A day with CARE cash team in Athens

 Economic Development
 20th Mar 2017

Did you know that our team in Athens walks approximately 15 kilometers every day? They visit refugees living in Athens and support them with cash assistance.  I spent a day with the CARE team and met some of the refugees we support with cash assistance. I met people who had different backgrounds and spoke different languages but they all had one thing in common: they are people who keep hoping for the best, regardless of the hardships they endure. They offered us a cup of tea and shared whatever they had. I asked them about their flight, their current life in Greece and what they need most.  

Walah, a 30 year old mother from Syria: “I cannot wait to see my husband in Sweden again”

Walah (on the right) and her son received cash assistance Walah wants people around the world to know about refugees' life in Greece. Photo by Vangi/CARE

 “I want the world to hear our story and understand our problems. We want people in Europe to know us and understand who we are. I was in a camp with my two children, close to the borders of Greece with Albania. We moved to Athens, because we need to be closer to the different asylum offices and different services.  We are waiting to know whether we will be able to leave Greece. My husband is in Sweden and we are under the family reunification process, but I don’t know how long we have to wait before we go there. It has been already too long...  We came to Athens ten days ago and were staying in a hotel as we did not know where else to go.  But we could only afford to stay a few nights. Now we are staying with Khaled and Samar. I met them at Chios Island in the summer when we first arrived. Our children play together and I am very thankful for their help. But, you see the house is empty, we don’t have toys. We help each other, but I really hope we can go to Sweden soon. I miss my husband and our children miss their father. With the money I have received from CARE I will buy some clothes for my children, baby diapers, and meat and fruits!”


Rami, 30 year old single man, from Yemen: “We are only strong together”

Ismail, Saleh, Yusil and Rami from Yemen spend most of their time in their small apartment in the center of Athens. They share the flat with eight other men from Yemen. All of them applied for asylum in Greece. Photo: Vangi/CARE

“Only a few refugees from Yemen are in Greece and we try to support each other in every way we can. We share a very small flat with twelve men. A friend from Ireland whom I have met in Yemen is paying the rent. Before I was sleeping on the street and in parks. Now that we will receive some money maybe we are able to rent all together another place, a bit bigger and better.”

Refugee Volunteers: “We know what they have been through and want to help”

The Jafra volunteers’ team is trying to establish their own shelter for vulnerable women in Athens. With the cash assistance from CARE they will be able to pay rent and the water bills. From right to Left: Lynne - Mohsen - Nour - Amani - Houssam - Daniela - Ali – Bashar. Photo: Vangi/CARE

The Jafra Team is a group of young refugees. All of the young people had previous experience volunteering with civil society organizations in Syria and at the Jafra Foundation, an initiative supporting refugees in the Damascus area that ended up in the establishment of an actual and very active foundation. They came together at Idomeni camp and in April 2016 started supporting children with psychosocial and educational activities creating wooden safe areas first at Idomeni camp, close to Greece’s borders with Macedonia, for one month and after a while to another camp near Thessaloniki, called Lagkadikia, for six months. By October 2016, many refugee families and team members had moved to Athens to be close to the Asylum Service. The Jafra Team decided to follow them and moved their activities to Athens where the needs were greater.  Currently, they are trying to establish their office and a shelter for vulnerable single women and mothers with children in the center of Athens. Thanks to the donations from individuals and civil society groups they were able to organize bread making activities and distributions of homemade and traditional food in five squats in central Athens. 

Despite their problems, missing their families and friends, struggling to keep their children active and happy, and despite feeling so tired, they all smiled. They offered teas and talked with us. They even shared their fears and dreams and joked with us. The people I met today are like you and me. When we feel down, we would invite a friend to have lunch. And sometimes when we feel that we are in a really bad situation, yes, we would even be sarcastic about it, just like Taha and Rami and Yusil from Yemen did. And of course we all want the best for our children and, when we move, our ideas and dreams and fears travel with us, just like Jafra’s team expertise. See more than refugees’ needs, see people’s fears, dreams and feelings.

By Vangi Dora (vangi@care.de)

About CARE in Greece: With 70 years of experience and long-term presence in many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, CARE takes a comprehensive approach to emergency response: first by working with communities to prepare for and mitigate the impact of disasters; then by partnering with local groups to provide immediate assistance when an emergency hits; and finally by working with affected communities to help them recover after the crisis has passed. With the influx of refugees to Europe, CARE started providing emergency assistance to refugees stranded in Greece, including cash, protection and accommodation. The project is funded by the European Commission, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Austrian Fundraising Coalition "Neighbors in Need

Find out more about our work in Greece here.

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