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!

Aug 14, 2018

Full House

Talented Basel, who put on an exhibition in NY
Talented Basel, who put on an exhibition in NY

We’ve come a long way since opening the HUB in December 2016. The diversity and the number of both classes and activities we offer have increased substantially, as has the number of active participants. Currently, the HUB maintains a tight schedule of European language classes, IT and coding classes, soccer, basketball, Yoga, swimming, hiking, beach cleaning, exclusive women–only courses, and creative workshops such as film, music, percussion, sewing and pottery etc.

The HUB is an essential component of the well-being of the residents on the island. It equips them with an education and intellectual tools that are useful for future employment opportunities as well as cultural integration.  Everyone at the HUB abides by a strict Code of Conduct and is treated with unbiased respect and consideration.

Some facts and numbers for this reporting period: The HUB has now registered more than 1255 students from the refugee community. It has a substantial turnover of more than 200 students a week, credited to the hard work and dedication of both volunteers and residents. Our volunteers have thus far completed over 9900 drives or 30,000 kilometres to transport our students from camp to the HUB and back, facilitating this success.

Our teachers and volunteers have taught over 700 English classes. Fifty of our advanced English students have been enabled by the HUB to take the ESB exams, which have had a 98% success rate, often with distinction. This language certification can be beneficial to residents applying for jobs or wishing to continue their studies in Greece and abroad and can set them apart from other applicants. Twelve of our students were awarded scholarships at the American College of Athens (although not all could go due to asylum restrictions), and five students completed a specialised training program on Cultural Mediation and Interpretation.

Some of our creative students have had significant successes themselves. Some of our Echo HUB Film class productions are screened by Solar Cinema. If you want to see more, visit the HUB Collective project on our website: http://www.echo100plus.com/en/projects/project-11

The artwork of a very talented resident was featured in an exhibit in New York. The HUB guitar and percussion classes have put on a concert at the HUB, and one at the local theater, which attracted volunteers, residents and Greek locals and was an opportunity to bring the community on the island together. Finally, the HUB produced “ZINE” http://echo100plus.com/en/magazine, an art and literature magazine featuring the work of the residents.  

Separate from education and activities, the HUB frequently supports the camp residents with clothing and hygiene distributions, often catering to the needs of more than 800 residents. More than 5860 articles of clothing, as well as over 4000 detergents, soaps, shampoos and dental care items, have been handed out to residents by our volunteers. These distributions are a massive and complicated logistical effort involving the handling of inventory and ensuring a respectful and dignified exchange. Simultaneously, distributions are both physically and mentally intense and demanding for our volunteers to complete.

Due to the success of the HUB, we have been granted permission by the Camp authorities to include minors (both accompanied and unaccompanied) in many of our courses. This is a step in the right direction, as it allows these young adults to spend some meaningful time outside of the camp, and has further expanded the impact of the HUB on the community.

A special thank you goes to Aegean Solidarity Network for sponsoring all hygiene items for distribution!

A huge thank you to all ECHO volunteers – without You, the HUB would not be staffed!

And finally, thank you to all donors - past, present and future - for believing in our mission and for being the financial backbone of the HUB!

With gratitude, the ECHO100PLUS Team 

 

Yoga at the HUB
Yoga at the HUB
A Sunday hike with residents and volunteers
A Sunday hike with residents and volunteers
Our English teacher Maria with students
Our English teacher Maria with students
Sewing workshop
Sewing workshop
Women's Swimming
Women's Swimming
Aug 2, 2018

Powered by Volunteers

ECHO100PLUS’s success is contingent on our volunteers. They are responsible for the daily completion of activities and are instrumental in making the Hub run smoothly. As Echo100Plus is a non-profit, we need donations to support our volunteers’ hard work and dedication. We provide free housing (or heavily subsidized) and assist with travel expenses for those who need it through the generous donations we receive. Our policy is that money is not a barrier for those committed to helping. Since Echo’s refugee aid projects start in the summer of 2015, we have had the pleasure of working with over 600 volunteers from the most far-reaching corners of the world. In 2018 alone, 50 volunteers have so far been a part of the ECHO team at our ECHO-HUB on Leros. As a result, our volunteers have a major thing in common - a shared humanitarian responsibility and compassion with refugees that are in desperate need of help and kindness. Our volunteers learn invaluable skills such as teamwork, hands-on problem-solving, and experience an exposure to a variety of different cultures and realities. Several of our volunteers have embarked on a career in the humanitarian sector after their experience with Echo, which we are very proud to claim some credit for. Our volunteers are responsible for day-to-day tasks such as resident transportation (to and from the camp to our day centre - the ECHO-HUB), inventory organization and distribution of our clothes storage, teaching classes in various languages, running recreational activities, operations and scheduling, local environmental maintenance and overwhelmingly providing a compassionate, friendly, and respectful environment that is crucial to the well-being of the camp’s residents and ongoing integration process. Our volunteers are truly the backbone of Echo’s operations, and without them, we could not do the work we do. Therefore, we would like to thank all of our current and future donors for providing us with the financial means to sustain our volunteer program.

Ebrahim, Leros Refugee Camp Resident  and ECHO-HUB student commenting on our volunteers:

“The people gathered for no other reason but for humanity and kindness. The people are not famous in the media perhaps because they are not rich in the sight of media, but of course, they are rich because of possession of hearts full of priceless feelings that will never be bought by money...They helped us to continue being hopeful that we can restore and restart our lives in a new world. They illustrated that borders and limitations cannot stop love...You left Leros but not our hearts...” 

 

 

 
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