In Athens, we work 6 days a week in Skaramagas refugee camp, a 30-minute drive from the city centre.
About the camp
Skaramagas is the largest refugee camp in mainland Greece; there are currently around 2330 residents in the camp. Skaramagas is a long term accommodation camp where residents are living while they wait for their asylum application to be processed. The process can take years and residents find themselves stuck in limbo and unable to work as they do not have asylum yet.
Unlike on the island, residents live in iso box containers and have electricity, running water and bathrooms. Syrians, Kurds, Iraqis and Afghans make up the majority of the camp population, and it is estimated that about 40% are under the age of 18. Despite not being an emergency situation, residents in Skaramagas are facing many challenges that A Drop in the Ocean tries to tackle through psycho social support activities.
Activities in the camp
This place is established to give mothers a private and intimate time with their babies, but women without children can also come. Here, they can take care of their children, change diapers, bathe their babies, get support and interact with other mothers, and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. We are starting up with yoga, nutrition sessions, ad-hoc English classes and gatherings for women once a month to get feedback. No men are allowed inside.
We use the Community Centre to host a range of activities. A Drop in the Ocean built the Community Centre in 2016, and it has become an active meeting space in the heart of the Skaramangas refugee camp. A lot of our activities are held here, the language lessons are particularly popular. Our community centre has three rooms available for different activities which are designed to make a positive impact on the residents of the camp. We cooperate closely with the residents to come up with new ideas. At the moment, we offer the following:
In the summer of 2017 we opened a sewing room in Skaramagas Community Centre. We have several sewing machines and equipment for the residents of the camp to sew their own clothes and designs. Residents are assigned appointments for fabric distribution taking 3 meters at a time; these distribution days are particularly busy. The sewing room has become an important meeting place for women, and we also use it for different workshops.
A room where kids can play, draw, and do arts and crafts. A play area where kids are allowed just to be kids for a while and get a short break from their daily reality of life in a refugee camp. Every week we do a special activity day that involves team challenges, football tournaments and treasure hunts. In the afternoons, we run, play football and organise Cinema for the kids.
Informal education: English lessons for adults
There are classes for everyone from beginner up to more complex grammar and conversation classes. We teach almost 250 students throughout a 6 week cycle. Three of our long-term volunteers have created a curriculum with specific lesson plans, and a duration of 10 weeks, to satisfy students’ need for consistency in teaching and give them a chance to progress to more advanced levels. The curriculum has been created to accommodate all types of volunteer teachers, from volunteers with no previous teaching experience, to qualified teachers who find a curriculum which they can build upon. We are always looking for long term volunteers to take the position of English teachers; some of our best teachers come to camp with zero teaching experience.
The library, which is the heart of the community centre, contains a growing number of international books and literature for all ages. Residents can read in the library or check them out to take home. The Hope Library is also a social place where residents can relax, socialise or ask for assistance with tasks that require computers or printers.
– a safe space for games, dance and homework
On the first floor of our Drop Shop, we provide a space for youth between the ages of 12 and 17 who live in the camp. It is a bright space filled with natural light, quiet and away from the activities offered to younger children.
This space provides a vulnerable group of teens with a safe environment where we can challenge their creativity, empower them, and help build skills that will be valuable for their future. We offer movies, crafts, dancing, board games, yoga and camera/photography activities. We also have a small library, as well as a quiet area for study and homework. The Centre provides the teens with snacks and tea.
Video from our Teenage Centre:
Distribution and warehouse
The warehouse is located Egaleo, a 20 minute drive from Skaramagas. This is where we store and organise donations before distribution in the camp. We distribute and provide season-appropriate clothing, shoes and other necessities to camp residents four times a year. We use our own virtual currency – ‘Drops’ – that makes it possible for them to shop in the same way as in a normal store. This unique Drop-currency enables the residents to shop for clothes in a meaningful and respectful way. This means that they do not have to wait in line, but are free to move around and choose the clothes that they want. It also guarantees enough clothing for everyone. Read more about The Drop App here.
From July 2018 we have worked in Elefsina refugee camp, about 30 km outside Athens. During spring 2019 we established a Drop Shop in camp, as our main activity here, were we distribute clothing, shoes and other necessities to camp residents. Located in an old industrial building, the camp houses nearly 200 people. Approximately 30% are below 12 years of age and most of them come from Syria and Iraq. The camp is located 16 km from Skaramangas refugee camp.
Distribution via Drop Shop
At the Drop Shop we ‘sell’ clothing, shoes and other necessities to camp residents. We use our own virtual currency – ‘Drops’ – that makes it possible for them to shop in the same way as in a normal store. This unique Drop-currency enables the residents to shop for clothes in a meaningful and respectful way. This means that they do not have to wait in line, but are free to move around and choose the clothes that they want. It also guarantees enough clothing for everyone. The Drop Shop provides season-appropriate clothes for hundreds of camp residents each week. Read more about ‘Drops’ and The Drop App here.
To be able to volunteer with us in Athens (Skaramagas and Elefsina), you must be able to work for a minimum of 10 days. You must be prepared for demanding conditions and tensions in the camp. Induction and training takes place every week on Monday morning. You cannot work in the camp if you have not gone through this induction. We recommend that you arrive in Athens the evening before the induction. Volunteers have Sundays off.