The Laundry Station.
Most refugees on Samos stay several months if not years. In the past, a laundry shift for them would take a whole day. Everything would be washed by hand, and then hanged to dry in the sun. This would cost them an entire day as they have to watch their clothes in order for them not to be stolen as this is a scarcity in the camp. In the winter, this is near impossible due to rain. In May of 2018 Samos Volunteers opened it’s very own laundry station, as we believe that everybody has the right to have clean clothes. In the past, the camp has had problems with scabies, we aim to eliminate this problem by washing the clothes at 60 degrees celsius, which kills the bugs and other bacteria. From Monday till Saturday we have volunteers in the laundry station washing clothes 11 hours a day. We go to the camp twice a day to ticket the beneficiaries in a systematic way and make sure that everybody gets a chance to get their clothes washed in a washing machine.
Distribution and logistics.
From April 2016, Samos Volunteers were the main provider of non-food items (NFIs, which includes clothes, shoes and hygiene items) to the refugees and asylum-seekers residing in the camp in Samos. This work was initiated to fill the gaps in basic needs of those detained on Samos, at a time when no other organisations were capable or willing to provide these services. We became a permanent and daily distributor of NFIs, while our initial purpose was only to cover the urgent needs of the people.
At the beginning of 2017, Samos Volunteers decided that our role as the primary distributors of NFIs should dissolve and be passed on to those mandated to cover these needs (the Greek Government and other larger NGOs). This enabled us to focus and expand on our activities which will benefit the refugee community on Samos through psycho-social support; namely informal education and recreational activities - an area which was not covered by others. However, we do occasionally carry out mass distributions in the camp when there is a great need. For example, handing out winter clothing packs during cold and wet spells.
Education in the shelters.
Most refugees and migrants have been on the island of Samos for several months with no opportunities for formal work or study. To combat pervasive boredom and gaps in education, Samos Volunteers provides language classes, which we foresee as hugely important for their transition into Europe. We use a proportion of our monetary donations to equip and resource our teachers and students with textbooks, notebooks and stationery.
Whilst the majority of classes are run in our hub, Alpha, we are also ensuring that refugees hosted in alternative accommodation have the opportunity to access our education programme. From Monday to Friday, we provide English classes in a shelter for vulnerable families (these include families with very young children, pregnant women, elderly persons, persons with disabilities).
The recreational activities coordinated by Samos Volunteers are an extremely important part of our work and we have found they have a hugely positive impact on the daily lives of the refugees and migrants living in the camp. Over the last year, we have catered for all ages of men, women and children, in activities such as chess and backgammon, football matches, dancing, singing, break-dancing, karate, and many more! During the summer, we offer swimming lessons to children, women and men, at a beach that is walking distance from the camp and our centre. Swimming is a highlight of the week for the kids; it’s a chance to teach them a vital skill while having a lot of fun. For the adults, we offer swimming in addition to a range of other physical activities, such as hiking and yoga. There is also a fitness class every evening lead by one of our volunteers, which is a great way for the men in particular to get active. The population of the Samos camp currently is around 65% male, and amongst these, the majority are aged between 18-30. Unfortunately, as in most camps, there develops a culture of drinking, largely due to boredom and wasting months detained in poor conditions. We want to give the refugees and migrants an alternative to this, and encourage them to spend their time learning and doing something productive or physical.
Since the beginning of 2017 Samos Volunteers has acquired a large collection of donated books in English, German, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Kurdish. With these resources we have been able to bring into the camp a mobile library for both adults and children. Twice a week we set up our library table where people can check out books for two weeks at a time or renew their books. Our collection ranges from children’s books and fiction of all kinds to non-fiction, dictionaries, and educational books for adults. We have established a children's reading group which runs every weekday morning, allowing children of all ages and backgrounds who have spent many months (maybe even years) without primary education to come and practice reading in both English and their own language with our guidance.
We also have set aside a space in Alpha with comfy chairs and bookshelves where anyone can come read in a quiet, comfortable space away from the camp. The library provides a way for people living in the camp, often for many months and with little to do, with a small escape.
Our library has been successful and is expanding! If you're interested in donating to our library, follow this link to our list of needed items or check out our Amazon Wish List of requests from people in the camp!