Project update – Nea Kavala, 28th March



This week the weather has suddenly turned from spring to summer. Luckily our new Community Centre and improved Women’s Space are both insulated and we hope lessons and activities will continue to be cool enough throughout the summer to be well-attended. That’s certainly what’s been happening recently! Attendance to all classes are on the rise: children, mixed adults and especially women!

The Women’s Space is doing extremely well: Kurdish, Arabic, African and Afghani women are learning and having fun together every day. Even better, they are taking pride in their newfound space, painting and cleaning before and after activities, making it their own. We couldn’t have hoped for such a level of integration. It’s so rewarding for us volunteers that the Women’s Space is growing in popularity: returning to camp after lunch, we often find a few women impatiently waiting outside for the activities to begin. As an all-woman volunteer team at the moment, the Women’s Space is very special to us all.

Our new creche for the children of the Women’s Space is being improved little by little. This week we were beautifying and babyproofing the domo – we hope to create a soft-play area without sharp corners. Some children and women helped paint new pallet benches for the tent, but the children show little interest in sitting down! Borrowing exercise balls from the Women’s Space or just rolling back and forth in a big cardboard box prove the most popular activities. During the hours when children of Greek school age (7+) have the opportunity to go to formal education, we are unable to offer them activities in case we discourage them from attending school. But we are enjoying working with the toddlers and youngest members of Nea Kavala.

Our volunteer house has a new team member: thanks to a recent donation we now have a quality printer/scanner/photocopier! Being able to access this machine at any time of the day or night outside of the awkward Greek copyshop opening hours can really transform our lesson planning, as well as save us a lot of money. Many thanks! We even managed to get a team of computer experts from camp to set it up and fix our communal laptop, providing them with tea and then leaving them to it. We’re lucky to have so many skilled people helping us out in different ways.

This Satartday we used the hundreds of brightly coloured drinking straws we have in our store cupboard for games and crafts. In teams we played relay games with the straws and then split off into craft activities. Younger brothers and sisters below five often tag along and can disrupt the whole group, so we created a workshop in the library for them to enhance their fine motor skills with straws. This went so well we hope to include it in every Satartday, depending on staffing. With the other children we created flying planes, a marble run, bracelets and a football pingpong game, all involving straws.

More refugees are slowly trickling into Nea Kavala but recent arrivals have been of very low numbers, seventeen last week, and a few more tonight. Some residents have been here for over a year, but there are many who are relatively new to the camp. This mix seems to work well, with the experienced guiding the new, and the new providing a fresh perspective of the camp. Nea Kavala has changed so dramatically since We Are Here first began, but we adapt so quickly it’s difficult to imagine how the camp must look without knowing its history. The services provided at Nea Kavala are relatively good for a military-run refugee camp in Greece, but of course, any refugee camp is never good enough. We Are Here in solidarity but we wish we didn’t have to be here at all.

Thanks for reading our updates, we hope to inform you of what we’re up to here in Northern Greece, and inspire you to get involved in some way wherever you are. As Eduardo Galeano said, “many small people, who in many small places, do many small things, can alter the face of the world”.

There are countless ways you can help in the refugee crisis: raising awareness, demonstrating against injustice, raising money, collecting material donations, training volunteers in useful skills, helping integrate refugees in your local area…All at We Are Here are doing our best out here, but of course the crisis extends across much of the world. We are forever grateful to individuals and groups who have supported We Are Here in so many ways, thank you.

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