Nov 12, 2018

We Keep On Going!

Dear GG -Team, Generous Donors and Supporters!

Since our last report from mid-August, the refugee population on the island of Leros has risen from 782 to 992. Newcomers are either referrals from other overcrowded island camps (the Hotspots) orchestrated by the authorities or direct arrivals from Turkey by boat.  Proof enough, that the refugee crisis is still ongoing, even if much of the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere. The infamous Hotspots - located on the Greek islands close to the Turkish border - remain, despite regular public outcries and promises of relief, outrageously overcrowded, tolerating inhumane living conditions for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers.

By running our HUB at full steam, we try our best to improve the lives of the people in our care and defuse a potentially critical situation on the island of Leros. The attendance of students at the HUB remains at full capacity. We have recently said goodbye to some of our long-term students who, after many months of waiting, received clearance to leave the island for the mainland and a new future. Unfortunately, we also witnessed several deportations of people whose asylum applications had been rejected. We register new students for our language, IT- and other educational and recreational classes every day. The ECHO-team remains committed to its mission to make the lives of refugees stranded on Leros as tolerable and meaningful as possible.

In addition to our educational and recreational services at the HUB, our organisation is the main provider of clothes for the residents of the camp. Every three to four months we distribute a mixture of second-hand and new clothes to the residents of the Hotspot. Our volunteers put in hundreds of hours in preparation for this: receiving, sorting, counting 10,000+ items of clothing, heavy lifting and transportation of boxes from the warehouse to the distribution point (our "boutique") to provide a choice of clothes to men, women and children. This also requires the HUB and all its programs to be shut down for two weeks, to make time and space for this major logistical operation, involving a lot of driving (over 450 km) to transport residents to and from the distribution, working with a tightly timed schedule and allocated slot-system.  Having just completed one of these distributions, we are already in the midst of organising the next distribution of warm jackets and shoes to prepare the residents for the cold winter months.

What else is new? We finally managed to formalize our IT- classes by offering their completion with an IT-certificate - ECDL and Equal Skills. We are putting the final touches to the second edition of 'ZINE', an intercultural art and literature magazine created by residents and volunteers. Three of our most talented HUB students have enrolled in a full University scholarship at Deree College in Athens. Some of our students have found employment with international organisations, working as translators. And the ECHO-team keeps growing! We are constantly surrounded and supported by the most dedicated and hardworking volunteers, without whom we would not be able to continue our work. And thanks to our stable professional staff we keep providing quality teaching and certificates to those who aspire to receive them. 

Thank you, team, and thank you, donors, for your ongoing support and solidarity! 


Attachments:
    Nov 12, 2018

    We keep on going!

    Dear GG -Team, Generous Donors and Supporters!

    Since our last report from mid-August, the refugee population on the island of Leros has risen from 782 to 992. Newcomers are either referrals from other overcrowded island camps (the Hotspots) orchestrated by the authorities or direct arrivals from Turkey by boat. Proof enough, that the refugee crisis is still ongoing, even if much of the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere. The infamous Hotspots - located on the Greek islands close to the Turkish border - remain, despite regular public outcries and promises of relief, outrageously overcrowded, tolerating inhumane living conditions for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers.

    By running our HUB at full steam, we try our best to improve the lives of the people in our care and defuse a potentially critical situation on the island of Leros. The attendance of students at the HUB remains at full capacity. We have recently said goodbye to some of our long-term students who, after many months of waiting, received clearance to leave the island for the mainland and a new future. Unfortunately, we also witnessed several deportations of people whose asylum applications had been rejected. We register new students for our language, IT- and other educational and recreational classes every day.

    The ECHO-team remains committed to its mission to make the lives of refugees stranded on Leros as tolerable and meaningful as possible. In addition to our educational and recreational services at the HUB, our organisation is the main provider of clothes for the residents of the camp. Every three to four months we distribute a mixture of second-hand and new clothes to the residents of the Hotspot. Our volunteers put in hundreds of hours in preparation for this: receiving, sorting, counting 10,000+ items of clothing, heavy lifting and transportation of boxes from the warehouse to the distribution point (our "boutique") to provide a choice of clothes to men, women and children.This also requires the HUB and all its programs to be shut down for two weeks, to make time and space for this major logistical operation, involving a lot of driving (over 450 km) to transport residents to and from the distribution, working with a tightly timed schedule and allocated slot-system. Having just completed one of these distributions, we are already in the midst of organising the next distribution of warm jackets and shoes to prepare the residents for the cold winter months.

    What else is new? We finally managed to formalize our IT- classes by offering their completion with an IT-certificate - ECDL and Equal Skills. We are putting the final touches to the second edition of 'ZINE', an intercultural art and literature magazine created by residents and volunteers. Three of our most talented HUB students have enrolled in a full University scholarship at Deree College in Athens. Some of our students have found employment with international organisations, working as translators. And the ECHO-team keeps growing! We are constantly surrounded and supported by the most dedicated and hardworking volunteers, without whom we would not be able to continue our work. And thanks to our stable professional staff we keep providing quality teaching and certificates to those who aspire to receive them.

    Thank you, team, and thank you, donors, for your ongoing support and solidarity!

    Nov 1, 2018

    A Day in the Life...

    A Day in the Life… 

    The HUB is an educational and recreational centre that aims to provide assistance to refugees that will hopefully help them in their future integration. It is also a safe-space at which people from all cultures and ethnicities are treated fairly and equally, and have the same opportunities to take advantage of a learning and nurturing environment. 

    One of the things we take most pride in is our wide, international network of friends and supporters we have created over the past three years. Since Echo100Plus began providing refugee assistance on the Greek island of Leros, we have been fully powered by volunteers and have been supported by more than 700 individuals. Our volunteers are dedicated and hardworking individuals, who sacrifice their holidays or time off to come and work for our cause. They come from different nationalities and backgrounds and find a common ground in the work that we do.  

    The day in the life of a volunteer with Echo100Plus is busy and hectic. A typical day starts with a team meeting at 9 AM, led by our coordinators, where the team goes over the schedule for the day and discusses any queries, worries or questions anyone may have. Classes begin at 10, so the time after the team meeting is used for printing, organising, and grabbing a coffee. The mornings are usually dedicated to English lessons, ranging from absolute beginners to a C2 level, as well as Music lessons led by a local Music teacher. Later on in the day, we facilitate numerous activities, from arts and crafts to music, to sports and IT classes, swimming trips, women’s days, and other languages such as German, French, Italian and Dutch. We also run social activities such as Cafe Chats (dialogue between residents and volunteers, discussing contemporary issues and culture) and celebrations such as Eid al’Fitr.

    With a lunch break around 1 PM, HUB activities usually end around 6 or 7 PM, depending on the day. Our volunteers then tidy up the HUB and take care of our garden, and organise the necessary things for the next day. The team then drives home when they are done, and either go for dinner, socialise at the accommodation, or just get some well-deserved rest and sleep. Volunteers take Saturdays off to rest and regain energy for the week. On Sundays, we often organise hikes or activities specific for women. 

    Our volunteers and professional teachers run these activities according to what they are best and most comfortable at: by teaching a class, providing support to a teacher, driving residents to and from the hotspot (so that distance is not an obstacle to attending classes), providing driving support, scheduling, and coordination work. Our coordinators are longer-term volunteers who are willing to take up a more managerial role, essential to keep the operation going. Their work often extends outside of the normal working day, as they are also the main communication point to the founders, as well as other organisations on the ground such as the UNHCR, and are there to help volunteers and solve problems. 

    The team also organises distributions of clothes and hygienic items, which are a huge logistical operation and usually require us to suspend HUB activities for their duration. During these times, the jobs are divided between sorting and folding clothes at our warehouse, providing transportation for residents to attend to their pre-specified time slots, and working within our distribution point (The “Boutique”) to help the residents pick clothing efficiently and to provide a friendly, shop-like atmosphere. 

    See what some of our volunteers did during there time in Leros!

    My name is Pamina. I am half Austrian and half French. In 2017 I spent 2 months in Ritsona where my main tasks were the distribution of clothes, water, milk and hygiene articles. This year, in 2018, I spent a month on Leros and worked in the Hub where I got to teach English and French, while also working on other activities such as distributions and women’s swimming. It was extremely rewarding working with such a diverse team and I value my time with Echo very much.

    My name is Daria. I grew up in Austria and have some roots in Greece. From 2015 to 2016 I spent 7 months on Leros working in the pre-Hotspot make-shift camp where we provided first-response aid. Since then I have worked at the HUB numerous times, most recently in the summer of 2018, during which time my jobs were mainly teaching German, driving and assisting in big distributions. Echo100Plus is a unique organisation and plays an essential role in the well being of residents on the island. 

    My name is Yasin, and I'm from the US and Morocco. I spent 2 months working with Echo on Leros in the summer of 2018. Throughout my time, I taught English and assisted in organizing many different sports activities. As a fluent Arabic speaker, I helped with the language barriers by translating and interpreting for a variety of matters on the ground. I helped organize hygiene and clothing distribution and participated in community outreach efforts at the Hotspot camp. Through engagement and exchange, I was able to transcend the boundaries of hate and humanize the crisis that is too-often politicized. I admire all Echo volunteers for their empathy and drive to engage and learn from individuals of all different ethnic backgroundss, nationalities, and religions.

    My name is Kathrin, I am 30 years old and Austrian. After having worked with Echo for a short period in Ritsona, I later came to Leros where I stayed for 7 months. My work there focused on the coordination of the project, including organisational tasks, clothing distribution, communication with other actors on the ground, and the induction and guidance of volunteers. It was an incredible experience working with Echo, and it deserves full support as a grass-roots trustworthy organisation. 

    We thank all donors, supporters and volunteers for believing in our work!

     
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