Project update – Nea Kavala, 14th April

We’ve been very busy the past few weeks, with more arrivals, more classes and more on offer. Just as well we have more volunteers to help manage this workload!

This week we had two days of arrivals from the islands, with over 120 new residents to the camp. The reception routine is well-established in our ‘big white tent’ Open Community Space now. Many camp organisations are present to register, distribute things or information and simply to welcome people to their new home. We Are Here hopes to be just that – present and friendly with a cup of tea, a kid’s zone and plenty of useful information about their reception and the camp in general.

However it’s still an extremely stressful experience for many, and a long trip of around 24 hours from Lesvos, with little to no food or water provided. There seems to be a huge lack of communication between the authorities and the refugees being relocated to another camp. Many were promised a camp in Athens or Thessaloniki and have ended up here in the countryside in Northern Greece. We only hope with regular activities, support and community building they will come to accept Nea Kavala and not resent it.

In this vein, the UNHCR organised a camp community food, music and dance event on Friday. Food to be prepared was provided to volunteer cooks from different communities around the world as well as barbecues and cooking equipment. Food and food culture is a great talking point to bring people together, especially over some barbecued chicken! Interestingly, one woman from Syria believes all Europeans to be vegetarian: after inviting many European volunteers to eat in her container our eating habits seem conclusive! Our speaker worked hard on Friday too, playing world music for hours. Hundreds of people enjoyed dancing their traditional dances and learning about others. The day was a great success and we hope well-worthwhile to create a community feeling between all ethnic groups.

We Are Here have a new and improved schedule! With more volunteers here and more pending, it’s possible for us to offer more to Nea Kavala. We now have four different levels of English lessons for adults five days a week, an immense task in itself! As well as this, there are conversation classes and an English games and chatting class. Well done team English!

In addition to other language classes, music classes for children, theatre group and of course Satartday, we now want to do more for mixed adults in the afternoon in our new Open Community Space. We hope this will be a flexible space for people to entertain themselves, bringing people and groups together with us providing the tools to do so. To start this off one afternoon, we offered our speaker and microphone to be used for music and dance as people pleased, which went down very well. Last night we also screened a Disney classic for children, Mulan, as well as a football match, and we hope to regularly screen children’s and adults films, somehow fairly rotating languages and subtitles. More on this soon!

The Women’s Space is going stronger than ever with women from many ethnic groups joining everyday to learn English and take part in a recreational activity. One day this week they concocted a body scrub to take home and use in the shower. The small team of volunteers is very creative in lessons, activities and workshops: proof of popularity is in the attendance! The opportunity to escape camp life everyday for a few hours, to learn and laugh, make friends, create, dance, sing, sweat and make something beautiful and worthwhile can hopefully absolutely change many women’s experience in Nea Kavala.

And finally, our beautiful library is slowly growing in popularity especially with children! Many thanks to you book donors! However we desperately need books in the languages of the camp’s new residents: French, Farsi, Tigrinya, Urdu…And not just books: magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, picture books, simple language learning books, children’s books and especially dictionaries from a native language to English, Greek, German…If you can acquire any of the above and wish to send them to We Are Here, please get in touch – every little adds a great deal to our library! Apart from building language skills, books can be a great form of escapism from camp life, and we are proud the book borrowing system is working well. We’ve also started lending games to children and adults, hopefully providing hours of entertainment even in our absence.

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