We are often asked to help out in different camps but will only do that if we are sure we can make a difference and if we know we can consistently deliver on our promises. When we visited LM Village, we met Ahmed who was there with his wife and 2 children, waiting to be reunited with his other son in Germany. He had very little money and had to walk for hours to spend it in an expensive village shop. We knew we had to find a way to help.
The 180 Syrians on the camp – all families so a lot of young children – live in an old holiday village near the beach. While that may sound great, it is the holiday from hell.
- It was closed down about 6 years ago so the housing and environment is dilapidated
- The tap water is contaminated
- The food was bland and very un-Syrian, and even that has now stopped being provided
- The nearest shop is about 5kms away with no form of public transport
- Essential visits to Athens for their asylum claims are expensive
- There is only one other NGO permanently on-site
It’s not all bad.
- The local mayor, Syrian-born himself, is very supportive. He was the subject of a UNHCR film about the solidarity he offered to the refugees when they arrived in Greece
- The other NGO on site, Schoolbox Project, do a brilliant job providing educational activities to the kids (with one of our former volunteers!)
- It’s a great place for volunteers to make a difference while they work and see some of the best of Greece during their well-earned time off
Less than 2 weeks after visiting, thanks to the generous support of Signal of Solidarity, Donate4Refugees, volunteer Emily’s leadership and a lot of hard work, we opened a free Mini Market, stocked with items we know they need and offered to them through our fair and flexible points system.
In our second week, we contracted a weekly bus service to take 50 people from the camp to the local market so they can stock up on extras, give the local Greek traders some business and have a bit of time away from the camp.
In the same week, we bought some gardening equipment as part of our Refugee Engagement programme to help improve the environment where they live.
We started Refugee Support to fill the gaps that other NGOs cannot fill: to be faster and more flexible than the large organisations, more consistent and stable than volunteer groups. LM Village needed someone to fill that gap.
We can make a difference and we are committed to staying. But we can only do that with three things:
- Co-operation with other agencies
You can help. Ahmed and all the families at LM Village need it.