The last three months have been as busy as ever for our team.
Since our last post, the scorching summer has been replaced with chillier winter weather, and in the last few days it has been all action stations as we scramble to dig out the heaters from the back of the container and everyone learns very quickly to wear a few more layers.
In the summer, with new arrivals and fewer services running in the camp we had to step up to fill some gaps. We expanded our Child friendly space into a second room, and also created more energy-burning activities for children, including “gardening” (AKA welly boots, watering cans, giant craters and mud pies) and, for a while, the “Kids Disco” which was a huge hit and included a disco light and of course, plenty of Despacito. Since autumn things have quieted down as thankfully most of the children have now been able to either returned to, or started at, local Greek schools. Nevertheless, the upper teen-age group continues to be left without school and few activities onsite, it is a group on camp that are seriously neglected and we are always thinking of better ways to serve them.
In the centre and in the women’s space, adult English classes continue to be a success with all 4 levels having a good mix of consistent, regular attendees and also new, enthusiastic students. Our consistent students are making great progress. One resident who started in level 1 last spring has now progressed to the level 4 class. Some women who started the lower level classes in the women’s space have made the brave step of continuing their education in the main centre, which has brought a new energy (and competitiveness) to the classes. With the child friendly space and the adult English classes making use of the same two rooms at different times, we have had to get creative and find a “pop up” solution, with fold-away desks, roll-away kiddy kitchens, and den areas tucked at the back of the classrooms.
Winter is descending quickly, and people are having to adapt quickly to the weather and the challenges it presents them. Thankfully most people have been moved out of the big tents and into heated containers onsite or into accommodation elsewhere. With the strong, unforgiving winds that can whip across the Nea Kavala airfield, these tents are cold and noisy, making a good night’s sleep almost impossible. Being in a heated container is a definite improvement, except for when the electricity goes out, and then once again residents are huddled in tin boxes with little protection from the icy temperatures outside.
Despite these challenges, stories from other camps makes the situation for Nea Kavala residents seem manageable. Some of the camps that are more easily accessed from the land border, or who are willing to accept ‘spontaneous arrivals’, are seeing an influx of people who arrive with nothing, and who sometimes have no choice but to sleep outside under flimsy, makeshift shelters. Groups are doing their best to meet the basic needs of these people, giving out blankets and tents but with winter closing in these people are in a perilous situation.
Understandably the onset of winter has lowered our number of attendees, but we are making use of any extra time and energy by working on some renovations. We are giving the Women’s space a bit of a revamp to improve the flooring and make it a more welcoming space for the colder months, and we are currently evolving the library, which was under-utilised as a space, into The Social Space – a more multifunctional space for the Nea Kavala community. We held a community meeting where we asked the residents for their ideas about how they would like it to be used and activities they would like to have, and are in the process of developing these. The books that were originally there will still be available to borrow through an alternate lend-out system, but we hope the new space will be a way to bring a bit more community to our community centre. We will keep you posted!
Finally, a huge thank you must be said to all our donors and fundraisers who have given to us over the last few months. A special big thank you to Tony who ran a marathon in Athens, Amy and friends who put on a music evening in Edinburgh, Lluis who walked 2,800 km from Rome to Santiago de Compostela, Eliza’s mum who has sold prints of her paintings to raise funds for the centre, and Chrissie’s old school, Bunessan Primary School, who put on a fundraising evening. We run solely on donations and fundraising so please do keep on being creative with new and interesting ways to help us continue our work!
Across Greece the crisis continues, but as the political focus is drawn to Brexit and away from here scarcity of funding and pressure on resources is starting to rear its ugly head again. This is coupled with increasing camp numbers as we see more people transferred from the overpopulated islands to inland camps. Although many have turned their attention away from the crisis, for people here it’s still a very difficult and challenging reality. To fill these gaps and continue our services we are continuously seeking new volunteers to join us, especially in this winter period.