Feb 18, 2020

ECHO HUB ATHENS - A thriving community and education centre!

Welcome to the ECHO HUB Athens: a non-profit centre where refugees and migrants can feel at home and pursue skills, interests, and languages while integrating into Greek society.

What do we do?

Everyday hundreds of refugees arrive in Greek cities with no support and no local knowledge. In September 2020, Echo100Plus started a second HUB in Athens after recognizing the need of former students of the HUB on Leros for continued support. Since opening, the ECHO HUB Athens has expanded into a bustling adult integration and education centre providing language lessons and extracurriculars ranging from exercise classes to cooking. It’s a safe space where our students can concentrate on their studies, work towards getting certificates in Greek and English, find a community of friends, and gather the support and skills to fully integrate into Greek society and the job market.

The Numbers

In six short months we have:

  • Registered over 850 Hub students
  • Enrolled nearly 500 people in classes
  • Offer 8 English classes and 4 Greek classes continuously
  • Offer 6- 8 extracurriculars on a daily basis (chatterbox, barbershop, CV workshop)
  • Involved 25 volunteers and 5 teachers from all over the world and counting!

The Space

The hub, a three-story building near downtown Athens (Kypseli), welcomes students Monday through Friday 10:00- 20:00 for an average of 10 language classes a day (Greek and English), along with a variety of extracurricular activities and other European languages. All day long we offer access to computers and study rooms, as well as the lounge where students can drink tea, mix with a new community, and take a break from everything. The Hub also shares a space with HumanRights360 where students and others can receive job consultation, legal advice, and bureaucratic support from a Greek organization. Both Echo100Plus and HumanRights360 recognize the importance of integration and getting job ready, and we work together to try and offer our students all the necessary tools to do this.

Languages From November up til now, our average total of students in attendance per week has risen from 320 to 500, with English increasing by an average of 131 students per week, and Greek by 68 students. Our English classes range from ABC to C1 (spanning 8 different classes) and our Greek classes range from A0a to B1 levels (spanning 4 different classes). These two languages are key for students to integrate in society, but also helps with their chances of finding jobs. We have now also introduced French and German classes as per the students requests.

Extracurriculars we currently have over 15 extracurricular actives throughout the week. They range from activities where students can learn new skills, help better prepare themselves for jobs, improve their language skills or get some physical activity that helps them feel energised and clear minded. Here are just some examples of what's on offer at the ECHO HUB... Computer class: Our volunteer teacher, Shayan, teaches basic HTML, web design, and Microsoft programs twice a week. A vital skill nowadays for anyone looking for a job, especially in the IT world. Boxing: Our volunteer/student teacher, Jordan, teaches boxing three times a week to a group of regulars. It is one of our most popular activities! Cooking: Our local volunteer teacher, Yasmin, teaches students how to cook basic Greek dishes once a week. The class integrates Greek words and culture so students can better integrate. With a future intent to have students also introduce their cultures through food so all can learn and teach. Photography: Our volunteers take students out around Athens twice a week for photography practice. Teaching them things such as the use of light, how to edit photos, and taking in the city surroundings. Football: Our volunteer coach, Laura, takes students for football at a nearby pitch for practice and games. We emphasize sports and exercise as students say they help alleviate the boredom and anxiety they can experience while getting in much needed physical activity. Chatterbox: Our volunteers lead conversation classes in French, English and Greek 3-4 times a week. Students value the extra practice in the languages they’re learning and it’s a great way for the students to help each other and get to know their peers. CV Workshop: Our volunteers help students create or edit the student’s CVs to make sure they are job ready and professional.

We are very thrilled with the direction the HUB is taking and are sure it will continue to grow from strength to strength, constantly adapting to the needs of our students and the city. We can only do this is with the huge support we receive from our volunteers and donors, and for this we are eternally thankful!

Jan 29, 2020

Adapting to an Island which is Beyond Capacity

In the last year, the number of refugees arriving in Greece has dramatically increased. Reports show that 1,224 boats have arrived on the Aegean islands just this fall. In the past week alone, 44 boats arrived, increasing the current population of refugees on Leros to 3,120, half of whom, including 550 children, are now homeless. In addition to homelessness, the refugees also suffer from inadequate and contaminated food and water supply, lack of sanitary facilities, unhygienic living conditions, clothing shortages, boredom, and limited mental and physical health care. The winter months have been severe; spurring a variety of illnesses and leaving the local hospital overwhelmed and overworked. Echo HUB Leros fights to ameliorate a number of these issues.

 

With the help of the Aegean Solidarity Network—Team UK, RENEW, Aide et Espoire, APOGO—and many generous Greek citizens and volunteers, Echo Hub was able to lead the drive in purchasing and distributing over a thousand blankets to the homeless residents suffering in the freezing temperatures with no shelter or warmth. Still, despite our best efforts, many residents are living on the streets facing winter temperatures with no respite.

 

With the now expanded “Hub Boutique”, a clothing provider operating on a points system, we provide clothes four days of weeks to the hundreds of residents who came with nothing but the clothes on their back. Due to the high influx of people already mentioned we have had to add extra boutique shifts to ensure that everyone receives some form of warm clothing, this inevitably has led to our clothes recourses running low, and we have increased our clothing collection from private donors and clothes distributors in Greece, as well as buying the vitals with funds raised from volunteers.

 

As well as the above, to try and create more pleasant and liveable conditions for the residents we have started a new clean – up programme. After realising that the trash removal of the Hot – Spot area hadn’t expanded to the new living squats we devised a cleaning programme with our volunteers and residents every Sunday to try and reduce the overwhelming levels of garbage that were bringing only filth, sickness and animals. This has already made a huge difference both for hygiene and general spirit, but more must be done.

 

Despite the diversion of resources, Echo HUB Leros maintains the core enrichment programs developed over the years to help the residents adapt and transition. We continue to welcome new registrations; our language programs have full enrolment and we plan to meet the needs of our students by adding more ABC English classes. Our daily art and sports sessions remain extremely popular and a new garden project is now underway to transform and update the outside area so we can use it to its best ability.

 

These challenging months could not have been done without our volunteers hard work and resilience and our donors continuous unrelenting support. Thank you! 

Oct 31, 2019

Welcome to the Echo Hub Athens !

It’s been a busy few months on the Aegean islands: Since September alone, over 18,000 people have arrived by boat from Turkey, 1026 of these on the island of Leros. Many more have been stopped by the Turkish coast guards, but still the numbers are rising and the islands are struggling to meet the needs of so many new arrivals. On Leros there are now c. 2,400 people, of which more than 1,000 are homeless or sleeping in flimsy camping tents around the hotspot camp, that is beyond capacity to accommodate them. The refugee populations now make nearly 30% of the island’s inhabitancies.

In light of this situation, tensions are unfortunately on the rise, and our Echo Hub Leros is needed more than ever; it provides a safe place and offers educational and recreational activities, that contribute substantially to the mental wellbeing of the camp residents. In the last two months, we have registered another 137 new students and attendance has been at an all-time high of about 1,000 students a week joining various classes and activities.

For some the wait on the island has reached the one-year mark, which means that finally their geographical restriction will be lifted. Eager to escape the camp and island life many move to Athens in search of new beginnings and a possibility to find work. In this period of uncertainty and unease we are happy and proud to be able to say we can now provide a new safe and welcoming space in the capital: The Echo Hub Athens!

Welcome to the Echo Hub Athens! A community and education centre, that opened on the 5th September in Kypseli, Athens. To date we have already registered over 450 students. The focus and aim of the Athens-Hub is on making sure that our students are provided with the necessary skills to integrate into Greece society and the job market.  

We decided to have a second location in Athens as we saw the influx of people heading to the city from Leros and other islands. We believed there was more that could be done help the community of refugees that had received asylum in Greece and wanted help with integration and develop their next steps. This included many of our students from Leros that had reached out to us asking for us for places where they could continue their studies, find a community of friends, or practice their skills.

In the new Athens Hub we offer six levels of English, totalling to 33 lessons per week, 3 levels of Greek taught three times a week, with the possibility of obtaining an internationally recognised certificate in the higher levels. As well as many extracurriculars; computer classes, mind and body – using meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and comedy therapy to help feel centred and project to the future, Poetry & Theatre class and CV & career goals workshop.

We collaborate with other organisations to make the Echo Hub a one stop shop in order to meet a variety of refugees needs; through “The Language Project” we have found our language teachers, through “Social Hackers”we are able to provide computer literacy classes, a must for most jobs, and our collaboration with “Human Rights 360” means that three days of the week there are lawyers, social workers on hand to help with everything from obtaining tax numbers, to finding a job, to sorting legal and psychological issues. We are continuing to work on future possible relationships with other organisations to help achieve our goals and continue to offer our students the skills, peace of mind and knowledge to enter into Greek society and have access to employment opportunities.

Our future goals for the very new Echo Hub include; wanting to help arriving refugees with whatever is needed, we try to stay flexible in our response, but with a main focus on education, hopefully also vocational training with time. Psychosocial support, on the personal one to one level, as well as support and training groups for interpreters. We have found that a lot of our students here and in Leros have found work in this field and are often not given the correct support or training. This can lead to severe cases of PTSD and other issues. We want to help Greece or rather the local communities to deal with the very difficult situation and we hope to bridge some of the gaps and mediate between the arriving and the receiving communities. And the list goes on, and on and on…

 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.