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
Apr 26, 2019

Final Project Report

The disastrous fires that hit Attica's coastal region in July 2018 have left the area devastated and its population in deep shock. With many lives lost and homes destroyed, communal life has come to a total standstill, Echo100Plus in collaboration with Desmos Non-profit Foundation has completed the reconstruction and furnishing of playgrounds in the afflicted municipalities that were either completely destroyed or severely affected by the fires.

In the context of urban and regional public space, playgrounds are focal points of community life. They provide vital spaces for children to meet, play, exercise, and simply have fun. With children at their centre, neighbourhoods and communities form and bond in and around playgrounds. As the afflicted communities are in immediate need of some positive elements, the reconstruction of playgrounds is a strong symbol of the area's regeneration, especially as we approach the summer months.  

As part of the entire project in the area, through the funds raised for the area the following goods and resources have been donated:

  • Respiratory face masks to volunteers and rescue workers operating and/or living in the afflicted area. In total, 308 masks with 616 filters costing approx.  €5,000
  • Fuel to volunteers of the Social Services Dept of Marathonas Municipality, that covered transfer expenses, aid relief and food provision to afflicted households houses. The total budget dispensed €3,000.
  • Long-life nutritional products donated to the Holy Ascension Church in Rafina, and the local soup kitchen
  • 4 professional refrigerators to the Social Grocery and Social Pharmacy of Marathonas Municipality, and the local branch of  “The Smile of the Child” organization
  • 150 freshly-cooked whole meals to Marathonas Municipality’s Social Services

Besides essential goods we have offered:

  • 5 laptops to the Lyreio Children’s Institution, to replace laptops destroyed by the wildfire, together with the facilities of the Institution
  • Household electrical appliances (kitchens, refrigerators, dishwashers, TVs and small appliances) for the afflicted families and households that have been forced to find new homes or furnish their homes in the area

We thank you for your trust and support to reverse the damages of this tragedy, and we are proud of the help that we were able to provide together. 

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