Europe currently faces one the biggest refugee crisis in her modern history. Thousands of people mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have risked their lives fleeing their countries and crossing the Aegean sea to reach the shores of the Greek islands.
Many of them have been stranded in the country and now live in hotspots in the Greek islands, in the Idomeni camp or in other hosting centers across Northern Greece. The situation is crucial as in many cases refugees live under inhuman conditions. Children and women, who are almost the majoirty of the refugee population, are also considered as its most vulnerable part.
Even from the beginning of this crisis, YMCA of Thessaloniki tried to orient part of its activities in order to soften the pain of the refugees and support especially the women and children.
Since its foundation in 1921, YMCA- Thessaloniki has played a leading role in the support of vulnerable parts of the society, such as the refugees who arrived in the city after the catastrophe of Smyrna, war victims, addicted people, Roma, and children â€“ victims of abuse and exploitation. Most of the YMCA’s action and experience has been focused on children and youth.
The organisation’s mentality all over the world projects the model of a society based on solidarity, integrity, mutual respect, and love. The branch of Thessaloniki embraces and promotes all these values both at local and national level thourgh a variety of activities. So, it was more than expected, when the refugee crisis started, that one of the aims of the organisation would be to find all the possible ways and deploy all its skills to help and support the refugees.
More specifically, YMCA of Thessaloniki has organised so far the following activities:
- Since July, 2015 we came in contact with the Solidarity Network in Leros island and we gathered and sent food supplies and toys to be distributed to the little refugees and their parents.
- During summer, we hosted 6 children from the Reception Centre for Refugees and Asylum Seekers of Thessaloniki municipality in the summer programs of creative engagement for children and the Sports Camps.
- We gathered a great amount of food supplies and clothes. With the help of an affiliated organization in French, we managed to gather 62 packages full of kids clothes.
- In November, 2015 we started supporting Red Cross mission in Idomeni by assisting in the playground ICRC has created. More than 60 volunteers participated in the mission as they have been playing with the kids and helping with the food distribution.
- Since the end of March, 15 â€“ 25 of our volunteers visit the refugee hosting center in Diavata, the closest center in Thessaloniki, twice per week and they organize creative activities for the children. Moreover, with the support of our members and friends, we bought sports equipment, such as ping pong tables, balls, football and handball nets for the children to play.
After the evaluation of the activities above, YMCA â€“ Thessaloniki has already begun to design a new set of actions aiming to respond to the current needs of the refugees staying in Northern Greece.