Project update – Nea Kavala, 22nd March


Nea Kavala has been buzzing with excitement the last few days. There’s lots going on and it’s great to see people with fresh energy: refugees and volunteers alike. Many people have been stuck in Greece now for over a year, so something to break up the monotony is always much appreciated.

The Kurds celebrated Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, from Monday night till last night. The festival celebrates the coming of spring and is one of the most important in Kurdish culture. It’s great to see so many people enjoying the festivities, some of our team were invited to join in too! There was a symbolic bonfire and people danced around it to Kurdish music. The Kurdish colours are everywhere: on homemade flags, bracelets and headbands, balloons, facepainted cheeks…Many video-called loved ones to celebrate together despite distance and borders. Of course many in camp are not Kurdish, but there has been a feeling of interest from other ethnic groups, with some even taking part in the celebrations.

In fact, Nea Kavala has become very multi-cultural over the past week! On Friday we welcomed eighty-nine new residents to the camp, many from very different backgrounds to the majority of our original residents (Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian). Our new friends, students and colleagues are Angolan, Eritrean, Afghan, Sudanese, Congolese, Ugandan, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, Sierra Leonean, Burundian, Haitian, Pakistani…As usual we knew about these new arrivals with as little time to prepare as possible, but our welcoming routine is only improving! This time we managed to coordinate with a fellow volunteer group, Drop in the Ocean, to chauffeur the new residents with all their luggage, new camp-beds, mattresses etc to their new container homes. Many of the refugees came from the Greek island camps, where they’ve already lived for many months. Who knows how long they will stay in this camp for.

As the camp diversifies, so we adapt again, continually. We hope to soon have many more languages appearing on our library bookshelves. If you can help us out with book donations, please let us know. We look forward to this new muti-cultural era of Nea Kavala and hope the transition goes smoothly, so far, so good. Generally Greek military-run camps tend not to mix so many nationalities, so we are unsure what to expect for the future of the camp.

This Satartday, We Are Here and Drop in the Ocean ran art workshops together for all camp residents. As you may know, Drop in the Ocean runs a market called the Drop Shop in Nea Kavala, where refugees can exchange tokens for clothes in a ‘shop’, choosing them and trying them on in the changing rooms. This provides a more dignified way of distributing clothes and other non-food items. On Saturday we invitied everyone to one of three workshops for children, mixed adults and women, and create their own design to paint on the outside walls of the Drop Shop. The workshops were very successful, and combining many ideas together, the painting has already begun. We love to see empowerment projects like this one, involving everyone to get creative, be productive and do something they can be proud of and remember.

And finally, the Women’s Space has a new creche! Thanks to a very generous donation, we have a new domo tent in place outside the Women’s Space, specifically to entertain young children while mum is busy with a film, crafts, beauty time, tea and chatting…We hope this will not only improve the Women’s Space activities with more concentration, but also encourage more mums to take part, with childcare not so much of an issue. However, living in a small container, the basics like cooking, cleaning and washing clothes also take up a much bigger chunk of the day than neccessary because of the lack of facilities. Communal kitchens and washing machines have long been promised on site, but are yet to appear. In the meantime, we do what we can. Get Shit Done expertly put up the domo and created a wooden floor too – many thanks! The first Community Centre had two domos: perfect, multi-functional, light spaces. We hope to put up another domo next to the new Community Centre, making another creative space for all.

Thanks for reading everyone and thanks for your support, from all at We Are Here, Nea Kavala team.

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