Summer 2016. Long-term SV teacher, Suzie, sits outside the camp in the boiling heat under the olive trees with her English language students. Fast-forward one year, and she is teaching in her own air-conditioned classroom in Alpha, along with many other teachers, offering a variety of different languages and skill levels. We now not only teach English, but French, German, and most importantly, Greek. Students start in the basic class, and have the opportunity to progress up through 5 different levels. Many have even been awarded an English language Certificate, after sitting the Pearson exam. This is really great for their CV's, and integration to European life.
Whilst progress is gradually being made to integrate a handful of children into Greek schools, there are still hundreds who have no access to formal education. We are trying our best to fill that gap. SV teachers have been providing lessons in a range of subjects including Maths, English, Social Geography, Art, Computer Science and Home Economics. The school-like structure helps build confidence and instils a sense of normality for the children in the class.
There is a larger number of men than women living in the camp up the hill, so the majority of visitors we get at the Alpha Centre are male. But on Saturday afternoons we transform Alpha into a safe space for women only, enabling them to make use of the entire building that is usually dominated by men. We hold English lessons, cooking, dancing, art workshops and children's activities. The ladies can get comfortable, chat freely and enjoy a cup of tea. They love to knit clothes for their children and families during this time, making wool and knitting needles some of our most sought after items at the moment.
Every few weeks we organise a cooking session where the women can share their skills in our brand new kitchen to create things like kibbeh, pastries, biscuits and much more. We also do a cooking activity every Friday with the 13-14 year old class. So at the end of every week, Alpha will be filled with the smell of yummy cakes, cookies and treats! Every couple of weeks we organise a dinner for the unaccompanied minors. Many are living by themselves in the camp, on very few resources. The kitchen is used to produce a very popular dinner for the 50+ minors living in camp. We even had the winner of Greek Masterchef come to cook with them in August 2017!
Every afternoon the basement turns into a safe space of fun and lively activities where the women come with their young children. They play with their kids, knit, crochet and sew. Or most importantly relax! As well as this, twice a week in the basement we have a breakdance class run by one of our community volunteers. We also run relaxation sessions four times a week, which were set up by a visiting psychotherapist, and combine meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. Every weekday evening, two of our community volunteers run a fitness session for men in the basement- a hardcore session which promises abs in six weeks!!
Music & art.
We run advanced and beginner music classes six days a week, as well as practice sessions twice a week: our students can learn guitar and keyboard. In June, our music class performed several songs at the World Refugee Day event in the town's amphitheatre, and more recently, two of our students entertained at our dinner for unaccompanied minors, to great success!
Art classes are running three times a week, and range from still life drawing, to oil painting, to sculpture. The class are currently working on a beautiful mural for Alpha centre.
Following a generous donation of laptops to SV, we have been able to set-up computer classes; a class highly requested by the refugees and asylum-seekers regularly coming to Alpha. The course is organised into 4 topics: general concepts about computers, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel. These essential computer skills are what a lot of us take for granted, but are a crucial requirement for many jobs. Once the student has successfully completed the course, they receive a certificate in Information Technology.