We revived the Community Centre in Ioannina city centre which had been closed for 2 years. We started work renovating it in November 2021, created the Ioannina Dignity Centre and ran services there until the end of June 2022.
We then handed the fully functioning Centre over to our friends at Be Aware And Share.
We wrote about our reasons for leaving here.
The Centre used to be a bustling place for refugees and asylum seekers in 2016-18 to receive critical services so the ideal location for us to restore that lifeline on our return to Greece.
The timing was ideal as Government support continued to be cut back and increasing numbers of refugees were left on the breadline. As at January 2022, all support for refugees was withdrawn one month after they had been given leave to remain with next to no prospect of employment. The IRC estimated that over one-third of refugees in camps were going hungry.
This quick video shows how we transformed it:
We worked hard to make it look great for opening in February 2022. You can see what it looked like when we took it over in this video tour.
Making the place look lovely was a top priority:
We started offering very similar services to our Dignity Centre in Cyprus although our Ioannina centre had a lot of space for many other services to operate there.
Once the place looked nice, we needed to make sure we were offering a warm welcome.
At the heart of the Centre was our Dignity Market offering people a budget of points, once a week, so they could choose what they wanted from a selection of products that we knew they wanted. Our top sellers were:
- Luncheon Meat
- Sunflower oil
In the time we were open, we had 1800 visits to our Dignity Market and served a total of 5,000 people with an essential basket of items that they chose for themselves.
Half were from Afghanistan, a third from the Middle East and the rest from 15 other nations.
We selected people who were not in receipt of any state support – people who had their asylum application rejected twice and people who were granted refugee status.
When BAAS arrived with a desire to take on the responsibility of managing the Centre, it was a great opportunity for us to:
- ensure the Centre could continue serving the community and developing its services
- focus our resources in other locations where we are better able to help
It was a real pleasure working with them during the transition stage and we know that the Dignity Centre will be in good hands with them.
There are some great other organisations working in the Ioannina area, like Habibi Works, and there is huge potential for BAAS to make the Centre a vibrant hub offering critical services to a population that still needs a lot of support.