Greece is generally viewed as a temporary stopping point or transition point for refugees along their way to other “final” destinations. As a result, both refugees and Greek locals tend to view the refugee situation in Greece as “temporary”: many refugees do not expect to stay in Greece and hope to be reunited with family in Germany or elsewhere in Europe, while the seemingly temporary nature of refugees’ stay in Greece creates one of many barriers for interaction between locals and refugees and the cultural integration of refugees in Greek society. However, all those who arrived after the E.U.-Turkey Deal in March 2016 are ineligible for relocation to the rest of the E.U. and will only be able to apply for asylum to stay in Greece. An estimated one-half of the current population of refugees in Greece will stay in Greece long-term. IsraAID began its operation in Greece in September 2015 at Lesbos and has been working in Northern Greece since April 2016.
With a renewed influx of boats this past week, IsraAID's medical team has returned to the north shore of Lesvos to provide emergency medical attention to those in need. The team treated unconscious individuals, pregnant women as well as some infants with complications from the treacherous crossing.
Our team also continues to offer daily medical services at clinics in camps and local villages. So far, they have treated 866 patients, 436 (51%) males and 427 (49%) females. Out of the 866 patients 334 were children under 18 (38%).
Apart from the regular work in the clinic, the team is also leading several health education trainings on issues such as breast cancer detection, CPR, wound and cut treatment, prevention and treatment (what to do before coming to the doctor) for fever and cough. During the month of Ramadan, the team was also discussing how to behave during the summer months, especially during the fast. See attached link to a video about one of IsraAID’s doctors.
Theater Workshop - Youth refugees in Lesbos performed a beautiful and moving piece titled, “This is Not the End of the Story”; written and directed by the group. The audience felt the unaccompanied minors' hardships, courage and perseverance through their story-telling and acting. There was not a dry eye in the house!
The performance was a culmination of a ten-day theater workshop run by two Israeli drama experts, in partnership with three other organizations in Greece. These sessions helped the group tell their stories, process their feelings and present them on stage.
Apart from the theater program, IsraAID continues to offer psychological first aid and follow ups - a service that consists of an Arabic speaking psychologist during our clinic hours operates from a designated safe location where residents feel safe and comfortable to share and release. In the clinic patients referred by the clinic or drop-ins will be given the opportunity to share their life experiences and learn from the therapist and from other participant's experiences about how to manage and cope with different symptoms. In addition, the sessions provide an opportunity for emotional ventilation and stress relief.
In addition, the PSS staff address the mental issues of residents, and support other organizations that seek our expertise.
While the needs of refugees in Greece are varied and highly dynamic, IsraAID in Northern Greece responds primarily to psychosocial needs, providing PSS to refugees in the area in and surrounding Thessaloniki. Many refugees in Greece suffer from trauma and have difficulty recovering due to the instability of their situation and status in Greece. Not only are refugees stressed in Greece from not knowing what their situations will be, but they also face stress from the future prospect of finding jobs without skills and furthermore have difficulty adjusting to the new environment in Greece without knowing if they will how long they will ultimately remain in Greece. All of these factors contribute to their difficulty recovering from the trauma they have suffered in their home countries and on their journeys to Greece. Some have preexisting mental health conditions, while others have emergent mental health issues as a result of what they have been through.
IsraAID provides PSS to refugees in Northern Greece in the form of both group work and individual sessions. For example, IsraAID PSS staff meet several times a week with different groups by demographic (e.g. women, men, teenage boys, young children) at each of the camps, and have also been expanding our PSS services in through career and skills training in our Early Childhood Education program at one of the shelters.
IsraAID congratulates our graduates of the Early Childhood Program! The participating women gained knowledge and practical skills in working with young children aged 0-3, and received certificates recognized by Al-Qasemi College of Education in Israel. The group has just opened a kindergarten in the camp, giving the women a daily role in the shelter and the youngest refugee children somewhere to learn and play. The participants now have improved future job prospects to help rebuild their lives after their long journeys from Iraq and Syria.
Thank you for your continued support to our programs in Greece!
On the Island of Lesbos
Lesbos is the island where the work of IsraAID Greece started in September 2015. Today, the dramatic first months in 2015 when thousands of refugees and migrants were arriving every day feels far away - these refugees and migrants are now stuck in camps and shelters with little knowledge of what the future holds.
Just a few months ago, IsraAID started working in a medical clinic in one of the camps on the island. IsraAID's Arabic speaking team of nurses and doctors is working in the clinic and other settings on the Island.
At Kara Tepe, the second biggest camp on the Island, IsraAID has become a major health actor, as well as a focal point for the community at the camp. Due to our staff's ability to speak the language and example cultural similarity to the population, our medical services were beyond providing medical services and we would approach the care in a holistic manner, with psychosocial services as well.
On the island, IsraAID is also responding to new arrivals coming on boats with medical and psychosocial teams ready to receive the newcomers on the shore. To make our medical services even more comprehensive, we also conducted health education sessions in both Kara Tepe and Caritas Shelter.
Our mission is to continue to assess and find out innovative ways to provide the best care and fill in the greatest needs for this vulnerable population.
Exciting news from Northern Greece
IsraAID just started three month of early education training for women groups - training the future kindergarten teachers of the camp! IsraAID's staff provides the training and every three weeks we are doing one intensive week with a professional in child education. In the end of the training they will get a certificated from Al Qasemi college in Israel which will help them integrate into the labor market in their new destination. This is also a tool to empower the woman and to help them understand their children better after many years that they lived without any framework or education.
In the four camps IsraAID is working in in Northern Greece, we also do women, men and youth support groups, some formal and some informal. Our Arabic speaking professionals quickly gain the people’s trust as they speak their language and knows their culture.
One day, we took the youth group in one of the camps for a day trip to the beach where they arrived in the rubber boats in 2015 or 2016, as part of their healing process and we are doing weekly activities to help them think about their future and how they can fulfill their dreams.
We are grateful for the support you have given IsraAID in Greece and we wish for your continued help to ensure that IsraAID's work can go on, now more important than ever. Organizations and aid workers have started to leave Greece as the world has turn its eyes elsewhere. IsraAID is still there - donate now to help us stay and continue our work!
IsraAID Greece is currently operating in two locations - 1) The Island of Lesbos, 2) Northern Greece.
February 17th 4:30AM - Lesbos, IsraAID's medical staff got a phone call - "A boat is coming!" - a boat was approaching the south shore of the island. IsraAID's team of one doctor and a nurse were called to the shore, where 40 individuals were safely brought to land. The medical team started examining arrivals one by one - providing psychological first aid and support in Arabic. Receiving support in Arabic had a huge impact on the Arabic speaking individuals as they were arriving on a rubber boat to a foreign land in the middle of the night. IsraAID's Arabic speaking staff accompanied them on the bus to the camp and explained the procedures and what to expect next. Two children received additional help and comfort as they showed clear signs of fear and anxiety.
Since February, 2017 IsraAID is a part of a medical clinic in Kara Tepe, a refugee camp which serves as a home to 1100 Arabic speaking refugees. IsraAID’s medical staff is working closely with the camp management, the local hospital, and partner organizations to support the needs of the population, with the unique capacity of service provision in the refugees’ mother tongue. In addition, the team promotes public health in the camp through tailored made programs based on public health trends and needs in the camp.
IsraAID’s staff are addressing the many patients with chronic conditions who arrived to Lesbos after a long period without treatment or access to medical care. Most beneficiaries are suffering from acute problems, (e.g. Asthma and COPD exacerbation, diabetes, etc.) aggravated by the instability and stress caused by the lack of routine and the severe conditions of the journey.
IsraAID began it operation in Northern Greece in December 2015 and continues to adapt programs and services according to the changing needs of the situation. IsraAID is currently operating in three refugee camps and shelters hosting the most vulnerable, identified and selected by UNHCR. The organization’s work focuses on providing psychosocial support for refugees, offering community based activities and one on one sessions to a varied population, while adapting every intervention to the unique setting and needs of the community.
Over the coming year IsraAID plan to expand the scope of its work in the camps, as well as establishing service provision of psychosocial support via a community center in the city of Thessaloniki. The center will be operating with a holistic approach, offering community based psychosocial mechanisms, community empowerment sessions, group counseling, case management and individual sessions as needed. The community center will offer services in an urban setting to benefit refugees living in camps and urban areas, and the Greek host community.
IsraAID's current activities in the refugee camps in Greece leverage on the organization’s experience working in humanitarian contexts, empowering communities in transition towards self-reliance, preparation for their unknown future and increase independency. IsraAID is working through a community building approach, promotion of resilience and informal education activities, creating a sense of purpose. In addition, IsraAID is providing the most vulnerable with direct psycho-social care in the refugee's mother tongue. The professionalized care enables beneficiaries to overcome what could potentially develop into chronically mental health conditions in an environment of ongoing stress.
We thank our many donors to IsraAID Greece - our programs would not be possible without your support! The asylum seeker in Greece needs our help more than ever, as the cold winter months have made the situation more desperate and the needs even larger. Thank you for your continued contributions!
It is Giving Tuesday today and we have wonderful news: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is matching your donation with 50% on GlobalGiving! Do not miss this opportunity!
The new video on the project page tells the story of a woman IsraAID has been working with in Petra-Olympou refugee camp. Awash Gido, a 31-year-old Yazidi refugee from Syria, fled the bombings in Aleppo with her young son. Her positive spirit is truly inspiring!
Winter has come to Greece and the temperatures in the camp's mountainous surroundings are dropping below zero. Mount Olympus' snow-covered top can be seen from the camp and the families fear the long winter months ahead. UNHCR and the Greek government are struggling to find solutions for the worsening conditions and were able to relocate some of the refugees to safer locations, however many still remain in the camp, desperately waiting for their turn.
IsraAID continues to work in the camp – providing emotional and psychological support to the residents in a bid to create a sense of routine and stability. Through activities such as physical exercise, psychosocial group sessions, stress management activities for refugees, and English lessons for all ages.
IsraAID is working hand in hand with the refugees to re-build a sense of community and hope despite the many challenges ahead.
Thank you for your support!
Since the civil conflict in Syria began in 2011 it has emerged as one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with over 4.25 million displaced within Syria and more than 2 million refugees fleeing the violence into neighboring countries. Last year, Greece experienced record amounts of refugees arriving on it’s shores, prompting an emergency response to assist them on their journey to the European countries in which they wished to claim asylum. Following the closure of the Greek-Macedonian border in March 2015, Greece has shifted into a long-term transit spot for refugees, as their duration of stay remains prolonged and unknown. IsraAID began it’s operation in Greece in September 2015 and continues to adapt programs and services according to the changing needs of the situation.
IsraAID’s Psychosocial Support (PSS) team provides services at Petra-Olympou, a Yazidi camp located in Northern Greece. The Yazidis are a distinct religious community comprised of a 3-caste system with a unique culture. Careful consideration must be made when working with the Yazidi community to provide services in a culturally sensitive manner. IsraAID’s team of Arabic and Kurmanji speaking professionals provide psychosocial support services to residents and NGO staff and volunteers.
Program 1: Imaging Hope
Imaging Hope is an 8 session narrative-based intervention with the following goals:
-Documentation of stories
-Have a community narrative for the community and for global awareness
-Create a sense of hope for the future
-Process experiences in a safe space
-Self-recognition of the event
The sessions are structured on the following topics:
1. Individual, 2. Childhood, 3. Trauma and/or Coping Mechanisms, 4. Community and Collective Experience, 5. Reframing Perceptions of Difficult Experiences, 6. Narrative Organization (before/during/after), 7-8. Processing. The sessions conclude with the invitation to be interviewed and participate in a post-intervention survey to evaluate the intervention.
Program 2: English Lessons
English lessons are designed to promote positive thinking and resilience by choosing appropriate vocabulary and discussions. English lessons are very popular and are therefore an effective tool for providing soft PSS and building relationships with members of the community in order to identify needs and make appropriate referrals.
Program 3: Case Management
Case management is offered to extremely vulnerable individuals and appropriate referrals are made. IsraAID’s PSS team collaborates with other actors to obtain a thorough understanding of the needs of the entire community. The team regularly visits the tents to conduct needs assessments and to provide extra support where it is needed.
Program 4: Psycho-education
Psycho-education lessons are offered on a variety of topics such as 1. Prevention of Sexual Assault and Gender-Based Violence, 2. Coping skills, 3. Symptom Management, 4. Resilience, 5. Assimilation, 6. Prevention of Trafficking and Protection of Children, and 7. Health and Hygiene.
Program 5: NGO Staff/Volunteer Training
Training sessions are offered regularly to NGO staff and volunteers to promote adherence to the code of conduct, provide information on cultural sensitivity and protection issues, and prevent secondary trauma.
Program 6: Community-Building Activities
The team organizes movie nights and beneficiary-led art, music, dance, and sport activities to improve morale and provide support to members of the community that are interested in using their skills to improve the quality of life at Petra-Olympou.
The team uses group forums to conduct needs assessments that guide group session and psycho-education topics. Careful consideration is used to assure that members of different castes are represented. IsraAID is dedicated to providing services that are sustainable, focusing on group interventions to provide a safe space for processing emotions and learning coping mechanisms without creating the dependancy associated with therapeutic relationships. Training and support is provided to individuals who are interested in facilitating group activities and channeling information throughout the community. Services are evaluated using anonymous surveys that guide the planning of future groups and activities.
Petra-Olympou is a Yazidi camp consisting of predominantly Iraqi Yazidis, with less than 8% originating from Syria. The Yazidi community has a three-caste system, with members of different castes living in different areas of the camp and occupying different roles. Members of the sheikh caste assume responsibility for much of the decision-making and information transmission, with the guidance of a recognized leader. The team works collaboratively with the lead Sheikh and members of the caste while taking measures to assure that members of all castes are represented and offered PSS services.
During the month of August IsraAID’s PSS team concluded “Imaging Hope”, an 8 session narrative-based intervention. Surveys were given to evaluate participant’s experiences and the results were highly positive. 89% of the participants surveyed reported an “increased understanding of their needs and ability to handle the pressures of their current situation following the intervention.” 100% reported that the atmosphere was positive, that they felt comfortable sharing their opinions, and that the applications were “practical and meaningful.” 78% reported that the activities “helped them to see things from a new perspective.” 100% reported that the facilitators were “prepared, organized, and expert.”
IsraAID’s PSS team was pleased with the evaluation of Imaging Hope, and will continue to offer the program in the upcoming months. The team will continue to offer case management to extremely vulnerable individuals, along with group sessions and psycho-education classes to promote stress and symptom management and healthy coping mechanisms, and training to NGO staff and volunteers. Members in the community have been identified to facilitate activities, such as sports, dancing, art, and sewing classes. In addition, the team will begin a Training of Trainers program to empower members of the community and improve information and resource transmission.
As the situation in Greece continues to change, IsraAID is committed to continue providing vital psychosocial support to beneficiaries and the staff and volunteers of present NGOs. IsraAID’s PSS team strives to provide the highest level of care possible in a challenging and uncertain environment.
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