Jul 26, 2019

Part of the Volunteer Family.

 Dear Friends and Supporters,

We would like to introduce you to one of our ‘Hub Assistants’- Mohammad from Iraq. From the moment he arrived Mohammad bridged the gap between the volunteers and students by translating and therefor improving our communication and understanding. Here he tells it in his own words…

‘When I first arrived on Leros, I heard a lot people at the camp talking about ECHO100PLUS, the non-profit organization that offered language classes plus indoor and outdoor activities for refugees on the island. From the first moment I went to the hub, I could feel the enthusiasm and the team spirit that everyone had, and the smile on everyone's face that made me feel like home.

After spending months attending C1/C2 English classes, IT classes, of which I have now received certificates for, as well as Greek and basketball, and helping in whichever I could, I started to feel that I was becoming one of them. As a volunteer myself that starting assisting with different things such as translating in classes, to help manage the ‘boutique’ (Echo’s free shop that gives out clothing to the people that need them).

At the hub I try to become the bridge between the two languages and I try to lessen the gap of confusion. I also help translating Arabic and Kurdish in the hub’s welcome classes, which are the first step and the official introduction to our center for new students. For the majority of the beginning of 2019, more than 90% of incoming students hailed from Arabic speaking countries, for which I regularly translated.

Three days a week, I help to manage and translate from Echo's "Boutique", a small shop for distribution clothing donations to both residents of the Leros Hotspot, that are currently over 1500 people, as well as locals. Here I help the other volunteers with our booking system, to ensure everyone gets an appointment to shop in a fair manner, I translate and help explain the point system and I help organize the clothing.

I've always admired how the volunteers dedicate their time and energy to make the students feel at home by sharing moments that are both happy and sad, in this particular step in life. I've always been amazed despite the cultural differences and the language barriers, by the common things between both the volunteers and the residents, which is hope and humanity that made the relationship between the students and the volunteers get stronger with each passing day.

While I'm in Leros I've met a lot of volunteers that I consider them family, a family that I'm always will be grateful for. A family that I can rely on wherever I go. There are no words that can explain enough of how thankful and grateful I am for being part of this incredible place. Thanks Echo 100plus.


A big thank you to Mohammad for all his support and help, he has really become part of the ECHO100PLUS family.


May 7, 2019

Spring has sprung on Leros!

With the arrival of Spring in Leros, and the Aegean Islands, we have seen an increase in people coming by boat from Turkey due to the good weather. Since February it is reported that 7123 people have arrived on the islands. With the current population on Leros reaching as many as 1036. With this influx of people, the Hub has been busy as ever but a lot of new positive changes have come with it.

In our last report we said that due to the rise in numbers we had to temporary close new registrations for a short while, luckily, we were able to re-open it and hopefully will not have to close again. We were able to do this by adding extra classes and making shifts in our timetable. From the beginning of February to now we have had a total of 9081 attendances in our varied classes, this roughly means we’ve had on average an attendance of 726 students a week.

As part of making sure we can cater to the needs of the growing population we started holding a new registration class every Wednesday, also known as the ‘Welcome Class’. Here we give new students not only the chance to sign up to classes, but to get a proper introduction to the hub and all it has to offer. The class is held in English by one of our teachers, but translators are on hand to ensure everybody can understand. To date we have had translations in Arabic, Farsi, French and Somali. 253 new students have registered with us in the last three months. We have also noticed a rise in the number of women wanting to join and have therefor added an extra Welcome Class to our Tuesday’s Women’s day activities, where we now offer computer, English and arts & crafts and cooking just for women.

On the 25th March we had a big shift in our ABC English class, where 25 students after just one month were all moved to beginners’ level, and the beginner’s students went up to A1. We are also expecting another shift up in the next two weeks, but of course single people are moving up individually every week. All of our levels, except for the hardest C1/C2 are currently fully booked every day. We are very happy and proud with the performance of our students and the level of teaching that is currently allowing such progress at the hub. 

We’ve also had great success the exams that have been taken. In computer class a total of 16 students took exams on subjects such as Excel and PowerPoint, all passing with flying colours! The next ESB exams of 2019 will take place in June, we currently have 17 candidates signed up to take them and we wish them all the luck! 

We are very happy to be able to say that as of mid-March we were able to introduce Greek lessons to the hub four times a week. So far, we have had 415 attendances in the class and for this reason we will be offering a second more advanced level of Greek within the next few weeks. Currently at the hub we are teaching English, French and Greek.

 The free boutique opened up again, filled with donations that have arrived from all over the world. We serve the whole refugee population as well as any locals that can benefit from what we offer. The shop is open three days a week and has proven to be very successful so far. Our arts & crafts, cv workshop, barber workshop and sports activities remain as popular as ever, with the new addition of beach cleans that help clean the beautiful beaches of Leros and help integrate the students with the local community. Football remains one of the favourites, we reach capacity every week, and have therefor divided the games up into training and matches to ensure everyone gets to play. The players come ready to play with enthusiasm and fantastic skills! We even had a friendly match between the staff from the Hotspot and the students of the Hub that was a great success!

As always, we are very grateful to everyone that helps make all of this possible, from our hardworking and dedicated volunteers, to all of our donors around the world. Thank you for your continued support!

Apr 26, 2019

A Place Like Home

In Front of our Free Shop
In Front of our Free Shop
Dear GG Team, Friends and all Supporters,
in this report, Laura - one of our most valued long term volunteer, Distribution and Donation Manager, and recently also Volunteer Coordinator speaks about her experiences at the ECHO-HUB on Leros!
'I initially planned on staying four weeks on the island of Leros, down in the Aegean sea, working as a volunteer for ECHO 100plus, which was introduced to me as "a very special NGO" I would surely like, by a friend of mine. Now, after having spent not four weeks, but seven months, our community- and adult education centre for refugees, the "Hub", has become my second home and the people visiting it have become part of my family. 
And like every family does we're facing minor and major joys and difficulties every day. 

Among the volunteers, we start each morning with a meeting to prepare the day and a lot of coffee. 
We then go to work, whether it's the taxi service to bring our students to their classes and back to the camp, sorting cloth donations in our warehouse, pack them up and stock our free shop in town, teaching classes and workshops, doing administration, networking with the other organisations on ground or simply taking care of the house and the garden.
Which is often supported by the refugees as well, who translate, teach music and art lessons or help out in the shop. 
And apart from all the work, there's always quality time with the family. To sit together in our living room, the library and heart of the Hub to talk and listen. 
To share. To enjoy Syrian sweets together that the neighbour has brought over for the birth of his daughter. To comfort each other after having received devastating news. To secretly write birthday cards. To have the music students give a little concert for a special occasion. To prepare Palestinian pastries and have afghan dinner together. To celebrate Eid al-Fitr, Nouruz and Christmas. To dance, play chess, clean the beaches on the island of all the trash. And always to welcome new family members and say farewell to those moving on.

We've been waiting for each other in the hospital, at the port or regularly in the morning for those of us who are always late. 
At times we get sad, angry, overwhelmed or simply insecure about the future. But the one thing we can be sure of is that we can always count on each other. 
We use to say "no one stays here forever" even though it feels like that to many asylum seekers. The waiting in uncertainty can be immensely discouraging. But I'm confident that the spirit in this house is empowering the people in it to take the next step and find their way when they leave the island. 
Because it takes more than seven English levels, Music -, IT-, Greek- and French classes, exams and seven workshops to make people feel at home. Especially those who have lost theirs. Even more so their families, jobs and hopes. 
It takes understanding, reliability and safety that comes from trust. Trust, that grows every day while we're working and studying and laughing and talking together. Like every family does. 

This place is a blessing to me and I wish it will be to everyone setting foot in it. Laura'
In our Warehouse
In our Warehouse
On a Hike with Students
On a Hike with Students
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