All posts by Zaatar NGO

Raising voices, building spaces – Za’atar NGO was part of the 2021 Edition of the Raise Your Voice Festival

Za’atar NGO was honored to once again take part in the Raise Your Voice Festival this year, which took place online on April 23rd and 24th. As a key-note speaker, Aude Sathoud, our Education Coordinator, joined the discussion in a panel titled “Human Trafficking and the Day After : Integration”.

Along with workers from other organizations – Human Rights 360, Threads of Hope, Odyssea, Organization Earth, and Damaris House, they reflected on the different dimensions of the process of integration of asylum-seeking and refugee people, the challenges arising with the pandemic and sanitary restrictions as well as the importance of a holistic approach, collaboration between actors and involvement of the whole society in the support of asylum-seekers and refugees and the fight against human trafficking.

Emphasizing the necessity of defining integration, understanding it in its whole and complexity, organizations’ leader, manager, lawyer or social worker – among others shared experiences and stories illustrating both the hardships and victories of asylum-seeking and refugee people and families’ journeys.

As challenging and uncomfortable the integration process and support of human trafficking survivors, asylum-seekers and refugees can be, they, as much as the hearing of and listening to their voices and bodies, are a matter of democracy.

Did you miss the panel ? Watch its recording here !

“Informing and Inspiring a New Age of Digital Education for Refugees”– A KAICIID & Sirius Network Workshop

On April 22nd and 23rd, our Education Coordinator, Aude Sathoud, got the opportunity to take part in an online workshop co-organized by the International Dialogue Centre KAICIID-Network for Dialogue, of which Za’atar NGO has long been a member, and the SIRIUS Network. Around the theme, “Informing and Inspiring a New Age of Digital Education for Refugees”, the workshop gathered more than forty actors of formal and informal education coming from eleven countries.

Educational researchers, teachers, IGO and NGO professionals, policy-makers altogether worked to define and attempt to respond to the challenges faced by asylum-seekers, refugees and migrant people face in digital education.

Those two rich afternoon of exchanges, experience-sharing and collaboration addressed issues as diverse as “Access to Digital Devices and Internet for Education of Refugees and Migrants”,  “Holistic Support in Education and Dialogue with Policy Makers”, “Academic and Social Language in the Absence of Face to Face School”, “Pedagogical, Curriculum and Wider Educational Support for Refugees in Centres and Newly-Arrived Migrants” and “Support and Dialogue with Migrant Parents and Communities”.

After a first day of cross-country discussion, the second and final afternoon was dedicated to the elaboration of concrete action plans by national teams, to be implemented in each country’s context.

Considering education as a key-element in the process of integration of asylum-seeking and refugee populations, Za’atar NGO was honored to take part in such exciting and fruitful conversations.

BRIDGES’Seminar Is Waiting For You ! – Press Release

From June 29th to July 23rd, 2021, will take place the ONLINE Summer School “Building solidarity.
Feminist and Anti-racist Practices in Higher Education”, organized by the Erasmus + BRIDGES project:
Building Inclusive Societies: Diversifying Knowledge and Tackling Discrimination through Civil Society
Participation in Universities.

Thanks to the alliances between the different universities and civil society organizations that make up
BIRDGES, this Summer School proposes to its participants:
• To provide the tools to analyse the mechanisms and conditions of institutional inequality that are
produced and reproduced within Higher Education.
• To explore and deepen our undertsanding of key theories, concepts and practices related to antiracist and feminist struggles.
• To experiment with, and put into practice, pedagogical methods and strategies that challenge racism
and discrimination within and outside the classroom.
• To promote participants’ role as agents of change within Higher Education Institutions

The methodologies used are based on Participatory Action Research and collaborative work, and will be facilitated by members of the BRIDGES project consortium, which include: Universitat Autònoma de
Barcelona, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, University of Brighton, Feminist Autonomous Center for
Research, Sindillar / Sindihogar, e. V. and Za’atar.

The course will take place through synchronous online communication spaces and on other online
asynchronous work platforms, where the participants will develop a group project with the
accompaniment and guidance of members of the BRIDGES consortium. In addition, it will be requested to
participate in a collective evaluation of the Summer School in order to receive feedback for future
improved versions of the course. It has a workload of 75 hours (equivalent to 3 ECTS), distributed from
Monday to Thursday, from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CET time. The vehicular language will be English,
although translation support for other languages will be provided, if necessary.

IMPORTANT: This course is addressed to Master students, PhD students or early career teachers of any
discipline, linked to the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain), JLU Giessen (Germany), University
of Brighton (United Kingdom) and participants, members and volunteers of FACR (Greece) and ODD /
Prism (United Kingdom / Greece) who, in addition, are Master’s, PhD students or young faculty from
Greek universities (in the case of FACR members) or from English universities or Greek (in the case of
ODD members).

After having participated in all the activities of the course, you will receive an official certificate issued by
the Department of Social Psychology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Key dates:
04/23 – Applications opening
05/14 – Applications closure
05/24 – Communication of selected participants
From 06/29 to 07/23 – Course

To access the registration form and more detailed information on the Summer School, please
consult the project website:

For any questions or doubts regarding the information, please, contact: Blanca Callén, BRIDGES Project
Manager. / +34 654302786

Za’atar Goes Fishing

As the largest seaport in Greece and a major port of entry into mainland Europe for many refugees and migrants, the Port of Piraeus can be seen as a symbol of opportunity. Recently, the port has also played a role in another opportunity – a fishing school held by Zaatar to promote its mission of helping refugees and migrants build self-sufficient lifestyles.

Classes were held at the port, along with The Orange House, on Saturdays throughout October and November. Intended to help students gain the necessary tools to enter a career in fishing, students went through an application and interview process to attend. Ten students of four different nationalities – both newcomers and regulars of Orange House’s classes – were among the participants.

The schooling was taught in Arabic and featured two hours of Greek class and five hours of fishing class. Throughout the fishing classes the students learned skills of the trade such as how to make knots and how to use nets. Upon completion of the school, students were given the opportunity to apply their skills in a two- week paid internship with local fishermen.

The Sounds of the Orange House

If you could measure the activity of Orange House; the frequency of movement through its halls, the pitch of its chatter, music would be the best medium. Most days start slow—perhaps the only sounds emitted come from an early morning conversation, or a faint song from a beneficiary’s phone. As activity picks up, and more familiar faces stream through our doors, you can hear the soft strum of a guitar, resounding taps against its body, and a rounded voice carefully bring to life the words of a ballad from one’s homeland. As these sounds fill the room, our volunteers mill about and our beneficiaries enjoy their lunches while conversing with friends. Music teaching and making provides us the ability to pursue our mission to build a multicultural, generational community by integrating elements of new and old, all the while savoring in the comfort of a intimate environment.

Continuing with our passion to cultivate knowledge-sharing, we offer a series of classes that incorporate different cultural and artistic elements in skills building. Our Arab-Iranian dance classes, taught by an Orange House resident, provide lessons in belly-dancing, a dance widely popular throughout the Middle East. Classes require intense
physical exercise while enjoying classic and popular Middle Eastern dance hits. These evening lessons include Orange House residents, volunteers, and women from various parts of Athens. Our interest in the arts doesn’t stop there however, as we also provide lessons in piano, guitar, and disc-jockeying. Our teachers patiently work with students in tight-knit groups and teach music composition while also having fun in exploring new sounds.

Orange House is a space established, in part, for knowledge sharing and acquisition. To do so, it is imperative that we cultivate a trusting, comfortable, and enjoyable environment for individuals and groups to learn in. Not only do our opportunities for music learning and making accomplish this, but they also enable our beneficiaries to explore their passions, be creative, and play around in a welcoming place.

Serving up showers, Iftar, and education: Orange House works on!

As new refugees continue to arrive in Athens, and as those already here work to live, learn and adapt with dignity, Za’atar and Orange House continue to welcome them and provide services. Here’s some information on our activities in June 2018.

Orange House has just one shower but it was beautifully refurbished in spring 2018 and is working to capacity every weekday. In June 2018, we provided 805 showers – an average of 201 per week, or 38.3 per day. When the temperature rises so does the demand, and the last 2 weeks of June, we provided an average of 42 showers per day.

Classes continue to draw many enthusiastic students. Orange House offered 196 classes in June, that’s an average of 49 per week. We served 1814 students in June – over 450 per week and an average of 82.4 per day on weekdays. Classes are offered in many languages such as English, German, Greek and French, at many levels, and for speakers of different native languages – for example, ‘English for Farsi speakers’. Some of our most popular language classes are conversational English and Greek. We also offered classes in beginner and advanced guitar, dance, piano, and yoga.

Another important service is our meal program. In the last 2 weeks of June we served 231 hot lunches free of charge. In addition, we honored the Ramandan period by serving Iftar every evening after sundown. We served an average of 50 per night for the month of Ramandan. Meals were cooked by two refugees, an Iraqi man and a Lebanese woman.

Orange house also offers CV help, free WiFi, childcare for those attending classes; social worker appointments and referrals to lawyers and medical services.

All our teachers volunteer their time, and Orange House is mainly run by volunteer staff. We’d like to thank all our volunteers who manage the showers, cook meals, provide information, and teach our classes – as well as all those who use our services.

Volunteers are always needed – here’s where to apply. We’re always also always looking for donations!

Athens Beauty Redefined: Layali Salon

Back in 1963, my father-in-law, Nikos Makrigiorgos, built a block of flats at Pipinou 78 in Athens. Artemis, a pediatrician and my mother-in-law, had her office on the 6th floor, along with the family home. At street level, they installed a hairdressing salon – a “Komotirio”.

Yiannis and Rania rented and ran the komotirio for almost 50 years. It was very pink. A modesty wall protected women from street eyes during the private business of having their hair washed. Yianni’s two teenage daughters maintained a statuesque, unfathomable presence, one on each side of the door. Nikos called them the Karyatides.

Sadly, the business closed, as did many in Athens, a few years ago.
In 2018, as a volunteer at Orange House – a shelter and community center for refugees and migrants run by the Za’atar NGO – I talked to Marina, Za’atar’s intrepid leader, about her dreams of a community-based enterprise.

“Starting with something like a hair-dressing salon, to help refugees who plan to live in Greece find work, train, and prosper,” she said.

As I strolled, literally, down Memory Lane – Pipinou Street – where my husband and I lived when first married over 30 years ago, my brain and my camera clicked. With my new-found techno-skills on WhatsApp, I fizzed a photo to Marina… ‘Hey…we own this closed-down komotirio….’

WhatsApp moments are dangerous. A few days later, I was relaxing on a family vacation, when the WhatsApp warning bell chimed. In flew a similar photo.

‘Hey Anne. Guess where I am?’ Love Marina.

“So,” I said to my hapless-husband-in-holiday mode. “Remember how fond your mother was of that salon…?”
A hundred and one (give or take) signatures, rubber stamps, transatlantic texts, lost keys, sawn off padlocks, found-too-late keys, electrical certificates, old bills, new contracts, tax forms, cousin-helpers and happy-funders later, a volunteer army moved in, along with a designer, boxes of floor tiles, and paint charts. The ashtrays and modesty wall moved out. Project Layali launched, the Salon has been redefined, and it’s no longer very pink.
We’re waiting for the power and the permit. Watch this space, the light will come.

Opening the Door

This post was originally published on the author’s personal blog at

It’s 10am at Orange House in Athens, and we open up to the day’s first visitors, a family with two small boys. Here to use the hot shower which serves dozens of refugees every week, they prepare with patience in the living room – except for young Sami*, who, I learn too late, flings things about, and is not to be let loose with Lego. His parents tell their story in a single broken sentence. “We pick up our babies, and we run away from war.”

Another clang of the doorbell heralds bigger boys; young men, almost. Momentarily jaunty; briefly polite, they nod, then settle back to smartphones. Orange House offers free WiFi 10 hours a day, a clever way to tempt kids in and off the streets.

By mid morning, the door swings back and forth nonstop for students. Orange House has free classes daily in languages; guitar; yoga, dance. The youngest learners are 6 or 7, the oldest, 60 or 70; they speak Farsi, Arabic, Linguala; they’re Muslim, Christian, Hindi; some are illiterate, some have PhDs. They’re capable, they’re compromised. They move across our TV news in dusty pickup trucks and rubber dinghies, holding their children hard. They are the refugees.

Two small wet boys emerge, hair shining, from the shower. I switch Lego for a race car and instantly regret it, as Sami seizes on his new dream toy and won’t let go. I wonder if he’s traumatized or just a normal, tiresome 2 year old. As the family heads out, we resolve the issue, with a promise of the dream returned tomorrow, in words that no one really understands or much believes.We are the volunteers. Most of us are not here long, and none for long enough. We get to know them briefly and intensely – the Lego throwers; the villager who dries clothes in the oven; the Palestinian with a scholarship to Athens University. We engage over football and the weather; poetry and philosophy. We listen to tales of inhuman camps and missing family members. We clean, we teach, we pick up little plastic blocks. We direct people to doctors and link them with lawyers. We open the door.

Some say it’s a false dichotomy – whatever boat we came here on, we’re in together now – but we, the volunteers, can choose to leave. Most refugees don’t want to stay, but the world has closed its borders, so 60 thousand plus are stuck in Greece, and Greece is stuck with them. Greeks understand migration and unrest, and manage it, in general, with grace, but it’s a tough assignment for a bankrupt nation to take on.

By Anne Merewood.

Guitar Classes at the Orange House

Guitar lessons at the Orange House have proved a popular addition to the curriculum. In addition to weekly piano lessons, our guitar lessons are a great opportunity for our beneficiaries to pick up new skills other than a new language.

Recently, our guitar teacher built a website so that his students are able to practice outside of class with greater ease! The website features chords, songs, and a brief overview of what is offered at the Orange House.

Check out our new guitar lesson website here!

Join us today at the Orange House for lessons, or if you’re able, please donate to help support this program!

Douce-Extase: An Orange House Poem

A French poet recently joined us at the Orange House. He writes under the pen name Pream.

For our French readers, take a look at his poem about the Orange House below!

Douce extase qui habille ma nouvelle enfance
De jeux aussi vieux que la poussière,
D’éclats de rires et d’éclats d’éclairs
Que les regards amusés se lancent.

Le monde réunit en une poignée de cœurs,
Triomphent un moment de leurs peines et leurs peurs,
Chantent, dansent avec la même douceur
Que l’abeille papillonne de fleurs en fleurs.

Les mélodies s’enchaînent et les pas se libèrent,
De la main au bassin la volupté ondule
Et la tendresse de lèvres en lèvres libellule,
Pour déposer en chaque prunelle un grain de lumière.

Grain qui fleurit et illumine
Les ombres que laissent les larmes tombées,
Les visages qui s’ouvrent à cette innocente gaieté,
Cette fièvre humaine qui dans toutes âmes se devine.

L’aurore amoureuse et délicate soulève nos cœurs
D’une furieuse ivresse et embrase d’une même lueur
La plus pure des beautés, par la plus tendre des faveurs,
Celle d’être libre l’espace de quelques heures.