All posts by Aude Sathoud

Why volunteering?

Back in May of this year, Za’atar NGO celebrated its fourth anniversary. Four years through which we have learned and reflected a lot – on humanitarian work, what it means to volunteer, to empower, and so much more. That is why, on this occasion, we had the idea to share with potential volunteers and fellow NGO workers Four Lessons we learned these past four years. 

Za’atar Summer Series 2020 – 1/4

Why volunteering?  

Sitting on the bed of my first student flat, facing my phone camera, waiting a little nervously for the interview with a Za’atar NGO member to start, I remember asking myself again if this was what I wanted to do and why, if volunteering was the right thing for me, 18-year-old French political science student back then. 

Learning about the “refugee crisis” from afar, through sensational media representation and apocalyptic political discourses, it is easy and somehow tempting, as a well-intentioned young person, to feel the will to take action, show solidarity and help.  Volunteering is one great way to get involved – which nonetheless requires some preparatory reflection. 

Determined to help people living in a precarious and unfair situation, one can indeed end up – more or less consciously imprisoning them in a passive and dependant position, cultivating a rather unhealthy relationship to volunteer work and its beneficiaries. Maintaining refugees and asylum seekers in such a state, considering them as weak and desperate people to be saved, will not help them. 

A volunteer is there to inform, accompany and support, work with the beneficiary towards their autonomy and self-reliance. If they are indeed experiencing complex and harsh circumstances, refugee, asylum seeker and migrant people, have actually been through challenges and hardships we, European and Western volunteers, have not – and cannot imagine. They, therefore, are capable – and strong. They have left their home, land and loved ones, walked and travelled thousands of kilometres, crossed borders, deserts and seas. There is no doubt they can look for a job, fill a form or search on the Internet by themselves.  They will ask for the help and information they need, which volunteers and organizations are meant to provide.

Volunteers are neither saviours nor superheroes. Volunteering for a month in an NGO will not change the world or anyone’s life – and that is not the goal. Volunteering is a job – with its tasks and constraints, codes and limits and a commitment. Volunteering is an enriching and important mission that demands humility, open-mindedness and self-questioning. Volunteering can be a profound and moving experience – from human to human, capable intelligent individual to capable intelligent individual. 

If this resonates with you, then, go on. It is time to get ready for the adventure!

Stay updated on all our adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo



Za’atar NGO Turned 4 Years Old in 2020!

Za’atar NGO celebrated its fourth anniversary on May, 15th, this year. A great occasion to look back at this amazing adventure we’ve been living since the beginning. 

For the past four years, what had started as a common wish to create something new, something different, in the NGO world – a haven where to learn, rest and get empowered; a safe space to start building one’s future as a human being beyond one’s refugee status; has turned into an incredible human experience. Gathering refugees and volunteers from all around the world, promoting an ethical, intersectional and humble approach to social work in order to accompany, support and work with the beneficiaries in the most horizontal and collaborative way, Za’atar NGO has given birth to a strong and unique community. 

Dedicated to the social inclusion and empowerment of refugees and asylum seekers, paying specific attention to the most vulnerable of them – single women and mothers, LGBTQIA+ individuals – Za’atar NGO founders and team believe people are more than their legal status and that migrating, which can happen to any of us, should not define one’s entire person nor existence, should not prevent anyone from achieving their projects and working on new ones. 

In this perspective, Za’atar NGO founders, after opening the Orange House, day-center offering language classes, professional job-trainings and more – guitar and dance lessons, introduction to computing, free visits to Athenian museums, etc.; along with hosting the women shelter, launched Project Layali, a not-for-profit social enterprise. Its aim is to create small businesses that employ refugees and migrants in Athens. From this were successively born the Layali Shop – selling clothes, accessories and jewellery created by refugees themselves, Layali Salon – eco-friendly hair salon employing former students of the Orange House’s hairdressing job training, and Tastes of Damascus, restaurant-café offering home-made Syrian delights, hiring students of the Orange House Cooking Class as well. 

Proud of its achievements and beliefs, always working to do better; to question the status quo, and learn, Za’atar NGO founders and team are happy to celebrate those first four incredible years with you and excited for the ones to come! They are deeply grateful for all the support, volunteers and funders who have faith in their project and make it possible, every day. 

Happy 4th Birthday Za’atar, Orange House, and Project Layali Family!

Stay updated on all our adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Project Layali 

www.projectlayali.org/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/projectlayali/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/projectlayali/



Tastes of Damascus, model of diversity in the workplace

Hasan Hmeydan and Marina Liakis, founders of Tastes of Damascus, eco-friendly social restaurant employing refugees to promote inclusion and empowerment, were kindly invited to share their experience in the framework of the Diversity in the workplace program of the Generation 2.0 RED organization.

After a rich moment of experience-sharing and discussion on the Greek restaurant industry and practical advice to be a great employee – attitude at work, CV presentation, knowledge in Greek, to better navigate the labor market and improve one’s chances to be hired, Hasan and Marina took their team of guests to the restaurant, located in Kipseli. There, they had the opportunity to meet and exchange with Tastes of Damascus’employees and manager, and even to taste Sofia’s delicious traditional falafel and ayran – a sweet note to end an instructive and exciting day for everyone.

We would like to thank Generation 2.0 RED for this invitation and their trust. Read more on their organization on their website and on Hasan and Marina’s intervention here.

Stay updated on all our adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Project Layali 

www.projectlayali.org/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/projectlayali/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/projectlayali/

Thinking and Creating change : Za’atar NGO is part of the Network for Dialogue

On October 20-21st, 2019, the first European Policy Dialogue Forum on Refugees and Migrants was held in Athens. Gathering a great diversity of actors – policy makers, religious leaders, academics and civil society members , it was organized by the Network for Dialogue and The International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), an intergovernmental organization working to promote interfaith and intercultural dialogue and actions.

As part of this network, Za’atar NGO took part in the conversation. Our co-founder and director, Marina Liakis, was invited to share her experience and knowledge. This first forum, whose theme was “Understanding current challenges of refugees and migrants in Europe: What can we do?” aimed at making new propositions emerge and widen horizons on the social inclusion of refugees and migrants, through discussion and experience-sharing.

Dedicated to the protection, support, social inclusion and empowerment of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, Za’atar NGO is determined to advocate for and with them so that both policies and minds evolve for the better.

Why “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia” is important to us

Every 17th of May, the “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia” is observed in a great number of countries worldwide. On this occasion, Za’atar NGO would like to recall the importance of the specific attention to and protection of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer) asylum seekers and refugees.

Many LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are often seriously threatened and actively persecuted in their home countries, and they 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 just one reason why they require specific aid, which very few organizations acknowledge and/or offer.

Since 2016, ATLAS (Aid To LGBTQ+ Asylum Seekers) initiative has been offering 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 enable members of the community to meet and exchange with one another.

In those particular and challenging times of pandemic and movement restrictions, LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers are even more vulnerable. Locked in the camps, they have no more access to the dedicated “Safe Spaces” where they used to spend a moment or the whole day to get some rest and/or relief. The number of calls and messages from isolated refugees and asylum seekers to ATLAS has seen a significant increase in the past two months. ATLAS remains active on WhatsApp and Facebook. 

Za’atar NGO, acting for  the protection, support and empowerment of all refugees and asylum seekers, is aware of the particularly difficult situations faced by the most vulnerable populations– unaccompanied minors, single women and LGBTQ+ refugees – and determined to stand for and with them. 

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/

Closing the Book on Layali Shop’s Adventure: Looking Back on a Rich and Fulfilling Experience

One and a half years after our little shop opened its doors in the centre of Athens, the adventure of the Layali Shop has now come to an end. 

We are extremely grateful for the opportunity we were given by the city of Athens to use the local for free. We are very proud to have built and led this project to the furthest we could. Layali Shop, part of the greater Layali Project (our non-for-profit social enterprise), has provided valuable support for refugees and asylum seekers to sell their creations, improve their linguistic and artistic skills, find a space to invent, create, and feel empowered. 

Layali Salon, our eco-friendly hair salon, remains open by appointment. (Call +30 694 974 0754)

Thank you for supporting us in all our projects! 

Stay updated on all our adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Project Layali 

www.projectlayali.org/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/projectlayali/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/projectlayali/


Welcome back to Damascus!

Tastes of Damascus, our eco-friendly Restaurant-Café, employing refugees and migrants, has finally reopened its doors !

We are very happy to finally be able to welcome you back in Kipseli, to offer you a tasty journey while respecting the current sanitary measures and social distancing rules. Outside tables are now one meter and a half from each other, and we are lucky to be supported by the city of Athens, that allows us to settle on a larger space to ensure the safety of all. All our staff members are provided with masks and gloves and hand sanitizer is available as well.

We are looking forward to seeing you again !

Visit our website to get all the information on Tastes of Damascus: https://tastes-of-damascus.business.site/.


A little piece of Damascus in the heart of Athens

Summer is at the corner and life is slowly coming back in the streets of Athens. Time will soon come to take a seat at a café and enjoy a nice meal under the sun. Tastes of Damascus, located at Negri Fokionos 19, Athina, will be waiting for you! 

Visit our brand new website here: https://tastes-of-damascus.business.site/.

Tastes of Damascus is an eco-friendly Restaurant-Café, employing refugees and migrants as for every activity of the Layali Project non-profit social enterprise.  First opened on February 17, its success and activity have enabled us to hire two refugees of Syrian origins so far. We will be reopening as soon as the sanitary measures allow us to, in order to continue training more and more refugees. 

We select the candidates depending on their motivation and will, during individual interviews, and require them to have at least a basic knowledge of Greek language and some cooking skills. We then accompany them through administrative procedures to get their identity documents or residence permits, open a bank account or have a medical examination. 

One of our two current employees has followed English, Greek and Cooking lessons at the Orange House. New sessions of cooking training, which are given in Greek, will soon be offered at the Orange House, to benefit the greater number of refugees. 

More exciting projects regarding the restaurant are to come! Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, do not hesitate to visit our website to get all the information on Tastes of Damascus: https://tastes-of-damascus.business.site/.

We hope to see you soon! 

Stay updated on all our projects and adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Project Layali : www.projectlayali.org/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/projectlayali/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/projectlayali/


The Orange House’s classes do not stop!

In this particular context we have been living for a while now, restricting our contacts and movements, the Orange House has not stopped its activities.

The Orange House team has adapted its organization to insure the smooth running of some of its classes online. Using Zoom services, seven language classes have been launched – three groups in English, four groups in Greek. After a successful test week to define and fit the student’s needs and constraints, we are now hoping to recruit more English teachers to benefit the greatest number.

The Orange House team is looking forward to opening its doors again!

Stay home and take care.

Stay updated on all our projects and adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

  • Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/
  • Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Tastes of Damascus


Za’atar NGO is very proud to announce the launching of its new – and tasty project: Tastes of Damascus! 

An eco-friendly Restaurant-Café, employing refugees and migrants as is the case for every activity of the Layali Project non-profit social enterprise.  We will soon welcome you all at Fokionos Negri, Kipseli, to delight you with the best flavours of the Middle East. Stay tuned; the doors will be open in the weeks to come!

While discovering new tastes and flavours, be an actor of social integration as well! One of the objectives of the project is to promote self-reliance for refugees and migrants. Refugees who will be employed in the restaurant will have a fixed income, allowing them to rely on a safe, legal, and sustainable way to support themselves and their families. In addition to the Cooking Classes already offered at the Orange House, we are hoping to launch an apprenticeship program within the restaurant which will provide refugees and migrants with valuable entry-level experience. 

Since we believe intercultural exchange is precious for society, we aim at promoting it in our actions for a better mutual understanding. In addition to attending Greek language classes at the Orange House, refugees will be able to practice and improve their conversational skills on a day-to-day basis while dealing with customers. In return, they will have the opportunity to introduce a side of their own culture as well by sharing their traditional dishes with the community they live in.

In the long-term, we wish to organize cultural events such as live music or photography exhibitions that will introduce and display the rich culture of countries such as Syria and Iran to locals who are eager to learn more about refugees and their backgrounds. 

We hope to see you soon at Tastes of Damascus!

Stay updated on all our projects and adventures by following us on our social media.

Za’atar NGO 

  • Instagram : instagram.com/zaatarproject/
  • Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/zaatarngo

Project Layali : www.projectlayali.org/

  • Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/projectlayali/
  • Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/projectlayali/