Critical Support for Refugees in Greece

by Lighthouse Relief
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Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece
Critical Support for Refugees in Greece

Dear Lighthouse Community,

It has been over eight months since we launched our GlobalGiving project to provide critical support to refugees and asylum seekers in Greece. 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. 

Just last weekend, 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 to July 2021, our Child Friendly Space (CFS) welcomed an average of 99 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 90 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 a 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 1,340 families and individuals experiencing various forms of homelessness. This represents over 2,600 people, approximately 40% of whom were children. We referred 466 cases to our network of over 20 partner organisations, and provided sustained, holistic support to 207 complex cases. On over 530 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 3,000 non-food items, including 330 baby supplies and over 2,000 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 September, cash assistance will be 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 them 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.

Thank you,

Lighthouse Relief 

Feedback from a CFS parent
Feedback from a CFS parent
Supporting evacuated Malakasa Camp residents
Supporting evacuated Malakasa Camp residents
Chess tournament in the YES
Chess tournament in the YES
RVs supporting CFS programming
RVs supporting CFS programming
Our Athens streetwork monthly distribution
Our Athens streetwork monthly distribution

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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.

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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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It’s been four months since we launched our campaign to help fund Lighthouse Relief’s programming through the winter and into 2021. Thanks to your support, we have been able to raise over €46,000 ($56,000 USD) so far, and we’re excited to update you on what we have been able to accomplish with your help!

Since December 2020, we have been busy, both in Ritsona Camp and in Athens, where we launched a brand new Emergency Response Project to meet urgent needs for refugees struggling with homelessness. The winter months have posed many challenges for asylum seekers and refugees in Greece, amidst a national lockdown which is now in its fifth month. In Ritsona Camp, the lockdown has meant further isolation and loss of essential services, including healthcare and education. Throughout Greece, the recent closure of Filoxenia, an EU-funded housing programme for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers,saw hundreds of families and vulnerable people evicted with little-to-no notice. This has highlighted the extreme housing insecurity faced by asylum seekers and refugees alike.

Read on to learn about our activities in recent months, and how you've enabled us to provide support at a challenging time.  

Our New Project to Support Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Athens

In December 2020, we launched the pilot phase of our new Emergency Response project, deploying a skilled streetwork team to provide support to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants experiencing homelessness in Athens. Since then, our team has been setting out five days a week, to provide vulnerable people with essential items, information, and referral to other services. 

When meeting a person experiencing homelessness, the team works collaboratively with them to identify their needs, and assists them with finding the resources and support they require. Our support is holistic, meaning that it can range from distributing items such as diapers or baby milk, to scheduling medical appointments, to finding space in a shelter. 

Since the start of the year, the team has supported 760 people, including 303 children, 13 of whom were unaccompanied. The team distributed 148 sets of non-food and food items, including clothes, sleeping bags, and croissants. 

Approximately a quarter of the people our team has met expressed the need for medical assistance. Many others requested help finding shelter. The team referred 150 people to the services of other organisations and public services, such as the shelter system and the healthcare system. On 60 occasions, accompanied people  throughout the often daunting process of navigating these systems, following-up regularly, and liaising with other organisations to make sure support was ongoing.  

Every month, our team is meeting more people forced into ever-more precarious living conditions. Thanks to your ongoing support, the team is building their capacity, and growing a strong network of collaboration with our partners in Athens, to offer dignified support to as many people as possible. 

Every day, our team is meeting and supporting especially vulnerable people - including mothers with newborn babies, unaccompanied minors, and people living with disabilities. They, and far too many others, are living in dire conditions, and facing unacceptable risks. 

Ritsona Camp: Providing Crucial Psychosocial Support through a National Lockdown

In November of 2020, Greece implemented its second national lockdown. Thanks to our team’s strong reputation for COVID-safe policies across all our programming, we were granted permission to continue our in Ritsona Camp throughout the lockdown. With the vital help of our Resident Volunteers (RVs), 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. 

In our Child Friendly Space, our team is holding activities indoors and enforcing strict sanitation procedures, as well as mask-wearing. 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, RVs, with the support of the Resident Volunteer Programme Facilitator, and CFS staff, have been holding emotional regulation exercises for the children, simple breathing and stretching exercises, to give the children some basic tools to reduce stress. 

In addition to the increased stress and isolation of the lockdown, the majority of children in Ritsona Camp have not had access to a single day of formal education in over a year. 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 in person and on the Youth Online Space, where our YES Facilitator is also gathering and sharing resources, including an online library where residents can access reading materials in English, French, Arabic and Farsi. 

In the past months, we have been particularly inspired to see how our Resident Volunteer Programme continues to grow. RVs have supported both of our spaces, and participated in training 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 focused on helping RVs develop positive coping mechanisms, with practices such as art therapy, gratitude,and mindfulness.  Our RV Programme ensures that our activities are sustainable, and shaped by those we serve. 

Thank You for Your Support!

In the coming months, we will continue to build out our programming in Ritsona Camp and in Athens. 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!

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. 

Latest Impact Report from our Streetwork Team
Latest Impact Report from our Streetwork Team
An RV posting COVID guidelines in the YES
An RV posting COVID guidelines in the YES
A charcoal drawing workshop in the YES
A charcoal drawing workshop in the YES
Crafts activities in the Child Friendly Space
Crafts activities in the Child Friendly Space
English Classes in the YES
English Classes in the YES
LHR's Streetwork Team
LHR's Streetwork Team

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Organization Information

Lighthouse Relief

Location: Solna - Sweden
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @LighthouseRR
Project Leader:
Marie-Helene Rousseau
Vallingby/Stockholm, Sweden
$76,138 raised of $90,000 goal
 
515 donations
$13,862 to go
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