| Aug 2, 2023
Ritsona Refugee Camp: Continued support, new approach
As we mentioned in our previous report, we (like many NGOs) are no longer allowed inside Ritsona or any other refugee camp in Greece. Initially, we were hoping that the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, which has authority over the camps, would reverse this decision. By now though, it has unfortunately become clear that we will likely never regain access. It is part of a set of politically-calculated policy changes introduced over the past few years that have gradually made it harder for humanitarian organizations to reach the populations that need their support.
Accordingly, with heavy hearts, we have decided to close this GlobalGIving Project.
This is a major setback for the hundreds of children, teens, and women who found relief and psychosocial support through the safe spaces and activities we at Lighthouse Relief offered inside Ritsona every day for the past seven years.
AND YET, THIS DOES NOT SIGNAL THE END OF OUR SUPPORT FOR THE PEOPLE LIVING IN RITSONA CAMP!
Thanks in part to our loyal GlobalGiving donors, we quickly adapted to the new circumstances by launching a pilot project to transport children from the camp to off-site venues where we run sports and other activities. Now we are five months in, and we are happy to report that attendance is consistently high, and the children love it! Most of them rarely have an opportunity to see anything beyond the camp’s foreboding prison-like walls, so they appreciate the “field trips” a lot!
Our activities include football, basketball, dance, and yoga for kids aged five and up, plus separate women-only sessions. For some activities, we cooperate with local clubs, allowing the children to interact with local peers and start building ties in the non-refugee community.
We are excited to continue and expand our offerings for the people living in refugee camps throughout Greece, despite not being allowed inside. And we hope you will continue to be part of our journey. Soon we will launch a microproject to raise for this new phase of support for the people of Ritsona, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, our project Provide Safe Harbour to People Seeking Refuge is still going strong. It provides life-saving support in the form of food and shelter for some of the most vulnerable refugee families in Greece. It also improves their access to social services, language classes, vocational training, job placement, legal aid, mental health support and more so they can start to rebuild their lives and flourish in their adopted homeland.
We would greatly appreciate it if you would consider rolling your support over to this other project. Fundraising has been more challenging than ever this year due to fewer grant opportunities and the pinch many individual supporters feel from rising living costs and inflation. We understand the difficulties many of you face, and we empathize with you. At the same time, if you can spare even a few dollars every month, it really makes a big difference in our ability to keep our services going and plan for the future so we can meet new needs as they arise.
Regrettably, we expect Greece to continue receiving thousands of people arriving annually under desperate circumstances. We commit to enforcing the humanitarian protections they are entitled to by law and filling the gaps in those protections when necessary. With your help, we can continue to be there for them, providing safe harbour for as long as they need us.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.