Since early 2015, hundreds of thousands of refugees have been arriving in Europe, many making their first stop in Greece after a long and treacherous journey. Guides in Greece have been working at refugee centres and directly in the refugee community to provide support and to help children, families and groups of people arriving in the country to feel welcomed and safe. For many people arriving, this may be the first time since leaving their homes that they are able to relax, eat properly and change their clothes.
We give our help to the people
As the humanitarian crisis has escalated, the Greek Guide Association has been there to help people. In the Trikala area, Guide units have worked closely with the authorities to provide support to 500 people across four refugee centres.
Meanwhile, young leaders and Rangers from the Association joined the huge number of volunteers at the Eleonas Refugee Hosting Centre to help people arriving in Greece for the first time. The centre provides food and beds for 720 people in 90 ‘houses’. Refugees are transported from the Greek borders to the camp by authorities, where they stay for a short period before continuing the journey through Europe.
One member of Soma Hellinikou Odigismou (Greek Guide Association) explained why they are volunteering to support the refugees: “We are very proud because we give our help to the people that have the need of survival and the need to feel secure in one country.”
Scores of volunteers at every camp
The day-to-day running of every refugee centre and camp is supported by teams of hundreds of volunteers, who take on every task imaginable. From collecting and sorting donated clothes and supplies to distributing these items to the families and people who are so desperately in need, Girl Guides are part of every one of these roles. People are fleeing their homes with only the things they can carry, and an uncertain future ahead of them. The centres and donations are a lifeline for people arriving in Greece.
At some camps, Leaders have also been helping volunteer doctors and nurses to administer first aid, and where this is not enough, going with refugees to the nearby hospitals to provide interpretation services, and to accompany a new friend in the unfamiliar environment.
Time for play
Every day, Greek Guides are working directly with children at refugee centres. Young leaders and Rangers across the country organise play groups, games and activities for children and families. This space to be young and play is important for children arriving at the centres: it’s a chance to make sense of the world, and to help express experiences and feelings for those who have been deprived of a ‘normal’ childhood.
At Eleonas Temporary Refugee Hospitality Centre, Guides designed and built a safe space for children up to 12 years old to take a break from life as a refugee. At weekends, Guides at Eleonas play with more than 100 children using sign language and simple forms of communication – making friends across language and culture without question.
At the camps near Trikala, Guides, supported by mothers who are teachers in their everyday lives, spend four hours each day providing workshops for children. These workshops provide a little piece of normality in a chaotic situation. The Guides and women run activities enabling children to draw, do crafts, play games and sing, as well as running language courses in English, Greek and Arabic.
The Greek Guide Association said “More actions are scheduled from the Greek Guiding Association to support families that live in our country and are in need. We are more than willing to provide our help. We would like to thank everyone that has donated and offered personal help for this human action.”
The Greek Guide Association also recognised the important role of governments in helping to ensure the safety and security of the millions of people making their way through Europe, stating “We hope that the governments all over Europe take the right decision for them. And at last we hope that the war is going to be ended for them!”
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