Support team in Ritsona Camp since the start of the year! 

From January through August 2021, our Child Friendly Space (CFS) welcomed an average of 98 children per month. In CFS sessions, children age 3 and 4 years old participated in games, crafts, singalongs, and emotional regulation exercises. At a time of increased isolation these sessions have proven to be vital, and we’re proud to now be able to provide two sessions a week for each child in this age group. 

Our Youth Engagements Space, a dynamic drop-in space for youth aged 15 and up, offered workshops, games, and sports to an average of 91 residents per month. Workshops included bracelet-making and English language. The youth themselves also led several workshops, sharing their art, photography and technology skills with their peers! Our Youth Online Space platform, created to provide additional support during the lockdown, averaged 75 active users per month while COVID-related restrictions were in place. 

Meanwhile, our Sports Programme continued to offer daily cooperative sports and games to an average of 50 children per month, between the ages of 7 and 12.  Through the Sports Programme, we've also been delighted to offer weekly yoga sessions for Resident Volunteers, and just recently, daily football sessions led by our Football Intern!

All of our programmes are made possible thanks to your donations, and supported by our brilliant team of Resident Volunteers - residents of Ritsona Camp who help us to plan and implement programmes. Since January, 18 Resident Volunteers have received training and helped plan and carry out our programming. Several have also led activities, including emotional regulation sessions in the CFS and popular art workshops in the YES!

Thanks to your support, we also successfully launched our Streetwork Project in Athens, and the project continues to grow!

Since December, you have enabled us to support over 1,478 families and individuals experiencing various forms of homelessness. This represents over 2,700 people, over 40% of whom were children. We referred 512 cases to our network of over 20 partner organisations, and provided sustained, holistic support to 207 complex cases. On over 590 occasions, we supported people with medical concerns, either helping them book an appointment, or referring them to a medical actor. 

Providing people with essential items is also an important part of our project, and our team has distributed over 4,000 non-food items, including nearly 400 baby supplies and over 3,000 hygiene articles. 

When we set out to launch a Streetwork project in Athens, we knew that an urgent situation was developing on the mainland of Greece. Many asylum seekers and refugees have been left without the support they need, struggling to find housing, medical support and legal support. In the past months, we have learned that these needs are complex, interconnect, and require a holistic and sustained approach. 

We also know that the needs will increase. In July, cash assistance was cut for asylum seekers who live outside of official structures (such as camps). This cash assistance is a lifeline for asylum seekers, and its loss may push many into ever more precarious positions. 

We are committed to continuing to provide dignified support as they navigate their next steps. 

In the coming months, we foresee mounting challenges for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece as they contend with increasingly hostile policies, including walls around camps, and restrictive asylum policies that could leave thousands in limbo. 

Your continued support will enable us to ensure our programming remains accountable, adaptable, and centered around the needs of the people we serve.

Art workshop in our YES
Art workshop in our YES
Ritsona Football Tournament
Ritsona Football Tournament
RVs supporting our CFS
RVs supporting our CFS
Support to Malakasa evacuees
Support to Malakasa evacuees
Feedback from a CFS parent
Feedback from a CFS parent
Streetwork monthly distribution
Streetwork monthly distribution

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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. 

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New ER project: Key numbers from the 1st month
New ER project: Key numbers from the 1st month

A happy and healthy New Year from all of us at Lighthouse Relief! 

As we take stock of all we have been able to achieve over the past year, in spite of the enormous challenges, we know none of this would have been possible without your steadfast support.

We are thrilled to share this update on what you have enabled us to achieve in the past few months. Since our last report, we have been busy, both in Ritsona Camp and in Athens, where we launched a brand new Emergency Response Project to meet urgent needs on the mainland.

Ritsona Camp: Providing Crucial Psychosocial Support through a National Lockdown

When we last reached out to you, we shared that we had been able to restart our activities in Ritsona Camp in October. Greece implemented its second national lockdown in November, but thanks to our team’s strong reputation for COVID-safe policies across all our programming, we were granted permission to continue our Child Friendly Space and Youth Engagement Space in Ritsona Camp despite the lockdown. With the vital help of our Resident Volunteers, we have been able to provide safe and supportive spaces for children aged three and four, as well as youth aged 15 and up, to socialise, learn and express themselves. 

The ongoing lockdown, which is now entering its fourth month, is the third lockdown for camp residents, and it has further increased their stress and isolation. It has been a very difficult year and challenging past few months for residents in the camp, and the increased stress risks can take a toll on the mental health of an already vulnerable group. 

In our Child Friendly Space, our team is holding activities indoors and enforcing strict sanitation procedures, as well as mask-wearing and “washy washy,” otherwise known as hand sanitisation. In the past months, we welcomed an average of 67 children weekly, ages 3 and 4, who delighted in colourful crafts-making activities, singing songs, as well as discovering the various toys and books selected by our team to help stimulate their imaginations.

In addition to this, Resident Volunteers, with the support of the Resident Volunteer Programme Facilitator, and CFS staff, have been facilitating emotional regulation exercises for the children in the space. These simple breathing and stretching exercises give the children some basic tools to quiet their minds, relax their muscles and reduce stress. 

The psychosocial support we provide has been especially crucial in these past months. The majority of children in the camp have not had access to a single day of formal education in 2020. Our team is determined to continue to provide the highest quality informal learning and play to these young residents at such a crucial stage of their development.

In our Youth Engagement Space, we continue to provide a space for residents to unwind, socialise and receive informal support. The YES team were happy to continue to offer support through their drop-in center and activities such as chess, table tennis and the ever-popular foosball.

English language workshops, meanwhile, have continued on the Youth Online Space, where our YES Facilitator is also gathering and sharing resources, including an online library where residents can access books and other materials in English, French, Arabic and Farsi. Resident Volunteers are also playing a vital role in ensuring the running of the YES. From helping the team to manage the space, and ensuring the respect of anti-COVID measures, to facilitating their own creative workshops, the RVs are invaluable to our team. 

In the past months, we have been particularly inspired to see how our newly formalised Resident Volunteer Programme continues to grow. RVs have participated in trainings on topics such as  Emotional Regulation, Conflict Mediation, and Workshop Facilitation. These trainings support them in their roles, while equipping them with tools that can help them build towards their futures.

Our RV Programme Facilitator has also been working on a range of activities to help RVs develop positive coping mechanisms, introducing practices such as art therapy, gratitude practice and mindfulness. RVs are a crucial part of our programming, strengthening our relationship with the community and enriching our activities.

Our Emergency Response Team Launches a new Project to Support Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Athens

Since we formally ceased our operations on Lesvos, our Emergency Response (ER) team has been working tirelessly to pivot our operations to meet increased needs on the Greek mainland. In the past months, they undertook an in-depth research process, meeting with a dozen other organisations doing important work all across Greece, with the aim of identifying the most pressing needs for refugees, and any operational gaps that exist. It was clear that significant needs were developing on the mainland. 

In March 2020, the Greek government cut the support that refugees could access after they receive a positive asylum decision. Whereas refugees previously had six months of financial and housing support in order to find their own housing, get a social security number, and seek employment, they now only have 30 days to do so.

When this new regulation took effect at the end of May, over 11,000 refugees in these so-called “exit schemes” were left without any support — with even their scarce cash assistance taken away, and were forced to seek housing in the middle of a pandemic. Many recognised refugees, including thousands transferred from the islands, were left struggling with homelessness, living on the streets in the middle of a crowded square in Athens. 

In response, our team designed a pilot project deploying a skilled streetwork team to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants experiencing homelessness. In December, we launched the pilot phase of this project, setting out to provide vulnerable people with essential items, information, and referral to other services. Through the month-long pilot phase, the ER team supported a total of 145 people, including 61 families, distributing 45 non-food items and 166 “first contact” kits, including croissants and juice. 

These needs will only increase this year, as asylum seekers are transferred to the mainland and asylum procedures are sped up.  

In the coming months, we will continue to build out our programming in Ritsona Camp. We have just re-launched our Sports Programme, on a smaller-scale and in COVID-safe way,  targeting children aged 9 and 10. 

In Athens, we continue to help vulnerable individuals, including refugees, and asylum seekers, taking the learnings from our pilot phase to strengthen our approach. 

On an organisational level, we are in the process of developing a three-year strategic plan, which will consolidate our mission and chart the next 36 months of our programming.

We look forward to sharing further updates on all our programming in our next report!

Finally, we would like to thank you for everything you do to make this work possible. We look to the future with optimism,  knowing that with your support, we are stronger and more determined than ever. 



Happy Holidays from our CFS team!
Happy Holidays from our CFS team!
Our new ER Streetwork team
Our new ER Streetwork team
An RV posting COVID-regulations in the YES
An RV posting COVID-regulations in the YES
Emotional regulation in the CFS w/ a plushy heart!
Emotional regulation in the CFS w/ a plushy heart!
Scratch Paper Art sessions with RVs
Scratch Paper Art sessions with RVs

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Organization Information

Lighthouse Relief

Location: Vällingby/Stockholm - Sweden
Website:
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Twitter: @LighthouseRR
Project Leader:
Chloe Esposito
Vallingby/Stockholm, Sweden

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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