In December 2016 Echo100Plus launched the Echo-Hub, a community centre in the town of Lakki on the island of Leros, to help arriving refugees from war-torn countries prepare for the next steps of their journeys and foremost the arduous task of integration. Neither the Greek authorities nor any other NGO currently offer similar assistance to adult refugees on the island.
There are currently 2366 refugees from recognised war-torn countries on the island of Leros, with arrivals from Turkey increasing again. While basic needs such as shelter and food are met by the local authorities, the main gap occurs in the scope of the individual's mental wellbeing. In addition to deplorable living conditions in overcrowded shelters, refugees are subjected to non- transparent asylum processes involving long waiting times, that lead to emotional distress, frustration and unrest.
With the Echo-Hub we strive to provide a space in which adult refugees can benefit from a friendly and dignified environment and from access to education such as: Language courses, IT classes, Music lessons, Activities (Sports, Filmmaking, Theatre), CV writing skills and personal development. In addition to our educational programme, Echo100Plus runs the so-called Hub-Boutique, which is regularly stocked up with donated and purchased new clothing and hygiene items.
Refugees are actively involved in the HUB activities as students and teachers. They experience the Hub as a stabilizing factor in an overall tense situation and as a place where an effort is made to bridge the gap between host- and guest communities. Since we started the Echo-Hub in October 2016, we have seen quite a few pupils leaving the island to Greek mainland and other European countries. The training they have received at the Hub is helping them a lot to find jobs, or get scholarships.