"Never Give Up" is the motto of the Lighthouse Relief Youth Engagement Space (YES!) in Ritsona refugee camp. Aimed at young residents between 16-25, many of whom are from Syria, their own rules of respectful engagement make this a safe space of converging journeys, geographies and identities. In a setting where creativity is celebrated, participants are encouraged to develop their various interests, whether they are working on a monthly magazine, writing poems or attending workshops.
An estimated 58,000 refugees are stranded in Greece. Ritsona camp hosts almost 750 people, and the number is set to grow. Many of those awaiting resettlement are young adults. Brimming with creativity and potential, they are unable to work or study, spending their days in limbo. This state of uncertainty and boredom fosters psychological distress and leaves them vulnerable to marginalisation, exploitation, violence and substance abuse. This is especially true for unaccompanied young men.
YES targets a demographic whose needs are often overlooked when it comes to humanitarian service provision. By offering the young residents of Ritsona camp access to activities and resources and encouraging participation, teamwork and curiosity, we can better equip them to work or study when they are resettled. We believe that by helping individuals to retain a sense of purpose and agency, we can inspire them to reach their full potential as engaged members of communities present and future.
YES is a programme that the youth in camp actively seek out and respond to positively. We believe that, by building on what we have learnt from our experience in Ritsona, we can develop a model to be rolled out in similar contexts. As well as safeguarding the future of the young people we work with, our approach advocates a more holistic understanding of service provision, which engages camp residents not as refugees but as human beings: real people with talent, hope and aspiration.