This summer, Indigo helped me spend a life changing four months volunteering at a refugee camp in Northern Greece. Indigo was great and introduced me to two projects based on what I had told them I was interested in doing and what my skills were. Initially, I planned to go for 6 weeks but found myself still working with We Are Here, a community centre in Nea Kavala refugee camp in Northern Greece, over 4 months later.
We Are Here does a huge amount with a small team and limited resources, it truly is an amazing project. The centre hosts classrooms, used for both a kindergarten and English classes, and a social space, where people can go to chat and play board games. There is also a separate women’s space that holds English classes and activities.
My time volunteering with We Are Here was nothing short of incredible. I was part of the children’s team, running the children’s activities daily. I also worked on the Youth Club, making sure the teenagers in camp, who are often caught in between age restrictions, had a positive space to try out all sorts of different activities, but also just be teenagers again.
This summer in Nea Kavala was hard, as We Are Here became the only NGO project running in camp. Though we were not able to run our activities in camp as normal, we still managed to be there for camp residents, to show them they had not been forgotten and were still important to us. Though working under the Greek summer heat at midday was tough, the small amount of joy we were able to bring to residents made it totally worthwhile. The other volunteers I worked with taught me huge amounts about compassion and humility, and I am forever grateful to them.
Working as part of the team I made some friendships that I hope will last a lifetime. There was such a lovely communal vibe about the way we lived, and I still miss having around 10 other people around me constantly. Having a close-knit team was essential; it becomes so necessary to talk to others about what you are experiencing so you can process it better and continue helping others.
Nea Kavala refugee camp is growing, in the week before I left, we received 1000 new residents, doubling the population of camp overnight, who had been transferred from Lesvos island. Unfortunately for the new arrivals, they were placed in tents on a windy disused airfield. It was heartbreaking to see tents back in use as there are no places to live. I was devastated to leave camp knowing that residents, new and old, were continuing to live in terrible conditions without much hope of change for the immediate future.
I was so inspired by those I met while volunteering and I am hoping to continue to be involved in helping those affected by these tragic circumstances as much as possible.