A Drop in the Ocean is present in the island of Lesvos, Northern Greece and the Athens area. We work directly inside the refugee camps, run by Greek authorities. Our main work tasks are to distribute food, clothes and non-food items. We are also involved in planning and organizing different activities for children and adults in the camps. Furthermore, we assist in teaching English as well as provide material and logistical support for bilingual education.
Our volunteers participate in distribution, warehouse duties and in organising activities for the residents in and around different camps. Volunteers work long hours, both inside and outside of the camps. When volunteering, you are expected to contribute in a positive manner and accept different kind of tasks that are given to you by our local coordinators. We are completely dependent on volunteer assistance, and all volunteers must fully commit to the team they have been assigned to.
In Athens, we work 6 days a week in Skaramangas refugee camp, a 30-minute drive from the city centre.
About the camp
Skaramangas is the largest refugee camp in mainland Greece; there are currently around 2000 residents in the camp. 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 half are under the age of 18. A Drop in the Ocean organises a number of activities and services for the residents.
The warehouse is located Egaleo, a 20 minute drive from Skaramangas. This is where we receive donations and organise everything before distribution in the camp. The warehouse is also used for constructing different objects that we may need in the camp, like shelves and tables.
Mother and Baby Space
This place is established to give mothers a private and intimate time with their babies. 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 Skaramangas 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.
English and french lessons for adults
There are classes for everyone from beginner up to more complex grammar and conversation classes. We teach 230 students throughout a 5 week cycle. Here 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 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, which is the heart of the community centre, is also a social place where residents can relax, socialise or ask for assistance with tasks that require computers or printers.
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, 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 Mondays and Thursdays. 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.
In July 2018 we established activities for children in the Elefsina refugee camp, about 30 km outside Athens. 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.
Activites for children and adults and distribution of clothes and items
We organize fun activities for children, sewing classes for the women, and adult English classes for men and women. Volunteers will also help with distribution of clothes, diapers, and other needs in camp in collaboration with the other agencies present.
In Elefsina we need long-term volunteers with experience from working with children and that can stay a minimum of 4 weeks. The reason that we require long-term volunteers is that we work with vulnerable children, and it takes time to get to understand the needs and routines of the camp. It is a small community of families with their children.
Accomodation and transport
The camp is approximately 6 km outside of the Center of Elefsina, and we recommend you to stay in Elefsina or Mandra. Volunteers have the option to stay at the 3 bedroom volunteer Accommodation, which has all basic amenities, and has a small fee of 10 euros a night. We need our volunteers to be able to rent a car. But transportation to and from the camp is easy from the volunteer Accommodation as volunteers can do ride sharing in a rented car.
In Northern Greece we work 6 days a week in the Nea Kavala refugee camp, an official camp situated about an hour from Thessaloniki. The camp has abot 600 residents inside the camp, and 200 people living in the nearby villages. We are responsible for the distribution of food, clothing items and other necessities.
A vegetable distribution takes place twice a week. All of the residents receive a bag filled with different fresh vegetables that helps to supplement their diet. This is more than just a distribution point; the Food Hatch is also a place to meet friends and socialise.
Every other week the residents can ‘buy’ dry food, such as flour or rice, from a limited range of items. The ability to choose their food reduces overall waste and allows residents to plan their meals based on their preferences. The dry food distribution is intended to be supplementary to other programmes from the Greek authorities and the UN, which provide residents with food or money.
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. Read more about ‘Drops’ and The Drop App here.
In the warehouse we sort and organise our donations for further distribution in camp.
We have established a bicycle rental service, to help provide easier access to the local town of Polykastro, located 5 km from Nea Kavala camp. With this we give our residents the opportunity to attend classes, go shopping, and access leisure facilities. After attending a short information session, residents receive a bike rental card, that allows them to hire a bicycle for 2 hours each day.
Since the summer of 2018, we have cooperated with an NGO in Polykastro on our bike rental, making it even more user friendly for the residents. 96% of men and 46 % of women in camp now have a bike rental card.
Our wood workshop provides the opportunity for people from throughout the camp to access an array of tools and equipment to build all kinds of furniture and items. Along with this, there is space for the repair of all sorts of things, and hand out of nails and screws. This project gives a space for residents already skilled in construction to use some of their expertise, along with helping others to develop new skills.
In our laundry service residents can use washing machines six days a week.The laundry provides residents the opportunity to regularly come and wash and iron their clothes, and it is also an important meeting point for the residents in the camp.
In collaboration with We are Here, we provide residents with access to sewing machines and some fabric. At the time being, this is mostly use to fit and repair clothes. There is also the potential of knitting classes, weaving or the use of sewing machines to create interior pieces.
When the weather permits, we facilitate volleyball-and footballplaying in Nea Kavala. This makes for good vibes among players and on-lookers.
Accomodation and transport
Our volunteers live in the villages of Polykastro, Axoupoli and Pigi, which are located approx. 10 minutes drive from Nea Kavala. All three villages are a short distance from each other. Most volunteers live in hotels in Polykastro or in apartments through our contacts in the villages. More information about renting a bed or apartment can be obtained by contacting one of our coordinators after your trip has been approved.
In Nea Kavala, the use of the Drop App is a constant requirement of volunteers. It is therefore important that you are comfortable using technology – you will, of course, be trained in this very user-friendly system. To be able to volunteer with us in Northern Greece you must be able to work for minimum 10 days. Induction and training will take place every week on Mondays and Thursdays. You can not attend the work in camp if you have not gone through this induction. We recommend that you arrive the area the evening before the induction. In Nea Kavala, volunteers have Sundays off.
We need minimum two weeks notice from volunteers to Northern Greece, in order to have them registered in camp before their arrival.
On Lesvos we work in the area around Mytilene and Moria Refugee Camp, which now houses 5028 refugees, 47% of which are women and children and the majority of the people living in camp are from Afghanistan. Moria Camp, which originally has the capacity to house 2000 residents, is overcrowded and characterised by need, lack of security, poor hygienic conditions and insufficient food supply. Electricity is currently not working within the camp combined with the cold has made conditions very inhospitable. Despite the significant number of NGOs working with refugees on Lesbos, there are still great needs. The number of refugees steadily increases with the arrival of new boat refugees from Turkey.
Drop Centre, Moria City
With a specific focus on, education and skill development projects, A Drop in the Ocean opened a Drop Centre in Moria Village the summer of 2018. Our local Drop Centre is a space where everyone is welcomed to engage in different activities in a safe environment. Mostly it provides a break from Moria Camp, where people will live for an unknown time. We have a playing area for the youngest and make activities and play games with the older children. Every week, more than 250 women, children and men visit our centre. The activities we offer are:
- English and math lessons for children from the age of 5 – 12
- In collaboration with Teach Beyond Borders we offer school for children in the age of 6-8. They will be learning english, math, and socialization within a formal education system
- English and Greek lessons for women and men
- Sewing room for women and men
- Womens Café and handcraft
- Mini Drops – a space only for women and children where women can find some quality time to do recreational activities and children can play
- Kid’s activities
In cooperation with Team Humanity we assist in kid’s activities five times a week for 300-600 children living in Moria. The aim is to provide a “free space” from the everyday life in the refugee camp where the children through play and activities can interact and experience a sense of achievement and security.
We cooperate with other organizations as needed, and sometimes arrange social café, movie nights, distributions etc.
It is a prerequisite that volunteers have a driver’s license and are able to rent a car if they are to volunteer with us in this area. We want to disclose that living costs are somewhat more expensive on the islands than on the mainland, especially during the summer season. To volunteer with us on Lesbos we require that you can volunteer for a minimum of 10 working days.
Introduction and training in the field takes place on Mondays and Thursdays every week. You cannot volunteer with us before having gone through this training. Thus, we recommend that you arrive the evening before the training at the latest.