Today, Greece enters a new nationwide lockdown for the second time to contain the resurgence of COVID-19. For the next three weeks, all citizen’s movement is restricted and all non-essential businesses will be closed.
The lockdown has a big impact on our operations. No one will be allowed to leave the perimeter of the camp, the bus company we use as a shuttle to and from our centre will not be allowed to work, and our team will not be allowed to distribute shower and laundry tickets inside camp.
Therefore, our centre will be closed for the next three weeks and our team will be taking a well deserved break. We hope that these three weeks will be enough to contain the spread of COVID-19, so that we can re-open our centre as soon as possible and continue to offer the vital services which are so needed.
It’s been a couple of weeks since we started our new initiative of distributing shower tickets in camp and shuttling women and children to our centre. Among the many who came to our centre this week, was a young woman. She came up to one of our short term team members, started playing with her hair, and began to talk about her interests and dreams. The young woman expressed her ambition to study Art. Our team member shares: “When she spoke she was really proud of herself. I felt in her voice the passion and the hope and the love to really live her life.” She shared about her desire to be in Athens one day and how being in Europe makes her feel that she really has the opportunity to pursue her dreams.
Her family arrived on Lesvos only a few months ago from Afghanistan via Turkey, like so many of the families we meet here. While they were speaking, the young woman was also able to teach our team member some words in Farsi. Our team member emphasised how important it is for her to learn some basic phrases in their language. She says, “We can show our love and our energy and that we want to help just by smiling, but it’s really special to be able to say something to them in their language.”
We love having these moments with the women and children who come through our doors on a daily basis. It encourages us all to have these conversations and to see the happiness and hope that so many people exhibit, despite the immense difficulties they have had to endure.
We mentioned in a previous update that we leased a space closer to the new camp for a future All4Aid centre. We continue to carefully evaluate a phased approach into this new space, considering both the construction time needed for this to become a functioning space, and the uncertainties surrounding the new camp as the long-term site for housing displaced people on Lesvos.
However, since the need for showers is still great right now, this week we hired a shuttle bus to transport women and children from the new camp to our centre near Moria. A few members of our team have been going into the new camp every morning to hand out shower and laundry tickets and to facilitate boarding the bus.
We are doing our best to continue to offer humanitarian aid in an environment that is always changing. Following this new plan we are now able to offer 135 showers and 50 loads of laundry each day. The shuttle bus costs us 3.500 EUR per month. This is an added expense to our monthly budget that we felt was absolutely worth the investment.
Although there is much more to be done, we are thankful that hundreds of women and children were able to shower this week. They were mostly single women or from female headed households. It was a joy and privilege to be able to see so many return to our centre and take a warm shower in a dignified manner.
At All4Aid, we really value the support we get from short term teams that come to assist us with the running of our various projects on Lesvos. We are fortunate that so many people from all over the world have come to serve with us over the past years. In 2019 we had 108 short-term volunteers providing a total of 3.836 hours of work.
In January 2020 there were over 200 short-term volunteers who had applied to serve with us here on Lesvos, but most have had to cancel their trips due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
We want to thank those who planned to serve with us this year but have had to change their plans. This year has come with many unexpected turns for everyone, ourselves included. But we are thankful for those who had planned to come and give of their time to be here and support our work. We hope to have you join us soon!
With almost all of the former residents of Moria now moved into the new camp, there has been an increase of transfers from Lesvos to the mainland of Greece and other EU countries in an effort to decongest the island. Because of these transfers, we have had to say goodbye to some of our community volunteers that we have worked with at our centre. This is a very normal reality of our work but it is always hard to say goodbye to those with whom we have become friends with while they are here.
Last week, we said goodbye to one of our resident volunteers who had lived inside Moria. She worked with us as a seamstress and often came to the centre with her two small children. Her family has been transferred to Athens where they will continue the process of claiming asylum in Europe. Most of our team wasn’t actually able to say goodbye in person because it happened so quickly, but she was able to contact one of our long-term volunteers after she had arrived in Athens.
During their conversation she thanked us for helping her and said that she forgot her problems in Moria when she was working at our centre.
This is a huge part of what we do. Yes we have facilities that provide women and children with important basic needs like hygiene and laundry, but we also want to be a space that does more than that. We are a space where women and children can be safe, where they can learn and where they can build community, no matter how much time they are with us for.
When our team started work this week, they weren’t sure exactly what it would look like now that so much has changed in the aftermath of the fire.
Almost all of the former residents of Moria have been relocated and moved into the new camp. The new camp is 3.5 km (60 min walk) from our centre and even with the distance there are women and children coming each day. Some made the journey just for a shower while others brought strollers full of clothes to be washed. Yesterday, one girl came in for her first shower since the fire inside Moria. This was more than 2 weeks ago and she had been unable to shower since.
Women and children are making this long journey to our centre because there are no other facilities like ours inside or near the new camp. But this journey will become more difficult as the weather becomes worse and there are less hours of daylight. Our centre on the doorstep of Moria is no longer the best location to serve them. With this in mind, we have secured the lease of another facility just a few minutes walk from the new camp.
We are now in the process of planning a phased approach in transitioning into this space from our current Centre. While we work through the next steps of what programs or projects we can run out of this new building, we are thankful to have the current centre to continue to best serve those who need it most.
Children across the globe have had limitations on their education this year due to COVID-19. Imagine having limited access to education for your entire life. Educational Development is one of our core pillars at All4Aid. Unfortunately, given all the recent events, we haven’t been able to resume classes at our All4Kids Learning Centre yet.
Despite that, this week one of our All4Kids students has been coming to our centre almost every day. She has been coming to shower and do laundry with her mother. While at the centre, she would work in her math workbook and read through English stories with our volunteers. Not only does she speak Farsi and English, she was also learning Greek in Moria before the fire began. She even started teaching one of our new volunteers some basic Farsi words this week! She’s only 10 years old.
This is just one of our many amazing students we’ve had the opportunity of getting to know and walk alongside. As children around the world start to go back to school this month, keep in mind the millions of children who cannot and those who continue to be displaced.
Today marks one week since the start of multiple fires that completely destroyed Moria Refugee Camp. Almost a week later, the majority of the residents of Moria are still living and sleeping on the streets. A new camp has been set up that currently houses about 800 of the 12,000+. It’s uncertain whether this camp will be a temporary or long-term solution.
While families and more vulnerable people are being housed inside this new camp, the majority of people are protesting this change. They want to be moved off the island completely. The situation on the island has been changing each day and it’s still unclear what is to come.
Our team on the ground has been able to work in our centre every day offering showers and laundry to hundreds of women and children. Today, an elderly woman in a wheelchair came to the centre for a shower. Unable to manage on her own, we closed our centre for 30 minutes so that her adult son, whom she depends on, could come inside. Under normal circumstances our centre is for women and small children only but we were more than happy to help in this way.
It’s difficult to see the devastation happening around us and not be able to do more. But we are thankful to be here and help in any way we can.
Last night brought even more destruction to Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos. After the initial fires were extinguished yesterday, a second fire was ignited. Even today the fires continue to burn what little remains of the main camp.
This morning our team tried to make their way to our centre which is located 100 m from the main entrance of the camp. However, they were denied access. Movement in the area has been restricted for everyone, including all NGOs. All of the roads surrounding the camp have police roadblocks to stop people from entering or leaving the perimeter.
The residents of Moria are still flooding the surrounding streets and parking lots with nowhere to go. Police presence has increased significantly in the last 24 hours and the Greek Army is reportedly distributing food and water where and when they can.
We are working with our partners to coordinate support, but the movement restrictions are limiting what we can do. We hope that tomorrow morning we will be allowed to resume the work at our centre.
As one of the only facilities where women and girls can safely take showers and do their laundry – as well as the largest and the closest facility to the camp – there are hundreds of people eagerly waiting outside our gate for us to open our doors. Please keep our team and the people we serve in your thoughts and prayers!
Photo by: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Last night several fires broke out inside Moria Refugee Camp on Lesvos, Greece. It is unclear what or who started the fires, but this comes after 35 positive COVID-19 cases were officially reported inside the camp. The governmental lockdown of the camp provoked violence and tension inside and around the camp last night which likely led to the fire.
Our centre was not directly affected by the fire. Our team of international and Greek workers are all safe. We spent a lot of time this morning trying to locate our community volunteers; these are ca. 20 women and girls who reside in Moria and serve alongside us as translators, teaching assistants, shower operators, seamstresses, etc. Only one of them is still unaccounted for.
The majority of the 12,000+ residents of Moria are now homeless. They are flooding the streets outside the camp and throughout the surrounding area with nowhere else to go. They have no easy access to water, food and proper shelter.
We are working together with local actors and long-term partners to assess the situation and coordinate a response to attend to these immediate urgent needs. We need your financial contributions and prayer support at this time: https://all4aid.org/give