The Nea Kavala ‘relocation’ camp is located near Polykastro, a small town 20 km away from the Macedonian border. Nea Kavala hosts one of the largest number of people in the camps across Greece, and it is here that We Are Here started its activity, back in May. At Nea Kavala we worked alongside the people in the camp to establish a collaborative community centre, with a range of educational, creative and social activities for adults and children.

When our project begun there, the camp had a population of 3,000 Arab, Kurdish and Yazidi refugees from Iraq and Syria, living in army tents in a shadeless field with very little infrastructure. Since then, Nea Kavala has seen many changes. The population has decreased slowly over the past year, and now there are few left of those who were there originally, as they have moved on – to other camps, to alternative accommodation as they await the final stage of their asylum process, or to another European country.  During the Winter containers finally replaced the tents and the camp can currently accommodate 1,000 refugees, and other infrastructure also improved, including our own community centre, which was rebuilt in January after a fire at the end of the year.

These improvements were and will be badly needed. Mostly new arrivals now occupy these containers in Nea Kavala –with people from the overcrowded islands being brought over to the mainland. For these people, who arrived after the EU Turkey deal, their future is even more uncertain, their mental health even more at risk, and their need for support even greater.

Mornings are for childrenAdult EducationWomen's spaceTheatre groupBook projectCreativity and RecreationTools and skills to shareGarden

Non-formal Education

 

 

For a many months, We Are Here – collaborating with teachers from the camp – provided the only access to education for the children of Nea Kavala. Nowadays, almost a year later and with Nea Kavala established as a long term camp, the larger NGOs and the Greek government have caught up and the provisions for education are improving. This has allowed us to put more energy into addressing the other gaps, such as adult education and social activities, but we continue to support the other actors and the educational needs of the children in the camp, and continue to involve helpers from the camp as much as possible.

For adult education, our biggest focus is on providing regular language lessons, to help people prepare for the next step. For the most part, people choose to take English classes, and we offer lessons from basic literacy to advanced level.  We also run some beginners classes in German and Spanish.

Alongside this, we encourage and work on supporting people in self-study, something which is especially important for the young adults in the camp who were forced to stop higher education part way through. We are also building up educational resources for people to access in a variety of languages.

Children’s Activities

Over the months in the camp, we have run all kinds of creative activities with the children in the camp – drawing and painting, music and movement, science experiments, theatre, design and construction, treasure hunts and imagination games.

Currently, we have three main focuses for children’s activities.

  • SatARTdays are a time to roll up sleeves, and often combine creativity, paint and glue with learning a skill or offering some kind of community service.
  • A daily crèche for little ones next to the women’s space, so that mum can attend activities in peace.
  • The children’s corner of our library, where children know that, during opening hours, they can find quiet time and a book.

 

Women’s space

In such difficult and uncertain living conditions, and with oftentimes men dominating the communal areas, it is important that women have access to a space to relax and socialise away from chores, children, husbands and cramped family life.

A women’s space was requested by women of all ages and ethnicities in the camp, and they have been vocal about the form they would like it to take and the services they would like to see. Born from collaborative planning and built in July, it has slowly but surely grown in popularity as the women in the camp have shaped it into the space they want it to be. Since its thorough renovation in the New Year by a group of hardworking men in the camp, and the recent addition of a crèche next door, the space is now more comfortable, welcoming, accessible and popular than ever. Here we facilitate a range of activities and materials specifically for women : yoga, knitting, English classes, cinema, food-sharing, music, beauty sessions, art, dance…

 

Theatre group

Back in the Summer of 2016, a visiting theatre group ran some great drama skills workshops at Nea Kavala, and helped some people from the camp to put on a play. Those who were involved were very keen for this to continue, and so a small drama group was born. Meeting several times a week and putting on various music and theatre performances in the camp, this has been has been a source of some much needed release for both actors and spectators.

“hope hope hope wait wait wait” – teaser :

 

you can watch the full movie on vimeo.com

 

Library

In the new centre in Nea Kavala, we also now have a proper library, with study tables, a children’s corner, and a book collection for adults and children. People can read there or borrow them to read in their own container.

One key type of book we are collecting is graded readers, for learners of English as a foreign language. These are an excellent tool alongside language lessons, and are far more useful than regular books in English, which the majority of people in the camp do not have the language level to access. Graded readers allow learners to enjoy the fluid reading of a narrative whilst building vocabulary and confidence. It has been great to see people accessing a story in a language other than their own for the first time.

We have also worked hard to build up a collection in Arabic and Kurdish and have slowly built up shelves of  books sent or brought from Tunisia, Lebanon, London, Paris and the United states. With new arrivals brought over from the islands of people from many different countries – Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan – we are now looking for books in a wider variety of languages, such as French and Farsi.

If you think you could help us with growing our collection, please get in touch!

 

Creativity and Recreation

There is so little to do each day for so many people, and it is important not to forget the simple, in-the-moment activities that help people forget their problems for a while. Our centre organises community events in the camp, such as bingo, film screenings and football tournaments.

 

Tools and skills to share

Much of the construction work for things that are needed in our centre – benches, boxes, shades, cupboards – are made with materials donated or bought from a local store and built for us or with us by people from the camp, who share their skills. One recent example is the renovation or the Women’s space, carried out entirely by men from the camp to whom we simply supplied the material. Our community centre also puts some useful tools into general use, for people in the camp to either come to the centre and use, or to borrow. When the containers were first brought to the camp in late Autumn, people were able to borrow drills saws and hammers and come to collect handfuls of screws and nails from our centre, to enable them to reuse the wooden flooring from their tent to add dividers, porches and furniture to the empty metal boxes.

 

Garden

Gardening is well known to be a therapeutic activity, and the barren, treeless airfield which houses Nea Kavala is badly in need of some green. In our original space, a small garden was dug and planted under the supervision of one of our first volunteers and was carefully tended to by people from the camp. Sunflowers, courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes bloomed. This spring, with our main centre in a different location, we hope to make use of the old space to create a bigger communal garden area.