Team Picture, November 2023
The year of 2023 saw big changes to our community makerspace. As mentioned in our last report, the input from those we work with and the capacity of the team on the ground led us to restructure and focus our mission here: to provide a place where individual talent can flourish, and where anyone can have access to the tools or knowledge needed to tackle personal or community challenges.
Over the course of the year, we down-sized the number of working areas from 15 to 11, in order to prioritize those that were most impactful in the daily lives of asylum seekers. For example, our English program saw a steady increase in participants throughout the whole year, with new testers arriving weekly in order to be placed in weekly, or bi-weekly classes.
The barbershop and the women’s beauty salon were also established as the first areas to be led exclusively by community team members, solidifying what we already knew - that integration is a holistic process - activities in our everyday lives, like what we eat, how we dress, or in this case, how we style our hair every morning, are inextricably linked to the concepts of dignity, security, and agency in one’s life.
Speaking more strictly of ‘makerspace’ activities, the bikes workshop and the sewing area were highly trafficked, with an estimated 900 bike repairs taking place, and 300 new items being created in the sewing area, which does not factor in the main use of the sewing area– repair appointments.1300 repair appointments were given this year.
Changing with the Times
This September also marked the 7th anniversary of Habibi.Works. While the shape of the project might shift - due to factors in the European asylum context, global restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and because as a grass-roots project our priority is always to offer activities in line with the real needs of participants, our ethos remains the same: we believe people are experts of their own lives.
This year, we faced the reality that a big part of Katsikas camp residents were not able to take part in our project; reductions and inconsistencies in the cash support received by asylum seekers continue to push most of our participant base into the informal job economy, and many could not afford to spend their days at a makerspace.
For this reason, we made two major changes - we shifted to an afternoon/evening schedule, which saw the first ever dinner served at Habibi.Works, and we began to allow children under 15 to be in the space when accompanied by a parent/guardian.
The results have been noticeable. After these changes, the number of participants in the space were similar to those in the beginning of the year, when we were seeing new arrivals to the camp daily and people came to discover our project and orient themselves to the organization and opportunities in the area.
More than a Makerspace
Katsikas is a very isolated camp, which makes transportation and access to essential services and goods a very big challenge [hence the popularity of our bike atelier]. Thanks to collaborations with other organizations throughout the year, we were able to have recurring visits from partners offering free legal consultations; women’s health and hygiene workshops and individual sessions, as well as 2 distributions of female sanitary products and hot water bottles. We also hired transport for 100 people to attend the African Music Festival in Ioannina, 9 kilometers away, and thanks to our on-site collaboration with Yoga & Sport With Refugees, had multiple outdoor climbing trips throughout the year. Visits from external experts Margherita, Marco and Riccardo led to the creation of two new original podcast coming out of the Habibi.Works Storytelling Lab, you can find the first one already live, here.
Meanwhile, inside the camp, we have witnessed the completion of a new construction project aimed to expand the hosting capacity of the Katsikas ‘reception center’. The newly established ‘Rub Hall’ is expected to host 72 people in 18 rooms, and is likely a response to the influx of arrivals coming to the islands that has been taking place since September 2023. According to the UNCHR Operational Data Portal, the number of people crossing the Mediterranean in December of 2023 greatly exceeds the number of people crossing during the same dates on the past two years. With the New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, concluded in December 2023, we unfortunately expect to see worsening conditions at European detention centers, external and internal borders, with arbitrary arrests being condoned and due process in the asylum procedure having been put up for discussion. You can read more about it here or here.
Maybe the news sounds grim - and it is - violent, dissapointing, enraging, and more. Still, we are here. In a space filled with individuals from more than a dozen nationalities, doing very normal things - repairing a bike, cooking dinner, painting nails, sewing a skirt hem, watching Youtube. Very normal things that ground us and bring us closer to one another. While we might not be heard at the European Parliament, in our little village [Habibi.Works], we make the world smaller, crafting our words, worlds, and world vision with care.
Nasser, Bike & Wood Supervisor
Celine Preparing a Sewing Workshop
'A Day in the Life Of' Podcast Workshop #1
Children's Corner at Habibi.Works