Many volunteer groups formed in 2015/16 to help the refugees in Greece. They did extraordinary work but few have survived here. Lack of funds, tedious bureaucracy, frontline burnout and a changing environment are huge challenges.
The Habibi Works project set up by Soup and Socks at Katsikas has just celebrated its second birthday and is one organisation that continues to overcome these challenges and do great work for refugees in the Ioannina area.
Co-founder Mimi Hapig spoke to us in December about how they got started and how they have adapted. Their philosophy of empowering refugees and enabling them to determine their own destinies is really inspiring.
When we asked the residents at Katsikas to apply for our new Business Fund, 3 of the 12 ideas we received had already had support from Habibi Works to start building their activity. And they are continuing to rely on Habibi as they develop what they are doing.
What is that has led both Refugee Support and Habibi Works to survive where other volunteer organisations have not? Some of it must be good luck but we believe that we share these common factors and venture that they have been critical:
- A consistent leadership team able to maintain a focus on the needs of the refugees
- Shared responsibility for leading the organisation to avoid burnout
- Giving volunteers a clear structure to work in but significant freedom within that to keep improving what we do
- The willingness to listen to others as things change and the flexibility to adapt
We’ve witnessed too many battles between volunteer groups fought out in camps or over social media – people who should be standing together. You can usually point to a failure in one or more of these factors as the cause. At best it’s a huge waste of energy. At worst, it can lead to total collapse.
Check out Habibi’s great work on Facebook or Instagram.