In early 2018, our operation in Northern Greece at Nea Kavala camp served around 300 residents and another 100 people living in UN accommodation in the local area. We ran a laundry service, weekly food distributions and a regular free shop where people could access clothes and hygiene products. We ran a wood workshop where people could build or repair things for their containers, or help out their neighbours and learn a new skill. Our bike rental was very popular with men and women wanting a bit of freedom to explore the local town.
By: Milli Cockcroft, Recruitment Coordinator, Greece
Our volunteers worked incredibly hard to help every resident, finding a child their new favourite toy in the DropShop or teaching a teenager how to fix a flat tyre. The operation was running well and Drop in the Ocean was an integral part of the camp community. We were happy to be there and they were happy to have us.
All of this is still true. We still do all of this, and we are grateful for the opportunity to do it. Except that now the camp has over 1000 residents, with another 300 in the local area and we must adjust. Sometimes we don’t have enough volunteers to run all of our services all of the time, which is where you come in.
The situation for refugees Northern Greece is not in the news as often as the islands, but it is just as challenging for the individuals who live there and for the organisations who rely on volunteers to be able to run their operations. Many of the new arrivals in Nea Kavala have come from the overcrowded islands, and their new home is an isobox or tent on an exposed airfield in increasingly hot temperatures and during winter the total opposite.
Changes to the asylum process mean that people increasingly have to wait for 2-5 years for the first of two interviews, so they must live in limbo without official status or the ability to work. The prospect of spending years living in a camp with little control over your own life is a difficult adjustment for any human being to make.
In Nea Kavala, A Drop in the Ocean work with the camp management and other NGOs to try to make life a bit more bearable. We want to give the camp residents a reason to wake up in the morning, to learn a new skill and have some fun, to reduce the stress of buying food, clothing and hygiene products for their family on a limited budget. To do this, we need your help.
There is a misconception among first time volunteers that you need a degree in development or many years of experience to be a useful volunteer, and although there are some roles that require specialist knowledge, most general volunteering roles just need people who want to help and have some free time.
Nea Kavala is great introduction to volunteering for people just starting out, the majority of our projects do not require special skills, (although anyone with experience of bike repair or construction will find plenty to do!), all you need is common sense and flexible attitude. We have created an environment where you can feel useful from day one – our core aim is to help you to help refugees. If you’re looking to develop your experience towards a role with more responsibility we can also help with that: Nea Kavala has a number of Team Leader positions, a good record of career development and an attractive monthly stipend is available for volunteers who can commit for more than 6 weeks.
We can offer the opportunity to be a part of a community of wonderful people and the satisfaction of being a useful member of a close team of coordinators, residents and international volunteers. After work we visit our local restaurants for the best food in Greece, go hiking in the mountains, swim at nearby waterfalls or spend our day off exploring nearby Thessaloniki, home to many arts and culture festivals, and the Greek champions in football, PAOK.
The situation in Nea Kavala is not as high profile as the islands, but the people are no less in need. The small town of Polykastro is not a fast-paced city lifestyle like Athens, the landscape is undeniably beautiful – watching the sun set over the mountains behind the camp after a long day will breathe life into your soul. Why not come and see for yourself?