Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos

by Starfish Foundation
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos
Self-Defense and Yoga for Refugee Women on Lesvos

Thank you for your continued support for our self defense and yoga project, and your patience as we manage the ever-changing restrictions related to COVID-19. 

In our last update, we announced that we would be restarting our self-defense and yoga classes within Moria camp in September 2020. However, as many of you will be aware- on September 8th, a fire tore through Moria camp which left nearly 13,000 people without shelter. In the aftermath of this devastating incident, our classes could not go ahead as planned. 

In October/November 2020, we faced further delays to restarting our project when Greece entered another nation-wide lockdown. The lockdown has meant that freedom of movement for residents of the new RIC Lesvos camp has been restricted further. We wanted to assure you that despite everything that is going on in Lesvos, and around the world at the moment, we are working to safely restart our self-defense and yoga classes for refugee women. 

We have been blown away by your support, and having reached our fundraising goal, we feel it is time to close this campaign -- and send you all an update about what your generous donations have been used for and where the remaining money will go.  

In the two years since we started our self-defense and yoga classes, we have distributed over 2350 free bus tickets to women in the camp who came along to either our self-defense or yoga classes in Mytilene, we have organised classes inside Moria camp, and within our own OpenSpace building, and have overseen the training of 13 women to become qualified self-defense and empowerment teachers. Our first self-defense course, conducted in 2018 by ESD Global trainer Anat Errel, taught 70 women, coming from 16 different countries, in 7 different languages-- and one class was held specifically for a group of unaccompanied minors living in Moria’s “SafeZone”. The feedback Anat received conveyed the significance of the classes for the women who took part:

  • “I learned that in any situation I should be careful, but not afraid”
  • “I learned I can say NO without giving excuses”
  • “The course made me happy, and I learned to be strong and safe”

In February 2019, we organised a weekend of self-defense classes with another certified instructor. Over 60 participants took part in this course, developing vital skills and learning how empowered self-defense can act as the key violence prevention strategy for women and vulnerable populations. Weekly classes followed and were held at the“One Happy Family” hub on Lesvos; around 10 participants attended each week.   

In the time before the coronavirus reached our shores here on Lesvos, we were holding regular self-defense and yoga classes (both within Moria camp and at OpenSpace) ensuring that the classes remained accessible for all women who sought to understand the skills involved in self-defense, and the benefits of yoga for both body and mind. Four self-defense classes a week were being held in the camp, right up until Greece entered its first COVID-19 related lockdown. It has been a long eight months, but this time of restrictions and coronavirus related closures has allowed us to plan for the months ahead, and we cannot wait to restart our empowerment self-defense programme and yoga classes for those who wish to join us. 

We aim to use the remaining funding to restart the project after the lockdown ends here in Greece. The project will run on a 2 classes per week basis, with one class being held in our OpenSpace building, and one class being held within the new “RIC Lesvos” camp. These classes will follow the same structure as before, but the self-defense classes will place a greater focus on training refugee women to become certified trainers of the course- allowing them to build their confidence, increase their skill set, and teach this important service to others. 

We thank you so much for your help in allowing us to provide these critical services to women and other vulnerable populations on Lesvos, and if you want to stay updated with our self-defense and yoga classes, and our work in general, you can do so by following our social media accounts here: 

Sending our heartfelt thanks to you all. 

The Starfish Team on Lesvos 

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Thank you for your support of our project. We are immensely grateful for your donations, which have enabled us to empower women living on Lesvos through self-defense and yoga classes.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we temporarily suspended operations in order to protect our volunteers, staff, and participants. We used this time to plan how we could continue to provide our services in a safe way upon reopening. We want to assure our donors that the money raised so far for this project has been reserved for when operations resume.

We are now excited to announce that we will be restarting our program. We will be taking strict precautions to ensure that participants and facilitators are kept safe by implementing social distancing, providing masks and sanitizer, and utilizing outdoor space when possible. In addition, we will continue to vigilantly monitor the situation and adapt as needed.

Starting in September (COVID-19 permitting), our two teachers will be leading a 7-week course. These classes offer women more than instruction on physical self-defense; they build emotional self-confidence by exploring boundary-setting, communication strategies, and other coping mechanisms for the challenging situations they face inside and out of the camp.

With your support, we are hoping to make our program available on an ongoing basis and to expand our services to other vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors.

We thank you again for your help in allowing us to provide these critical services to women and other vulnerable populations on Lesvos.  

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Stay Safe and Wash Hands
Stay Safe and Wash Hands

Dear all,


First of all we want to thank all of you for the warm support we received and all the donations! With so many different causes and ways to spend your money, we are honoured that you selected to support our project. We are grateful to have you as a part of our team. Your support has enabled us to offer regular classes inside of Moria refugee camp, which every week allowed us to empower more and more women. 


Unfortunately, due to the current situation (COVID-19), we are forced to temporarily suspend our 'Self Defence & Empowerment Program'. We hope to continue as soon as possible, but for now, we have to take the necessary measures and focus on keeping our volunteers and staff, but also all the people inside the camp safe. This means our project page will be temporarily stopped.

The money collected for this project will be kept and reserved until we start up again. To all our donors who have a regular donation, we would like to reassure you that it will be held for this project until we restart. If want to suspend your payment you may do so


Again, thank you all for your support and donations and we hope to see you soon when we reopen our program! If you want to keep in touch please follow Starfish Foundation on Facebook, Instagram, or through our website:


With warm regards,


Team Starfish

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Yoga a big part of what we are doing this year at Starfish.

The classes are held both in OpenSpace, Mytilene and at our container inside the Moria Camp.

Our yoga classes give the participants a chance to relax and escape from the stresses of living in the overcrowded Moria camp.

In order for people to attend the classes in Mytilene Starfish provides bus tickets to all the participants and your help and support allows these popular classes to thrive and continue.

With more people arriving on the Island of Lesvos every week, the importance of activities increases – as is the need for your support.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

A taste of our yearly report on what we have been doing. For more details click on the link to read our whole newsletter. Don't forget to grab a cup of coffee as it is a long one


The self-defence training for refugee women in Moria was very successful. Women are one of the most vulnerable groups inside the camp and often the victim of sexual harassment and violence. Starfish’s goal was to provide them with the necessary strategies to protect themselves.  Building on the women’s shared experience, the programme taught them how to defend themselves not only physically but also emotionally, learning to set boundaries, increasing their self-confidence and explore different coping strategies. The women's response to the training has been overwhelmingly positive.


Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

About Project Reports

Project reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you can recieve an email when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports without donating.

Sign up for updates

Organization Information

Starfish Foundation

Location: Mytilene, Lesvos - Greece
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @starfishlesvos
Project Leader:
Melinda McRostie
Mythimna , Lesvos Greece

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

Still want to help?

Support another project run by Starfish Foundation that needs your help, such as:

Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence


Woman Holding a Gift Card
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle

Get incredible stories, promotions, and matching offers in your inbox

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.