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ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration

by Echo100plus
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration
ECHO HUB Leros: Prepare Refugees for Integration

In the last year, the number of refugees arriving in Greece has dramatically increased. Reports show that 1,224 boats have arrived on the Aegean islands just this fall. In the past week alone, 44 boats arrived, increasing the current population of refugees on Leros to 3,120, half of whom, including 550 children, are now homeless. In addition to homelessness, the refugees also suffer from inadequate and contaminated food and water supply, lack of sanitary facilities, unhygienic living conditions, clothing shortages, boredom, and limited mental and physical health care. The winter months have been severe; spurring a variety of illnesses and leaving the local hospital overwhelmed and overworked. Echo HUB Leros fights to ameliorate a number of these issues.


With the help of the Aegean Solidarity Network—Team UK, RENEW, Aide et Espoire, APOGO—and many generous Greek citizens and volunteers, Echo Hub was able to lead the drive in purchasing and distributing over a thousand blankets to the homeless residents suffering in the freezing temperatures with no shelter or warmth. Still, despite our best efforts, many residents are living on the streets facing winter temperatures with no respite.


With the now expanded “Hub Boutique”, a clothing provider operating on a points system, we provide clothes four days of weeks to the hundreds of residents who came with nothing but the clothes on their back. Due to the high influx of people already mentioned we have had to add extra boutique shifts to ensure that everyone receives some form of warm clothing, this inevitably has led to our clothes recourses running low, and we have increased our clothing collection from private donors and clothes distributors in Greece, as well as buying the vitals with funds raised from volunteers.


As well as the above, to try and create more pleasant and liveable conditions for the residents we have started a new clean – up programme. After realising that the trash removal of the Hot – Spot area hadn’t expanded to the new living squats we devised a cleaning programme with our volunteers and residents every Sunday to try and reduce the overwhelming levels of garbage that were bringing only filth, sickness and animals. This has already made a huge difference both for hygiene and general spirit, but more must be done.


Despite the diversion of resources, Echo HUB Leros maintains the core enrichment programs developed over the years to help the residents adapt and transition. We continue to welcome new registrations; our language programs have full enrolment and we plan to meet the needs of our students by adding more ABC English classes. Our daily art and sports sessions remain extremely popular and a new garden project is now underway to transform and update the outside area so we can use it to its best ability.


These challenging months could not have been done without our volunteers hard work and resilience and our donors continuous unrelenting support. Thank you! 

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It’s been a busy few months on the Aegean islands: Since September alone, over 18,000 people have arrived by boat from Turkey, 1026 of these on the island of Leros. Many more have been stopped by the Turkish coast guards, but still the numbers are rising and the islands are struggling to meet the needs of so many new arrivals. On Leros there are now c. 2,400 people, of which more than 1,000 are homeless or sleeping in flimsy camping tents around the hotspot camp, that is beyond capacity to accommodate them. The refugee populations now make nearly 30% of the island’s inhabitancies.

In light of this situation, tensions are unfortunately on the rise, and our Echo Hub Leros is needed more than ever; it provides a safe place and offers educational and recreational activities, that contribute substantially to the mental wellbeing of the camp residents. In the last two months, we have registered another 137 new students and attendance has been at an all-time high of about 1,000 students a week joining various classes and activities.

For some the wait on the island has reached the one-year mark, which means that finally their geographical restriction will be lifted. Eager to escape the camp and island life many move to Athens in search of new beginnings and a possibility to find work. In this period of uncertainty and unease we are happy and proud to be able to say we can now provide a new safe and welcoming space in the capital: The Echo Hub Athens!

Welcome to the Echo Hub Athens! A community and education centre, that opened on the 5th September in Kypseli, Athens. To date we have already registered over 450 students. The focus and aim of the Athens-Hub is on making sure that our students are provided with the necessary skills to integrate into Greece society and the job market.  

We decided to have a second location in Athens as we saw the influx of people heading to the city from Leros and other islands. We believed there was more that could be done help the community of refugees that had received asylum in Greece and wanted help with integration and develop their next steps. This included many of our students from Leros that had reached out to us asking for us for places where they could continue their studies, find a community of friends, or practice their skills.

In the new Athens Hub we offer six levels of English, totalling to 33 lessons per week, 3 levels of Greek taught three times a week, with the possibility of obtaining an internationally recognised certificate in the higher levels. As well as many extracurriculars; computer classes, mind and body – using meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and comedy therapy to help feel centred and project to the future, Poetry & Theatre class and CV & career goals workshop.

We collaborate with other organisations to make the Echo Hub a one stop shop in order to meet a variety of refugees needs; through “The Language Project” we have found our language teachers, through “Social Hackers”we are able to provide computer literacy classes, a must for most jobs, and our collaboration with “Human Rights 360” means that three days of the week there are lawyers, social workers on hand to help with everything from obtaining tax numbers, to finding a job, to sorting legal and psychological issues. We are continuing to work on future possible relationships with other organisations to help achieve our goals and continue to offer our students the skills, peace of mind and knowledge to enter into Greek society and have access to employment opportunities.

Our future goals for the very new Echo Hub include; wanting to help arriving refugees with whatever is needed, we try to stay flexible in our response, but with a main focus on education, hopefully also vocational training with time. Psychosocial support, on the personal one to one level, as well as support and training groups for interpreters. We have found that a lot of our students here and in Leros have found work in this field and are often not given the correct support or training. This can lead to severe cases of PTSD and other issues. We want to help Greece or rather the local communities to deal with the very difficult situation and we hope to bridge some of the gaps and mediate between the arriving and the receiving communities. And the list goes on, and on and on…

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When you're on the goes away.’ Maradona


Currently, there are 1,603 refugees on the island of Leros. The numbers keep rising as the warm and calm weather continues allowing refugee boats to attempt the dangerous crossing from Turkey. Now, more than ever, the Hub has become a vital part of the resident’s everyday life while they wait for their asylum case to be decided. The Hub continues to thrive, attendance to all classes remains at full capacity, and the success can be measured in the exams passed both in English and IT by our students. Greek lessons have continued to draw people in, the positive outcome daily visible in the streets of Leros, where our students are able to address members of the local community in the native language. With the arrival of so man people from different countries, diverse cultures and languages, it has been an opportunity more than ever to all to learn from each other at our Hub. This can be witnessed particularly during our Women’s Day, which is a haven of multicultural activities, new dances to diverse music and delicious dishes.


‘This team challenges you and I like that. Football is in my blood and I have to play. I’ll play with anyone, it doesn’t matter, but there are some very good players on this team.’ Hassan


Our team has taken full advantage of the warm weather and moved a lot of our extracurricular activities outside. From art classes under our newly constructed pergola to sports day in the garden, to swimming in the Aegean Sea, we are enjoying everything Leros has to offer. The most popular of all these activities remains football. Sport allows for clarity of mind, it provides our players with both a physical and mental release, which is of utmost importance, and that is why we continue to offer it in our weekly schedules.


‘On the football field, we all communicate with each other. Each player is a piece of the machine doing its job.’ Raed


We have seen a steady increase in attendance ever since the beginning of the year, with football teams often reaching full capacity. Due to the enthusiasm and commitment of the players, we started dividing playing time into two sessions. The first half consists of training, tactics, strength building, skill development, the other half is for playing a proper match. This is the time when players show what they have learnt in order to execute a healthy and competitive game. This new system ensures proper training and development of team-work, useful both on and off the field, as well as maximising the numbers of players, so no one gets left out.


‘I like the competition and the challenge. I am a competitive person!I like playing here because I can improve my skills.’ Ibrahim


It has been a very exciting time in terms of establishing football partnerships. We welcomed back Konrad from Buntkicktgut. Konrad focuses on participation, integration and identification, mirroring Echo’s philosophy that football is a common language that it is understood and accepted worldwide. His positive outlook is openly accepted and inspires our players to self-coach and support each other on and off the pitch. It has been a very exciting time in terms of establishing football partnerships. We welcomed back Konrad from Buntkicktgut.


‘Playing football here is better than staying at the Hotspot. It allows me to meet a lot of people from different countries and it brings us all together.’ Laith


This year we’ve also been lucky enough to join forces with ISMP (International Sports and Music Partnership) whose mission is to increase access to sports and music programming in shelters, refugee camps, orphanages, and vulnerable communities around the world as a means of bolstering positive mental health. Our partnership has brought in funds for new kits, boots and equipment for our players. This outside interest and support of our football team has released new energy, pride and belonging amongst the players, boosting morale and resulting in a 1-0 victory against the local team of Leros! It is true, football, like all sport, knows no barriers of culture or language and has worked wonders in furthering integration and acceptance of the refugee community on Leros.


‘I have fun playing with this team, even though some of the players are new to the game. I come to keep playing and because the members of the team treat me with respect. Thanks to this football team I have 10 close friends and we play together.’ Abdul



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With the arrival of Spring in Leros, and the Aegean Islands, we have seen an increase in people coming by boat from Turkey due to the good weather. Since February it is reported that 7123 people have arrived on the islands. With the current population on Leros reaching as many as 1036. With this influx of people, the Hub has been busy as ever but a lot of new positive changes have come with it.

In our last report we said that due to the rise in numbers we had to temporary close new registrations for a short while, luckily, we were able to re-open it and hopefully will not have to close again. We were able to do this by adding extra classes and making shifts in our timetable. From the beginning of February to now we have had a total of 9081 attendances in our varied classes, this roughly means we’ve had on average an attendance of 726 students a week.

As part of making sure we can cater to the needs of the growing population we started holding a new registration class every Wednesday, also known as the ‘Welcome Class’. Here we give new students not only the chance to sign up to classes, but to get a proper introduction to the hub and all it has to offer. The class is held in English by one of our teachers, but translators are on hand to ensure everybody can understand. To date we have had translations in Arabic, Farsi, French and Somali. 253 new students have registered with us in the last three months. We have also noticed a rise in the number of women wanting to join and have therefor added an extra Welcome Class to our Tuesday’s Women’s day activities, where we now offer computer, English and arts & crafts and cooking just for women.

On the 25th March we had a big shift in our ABC English class, where 25 students after just one month were all moved to beginners’ level, and the beginner’s students went up to A1. We are also expecting another shift up in the next two weeks, but of course single people are moving up individually every week. All of our levels, except for the hardest C1/C2 are currently fully booked every day. We are very happy and proud with the performance of our students and the level of teaching that is currently allowing such progress at the hub. 

We’ve also had great success the exams that have been taken. In computer class a total of 16 students took exams on subjects such as Excel and PowerPoint, all passing with flying colours! The next ESB exams of 2019 will take place in June, we currently have 17 candidates signed up to take them and we wish them all the luck! 

We are very happy to be able to say that as of mid-March we were able to introduce Greek lessons to the hub four times a week. So far, we have had 415 attendances in the class and for this reason we will be offering a second more advanced level of Greek within the next few weeks. Currently at the hub we are teaching English, French and Greek.

 The free boutique opened up again, filled with donations that have arrived from all over the world. We serve the whole refugee population as well as any locals that can benefit from what we offer. The shop is open three days a week and has proven to be very successful so far. Our arts & crafts, cv workshop, barber workshop and sports activities remain as popular as ever, with the new addition of beach cleans that help clean the beautiful beaches of Leros and help integrate the students with the local community. Football remains one of the favourites, we reach capacity every week, and have therefor divided the games up into training and matches to ensure everyone gets to play. The players come ready to play with enthusiasm and fantastic skills! We even had a friendly match between the staff from the Hotspot and the students of the Hub that was a great success!

As always, we are very grateful to everyone that helps make all of this possible, from our hardworking and dedicated volunteers, to all of our donors around the world. Thank you for your continued support!

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Global Giving Report: The Echo-HUB: Preparing Refugees for Integration


All Hands on Deck!

The last months were extremely busy at the HUB. For the first time ever, we had to stop registering new students as the classrooms were overflowing, due to an overwhelming demand for our language classes and recreational activities from many young Palestinians who arrived from Gaza.

Since the beginning of this year, we witnessed an immense increase in new refugee arrivals on the Greek islands. 101 boats attempted the trip to the Greek islands, carrying a total of 3776 people. Fifty-one boats completed the trip which brought 1839 people onto the Greek islands. The rest in the remaining 50 boats (1937 people), were arrested by the Turkish Coast guard and Police.

On Leros the refugee population is currently at 1176 people, and all reception facilities have reached maximum capacity. The Camp management resorted to setting up tents to accommodate the additional people. The living conditions for the residents are precarious, and there is no indication that the situation will improve. When the weather is good, the boats keep arriving.

HUB news:
We had very busy weeks leading up to Christmas. Apart from our regular schedule, we completed work on the second edition of ‘ZINE’: our intercultural art and literature magazine created by residents and volunteers which we published recently. Our students and volunteers participated in the ‘Santa Charity Run’ to raise funds for the ‘Blood Donor Society’ of Leros, which was an opportunity to give back to the local community.

During the holidays we closed down the HUB for a radical facelift, executed and funded by our coordinators and supported by a strong team. We now have two classrooms equipped with projectors, whiteboards and sound systems, which facilitates teaching and makes learning so much more fun!

We welcomed Konrad from ‘Bunt kickt Gut’ – a German NGO specialised in integration through street football – who held a football workshop on Leros for the young men from camp. It was a huge success and a welcome distraction from the monotonous camp life.

We also adjusted our schedule to accommodate the maximum number of students and improved our English curriculum. We see fantastic progress in our students’ language skills, moving upwards from level to level. We have a local volunteer who runs French language classes, and we are about to reintroduce Greek language courses to our curriculum.

We purchased a second-hand industrial sewing machine for our tailoring-workshop, and we are creating backpacks from recycled sails. Our barber workshop is a huge success, run by professionals from the refugee community. IT, Football, Arts and Crafts, Film and other activities remain very popular. We also run weekly CV workshops to prepare our students for the job market.

We are incredibly grateful to all our wonderful volunteers, who are so passionate and hardworking and create a friendly and safe environment at the HUB that promotes learning and creativity. And, last but not least a huge THANK YOU to all our donors and to Global Giving, without whom none of this would be possible.

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Location: Vienna - Austria
Project Leader:
Gabriella Dixon
Vienna, Vienna Austria

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