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Archive Monthly Archives: July 2019

How I Became Part of Za’atar’s Family – Aude’s Volunteering Testimony (2/2)

During the month that felt like a lifetime, this June 2019, I volunteered for Za’atar NGO. From folding children’s clothing, organizing folders, and even giving a guitar class in sign language; to taking an improvised Irani dance lesson at the Layali Salon, I learnt what volunteering is all about, what activism and social change truly mean. Back in France, where I have not stopped working for Za’atar NGO, and before going back to Athens as soon as possible, I thought I would give you a little insight of what my life had been – or really what it became, there at The Orange House.

My name is Aude Sathoud, I am an eighteen-year-old French-Congolese student in Political and Social Sciences at Sciences Po, and this is a little bit of my story.

Part 2 – When the Orange House becomes Home.

In addition to my weekly shifts at the Orange House, and occasional support to Pampiraiki at the warehouse, I was lucky to get the opportunity to give a few English classes, during the second part of my Athenian adventure. About twenty classes are offered every week at the Orange House. Focusing on language classes (English and Greek, are the main ones) students can attend a great variety of classes and activities. They are encouraged to come to the English conversation sessions to practice speaking, or even learn to write and improve their C.V during dedicated workshops. Moreover, they can follow a computer skills class given thanks to a collaboration with the Social Hackers Academy, join the second running installation of the Cooking Class job training, and even learn some very nice hip moves by taking the Irani and Arabic dance class.  

Offering the most varied and qualitative classes/activities, the Orange House is a principal factor inscribed in Za’atar NGO’s philosophy of empowerment of students as well as volunteers. Za’atar’s mission is not about providing refugees basic goods and services to survive; it is to give them the keys to build a sustainable way of living their own lives. Asking for volunteers to be dynamic and proactive, Za’atar encourages them to share their knowledge and talents. This is how a gardening-lover once happened to cover the Orange House with flowers; a yoga instructor to offer personalized yoga sessions; or a dance student to teach basic moves and choreography to beneficiaries. This is how I ended up giving an unplanned one-hour guitar class to two farsi-speaking siblings, trying to bond without any other language than smiles, thumbs up, and high-fives. 

In one month at the Orange House, I did not learn that much about the war in Syria, life under bombings, survival methods in camps, or the dangers of crossing borders. I did not talk nor hear much about exile, loss, nor death. I did learn, however, how to cook foufou the Guinean way; even play a Hindi hit song on the guitar or dance some Irani steps. I did hear, however, about the Senegalese wrestling, Oriental threading, and the best spots to trek at dawn in Turkey.  I did learn, however, about the freedom of sailing, and the feeling of the wind on one’s skin when climbing. 

In one month at the Orange House, I did not meet those refugees I had been told about for years. I did not meet victims – we would rather say survivors. I did meet, however, a mechanical engineer, a literature teacher, a medical student, a police officer – and even a race car driver! I did meet, however, a great number of soccer players, happy eaters, funny pranksters… From my one-month volunteering with Za’atar, I do not recall neither drama nor tears. I do recall, however, our dances and laughters. 

To  learn more about Za’atar, and their various amazing initiatives please visit their website and Instagram!

zaatarngo.org

instagram.com/zaatarproject/

www.projectlayali.org/

Speaking Up To Move Forward.

In order to better advocate for and empower the refugees and migrants welcomed at the Orange House, Za’atar’s leadership regularly takes part in both national and international conferences and meetings. From interfaith and intercultural initiatives, to a sexual and gender-based violence panel, Za’atar’s director Marina Liakis has been both a speaker at, and an attendee of conferences and workshops focusing on issues surrounding the inclusion of migrants and refugees in Europe.

Thus far, Za’atar has been included in three of the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID)’s Network for Dialogue workshops; focusing on network planning in order to learn how to pursue their mission in the most empowering, productive, economic, and eco-friendly ways. The KAICIID, founded in 2012, is a “partner for UN agencies, national governments and internationally active religious and interreligious organizations”. In this framework, Ms. Liakis has spoken at roundtables alongside representatives of faith-based and secular organizations about how to advocate for the rights and well-being of migrants and those seeking refuge. Some of the questions dealt with included: “How do young migrants’ and refugees’ understanding of the “Other” change based on where they are?” “How can faith-based approaches help or hinder inclusion?”

In June 2018, Za’atar was present in Lyon, France to partake in conferences organized for the Journée D’étude Internationale; addressing Transnational Mobility and Religious Realities through a roundtable entitled “Forced Migration, Social Inclusion, and Humanitarian Actions in Context”.

Earlier in March 2018, Ms. Liakis represented Za’atar in an expert panel concerning Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in the context of forced migration, held by The Unmentionables in collaboration with the Harvard Policy Leadership Group at the Wyndham Grand Athens. Addressing a topical issue in the specific, and too often forgotten situation of displaced communities, the discussion aimed at crossing perspectives, deepening the understanding to eventually propose concrete policy recommendations.

Za’atar NGO has an ongoing commitment to participating in international dialogues in order to both educate and learn from other actors in a shared mission: to advocate for the rights and inclusion of refugees and migrants throughout Europe.

For more information about the mentioned conferences, please visit the KAICIID’s website: https://www.kaiciid.org

To learn more about Za’atar NGO, the Orange House, Project Layali, and their various amazing initiatives please visit their websites and Instagram!

zaatarngo.org

instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Home

How I Became Part of Za’atar’s Family – Aude’s Volunteering Testimony

During the month that felt like a lifetime, this June 2019, I volunteered for Za’atar NGO. From folding children’s clothing, organizing a folder, and even giving a guitar class in sign language; to taking an improvised Irani dance lesson at the Layali Salon, I learnt what volunteering is all about, what activism and social change truly mean. Back in France, where I have not stopped working for Za’atar NGO, and before going back to Athens as soon as possible, I thought I would give you a little insight of what my life had been – or really what it became, there at The Orange House.

My name is Aude Sathoud, I am an eighteen-year-old French-Congolese student in Political and Social Sciences at Sciences Po, and this is a little bit of my story.

Part 1 – Where I Learn That Every Action Matters.

Hosted at the volunteers’ apartment where I lived for four weeks with some eight different roommates, coming from Australia, Mexico, France, and Morocco I quickly understood the importance of the “team spirit” Za’atar promotes, which soon turned into a real family bond.

I spent part of my time at The Orange House, Za’atar’s day center where volunteers work in four-hour-shifts, welcoming students, receiving donations, answering phone calls, informing newcomers, and insuring a positive atmosphere and the smoothest running of the House.

Once or twice a week I was sent to the warehouse run by a partner organization of Za’atar, Pampiraiki, settled in the buildings of the old Athens’ airport and 2004 Olympic stadiums. Requisitioned in emergency at the peak of the migrant arrivals to the Piraeus port, this vast empty space hosted thousands of people for a period, before being transformed into a sorting center for the donations flowing from around the world into Greece and all of Europe.

Clothing, shoes, games, blankets, food, and more; I spent hours there, packing and ordering. While this may not be Za’atar’s first mission, it is a crucial aspect to them to provide their support and take part in every step of the process in order to build a global solution to the migrants’ and refugees’ situations.  Sharing this belief, I did not hesitate for an instant when I was offered to take part in a beach clean-up of one of Athens’ most crowded and consequently polluted beaches, Edem.

According to the United Nations, the world will count 250 million climatic refugees in 2050. Dedicated to refugees’ empowerment, Za’atar NGO considers social action in its widest meaning, and therefore makes sure that all of its’ initiatives act in favour of the protection of the ecosystems and sustainable development. That is why they offer vegan meals at The Orange House daily, buy raw materials from local producers, use vegan/cruelty-free brands at Layali Salon, and sell clothes at the Layali Shop which are often made from recycling the many donations received by the organization.

Stay tuned for the next peak into my volunteering experience with Za’atar NGO! To  learn more about them, and their various amazing initiatives please visit their websites and Instagram!

zaatarngo.org

instagram.com/zaatarproject/

http://www.projectlayali.org/

Sunday Fun Day – Just Another Day of Fun!

It is 11:30am on a peaceful Sunday of Spring as an enthusiastic group waits in front of the Orange House for another Sunday Fun Day adventure. Since there are usually no classes to attend on the weekend, beneficiaries are invited to take part in free Sunday activities. From children to elders, everyone is welcome! 

Movie projections at the Orange House, discovery walk of Athens’ numerous and gorgeous parks, free visits to various museums, with every Sunday comes its new activity, organized by our volunteers. 

The idea of the Sunday Fun Day first came to Za’atar’s founders when they noticed the negative vision refugees and foreign newcomers living in the camps have developed about Athens; and therefore, about Greece. Willing to introduce them to the richness of the culture and history of a country they rarely consider settling in, they quickly realized the deeper impact the initiative had on our beneficiaries.

 Too often confined in the poorest neighbourhoods and neglected fringes of the Athens, refugees end up feeling condemned to such an environment and in turn this can make refugees feel “unworthy” to aspire to a better quality of life. Getting the chance to learn about Athens’ past and Greek civilization, going to visit a Van Gogh exhibit, or even taking part in the celebration of the Orthodox Pesach, are all ways to ease their social integration and break their own mental barriers and self-censorship regarding art and culture – that is true empowerment!

Find out more about Za’atar NGO and our other initiatives by visiting our website and Instagram!

zaatarngo.org

https://www.instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Pride 2019 – The Orange House for the Rainbow Day

Rainbow flags brightly painted on their cheeks, and their skin sparkling, Za’atar’s volunteers were present all day long at our booth in Syntagma Square this Saturday June 8th for Athens Pride. 

Za’atar is always aware of the particularly hard situations faced by the most vulnerable populations– unaccompanied minors, vulnerable minors, single women and LGBTQ+ refugees. The ATLAS initiative Za’atar presents and promotes every year at Pride specifically targets the LGBTQ+ refugee and migrant populations in Athens. 

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are often seriously threatened and actively persecuted in their home countries, and refugees unfortunately do not find more safety or peace once they have crossed  European borders. They indeed are very likely to experience the same violence from their home community in camps. That is why they require specific aid, that very few organizations acknowledge and/or offer.

Since 2016 ATLAS or “Aid To LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers” Initiative offers a safe and friendly support group for LGBTQ+ refugees, their family, and friends. In coordination with ATLAS, Za’atar built a program designed to ease the transition into European life for these individuals. It provides a variety of services such as:

  • Operating a Helpline for LGBTQ+ refugees worldwide in Farsi, Arabic, French and English
  • Providing a safe space at The Orange House for people of all sexual orientations and genders
  • Teaching the broader refugee community about LGBTQ+ rights
  • Ensuring all volunteers are LGBTQ+ friendly
  • Organizing LGBTQ+ social events to assist members of the community in meeting one another.

Being present at Pride every year enables Za’atar to raise awareness, meet with other organizations working for a more intersectional and real inclusion, and show support and dedication in times where no human right is ever granted.  

Contact us by searching ‘ATLAS (Aid To LGBTQ Asylum Seekers) on Facebook or http://www.facebook.com/groups/atlas LGBTQ/, calling +30 694 067 1666 or emailing contact@zaatarngo.org.

Find out more about Za’atar NGO and our other initiatives by visiting our website and Instagram!

zaatarngo.org

https://www.instagram.com/zaatarproject/