Each day brings new opportunities, new challenges and many, many new joys. We facilitate an assortment of projects within the camp, providing our volunteers the opportunity not only to help, but to engage with the community in many varying ways.
By: Amber Vandam, Nea Kavala Coordinator
The Drop in the Ocean volunteer team in Nea Kavala focus on community development. We strive to provide practical and social solutions to improve the daily lives of our residents. The camp has approximately 400 people, a mix of families and singles, from many different nationalities. The team also services around 200 people living within accommodation surrounding the camp – so we are extremely busy! Below I will give an overview of our current projects.
The Drop Shop is at the heart of all the work we do. Rather than just distribute clothes that people may or may not like or need, we have established a clothing store – filled with clothing, shoes, hygiene products and dry food items. Each cycle, residents receive their allocation of our virtual currency ‘Drops’ which they use to purchase from our stocked items. It is more than just a shop however, it is a social hub, where residents can shop with their friends and family, hang out and chat with each other and our volunteers, and, for a moment feel some kind of normalcy in life – having to face ‘finance’ decisions, and fashion dilemmas.
The laundry provides residents the opportunity to regularly come and wash, dry, and iron their clothes. This is easily one of the most important projects that we run – washing by hand is never pleasant, and often impossible in this environment. The laundry itself is situated in the middle of the camp, and is the volunteer’s favourite project, as it’s not so much about helping people to do laundry, but spending time with the community, drinking tea, smoking shisha, and indulging in meaningful conversations.
Nea Kavala camp is located 5km from the local town. We have established a bicycle rental service, to help provide easier access to the town, giving 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 3 hours each day. We have over 100 bike riders in camp now, and it’s inspiring, whenever we see the purple coloured Drop Bikes all throughout the town, knowing that we have helped to give a little extra independence and practicality to our residents.
Women’s Bike Training
After commencing the bicycle rental program, we were approached by many women saying they wanted to rent bikes, but didn’t know how to ride. The only solution to this – start classes! Twice a week we offer lessons, and we now have more than 20 women with bike rental cards. It is amazing to see the determination of our female residents when learning to ride, the support they provide each other, and the proud and happy smiles as each ride off on their own, for the very first time.
Build and Repair
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 items – furniture, toys, there is even a wooden sculpture on the way! Along with this, there is space for the repair of all sorts of things – including the Drop Rental Bikes. 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. It is incredible to watch the support and joy that is shared between the builders, also impressive to see the new structures that are popping up everywhere!
In partnership with a baking NGO Accion Directa, we distribute bread throughout the camp four times per week. The bright, colourful, and well known bread mobile (inclusive of its very own bell!) is pushed through the camp, with calls of “BREAD!” in all known languages. Residents can come and collect their bread from us, if, of course, they can wade their way through the children dancing and singing around us.
We don’t like to waste here in Nea Kavala, and sometimes we receive some donations of clothes that are not suitable or needed within the camp. Each Saturday morning we host a flea market that takes place in the sunny courtyard of a local café, where free clothes and other items to the local Greek community are offered. It is an opportunity to help those who need it most, to form great local relationships and to make good use of all donations.
Once per week, in conjunction with another volunteer group We Are Here, we open a sewing room in the Community Centre. Residents can come to repair items, design and make new products, and have the opportunity to develop new and existing tailoring skills.
Together with a very dedicated group of residents, we have a running club that explores the local towns and fields on foot. All sorts of fitness levels join in for some exercise and fun each week.
The vegetables distribution takes place every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. All of the residents receive a bag filled with different fresh vegetables that helps to complement their diet. More than just a distribution point, the Food Hatch is the place to meet friends, socialise, dance and have a good time!
To keep the Drop Store running smoothly, we need a good storage system. In A Drop in the Ocean we are able to control our stock and restock the store through an app which makes warehouse work much more efficient and exciting. Every week we dedicate a few days to go to the warehouse and sort clothes and other items that are so kindly donated! Interested in building muscles anyone?!
The team here is in full gear, establishing new projects that will enable resident’s further independence and a readiness for life after camp. This includes things such as computer rentals, professional skills training, and many more opportunities.
We are full of high spirits in Nea Kavala, and always enjoy ourselves both during and after work. It feels like more than work. It feels like fun. It feels inspiring. And it feels like family. So many of our returning volunteers always say when they return, it feels like coming home. But most importantly, it feels like we are making a difference.