Refugees have full access to Greek healthcare and can go to public hospitals or NGOs to get whatever service they require. However, since most health professionals speak only Greek, language is a barrier leaving refugees unable to communicate their needs. We have Arabic and Farsi speakers who volunteer with us. We assist our residents in dealing with any healthcare needs they might have, and offer wellness activities such as yoga on a regular basis. We refer visitors to nearby medical NGOs as needed.
In addition, Zaatar works closely with a medical NGO nearby that has created a tailored program of seminars that they offer at the Orange House. Zaatar also offers yoga classes, body healing classes, and has also held several art therapy classes.
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual)
Most LGBT refugees come from countries where being gay is considered a crime. Upon reaching Europe these refugees are forced to live in overcrowded camps and shelters with fellow nationals where harassment and bullying is common. Zaatar’s goal is to provide this vulnerable group with much needed support, provided in Arabic and Farsi, by:
- Teaching refugees and the broader communities about LGBT rights
- Advising them of LGBT-friendly NGOs
- Helping LGBT refugees establish community groups (in-person or virtual) so they can meet others facing the same issues, and form friendships.
- Fostering a mentoring program facilitated by volunteers who speak Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Kurdish, French and English. and identify as LGBT themselves, and who guide and teach refugees and vulnerable individuals about LGBT rights and connect them with appropriate resources.
- Organizing LGBT social events to assist people to meet each other
- Reaching out to refugees in camps and informal settlements, making sure that they know of our services, contact numbers, and Facebook group
- Ensuring that our volunteers are LGBT friendly.
We have a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/atlasLGBTQ/ and encourage anyone (LGBT or allies) to join it.
This program is targeted at unaccompanied minors who are often traveling alone and without a support network. A Buddy would support the minor as he/she prepares for the next stage of his/her journey whether it’s learning a language and cultural norms or providing emotional and psychological support.
Buddies are people who fluently speak the same language as the refugee, who are either from the same culture or who know it well, and are familiar with life in western cultures. The two people would meet either virtually (Skype, Whatsapp etc.) or ideally, in person. Our aim is for the Buddy to be a long-term friend – helping with daily struggles, offering a shoulder when necessary and a ready smile, and assisting the minor to integrate into life in Greece and, if applicable, their destination country.
Back to School Project
Many refugees, adults and children, have not had access to formal education for many years. These lost years have meant many children and some adults do not read or write properly, even in their mother tongue. We offer weekly classes and one-on-one tutoring for refugees wanting to learn. And by providing free childcare and on-site classes single mothers can take advantage of the language classes and independent learning activities.
To the extent possible our resident children are registered in local Greek schools. We monitor their progress and have meetings with their teachers to ensure that things are going well. Homework help is provided to them and other refugee children, per our weekly schedule.
Basic Arabic and Farsi
Many refugees are not reading due to a lack of books and resources in their mother tongue. The Orange House is developing a library as well as a roster of teachers who can help with their writing and reading as well as information about their country’s history, geography and culture. We have Arabic books and Farsi and Arabic dictionaries in our book collection.
Classes in key languages such as Greek, French, English, Spanish and German help prepare refugees for their new lives. Whether beginner or more advanced, Zaatar’s language classes provide a solid base for children and adults to not only survive, but thrive in their new environment.
Donated second-hand computers and laptops enable visitors and residents at The Orange House to pursue independent learning. Given the phenomenal resources available via the internet residents and visitors alike can choose courses, often for free, to learn by themselves. In addition we provide assistance with computer skills and other job preparation skills, with the goal of assisting refugees to find work in Greece or beyond. Refugees living at the Orange House have participated in markets where they have sold goods that they have made, for example clothing and jewellery, and offered hairstyling services.
Weekly Class Schedule
A schedule of classes and activities is posted weekly on our Facebook page—www.facebook.com/zaatarngo. Classes are free for refugees and migrants, and are offered by local and international volunteers (including refugees). Our classes are often offered at the beginner, intermediate and advanced level and evolve as the needs of the students change.
Zaatar supports refugees who have been imprisoned in Greece. We call this project “SIOPI” which means “silence” in Greek. We chose this name as often prisoners have no voice in society, and aren’t aware of their rights. Greek lawyers and specialized local volunteers (including medical NGOs in Athens) assist us in implementing this project.
Our current focus within the SIOPI project is on prisoners who have recently been released from prison. We assist them in finding suitable accommodation, access to health and wellness supports, and in integrating into Greek society. Over time we aim to support them in job readiness and in finding jobs.
Orange House Project
The Orange House opened in May 2016 in the Exarcheia area of Athens. Our vision is to provide:
- Housing for refugees, with a current focus on single women and mothers and their children.
- Support for unaccompanied minors and people from the LGBT community.
- A variety of classes and activities for the local refugee and migrant community.
- A safe space for refugees to relax and meet people.
- Individual support for vulnerable individuals, with referrals to other organisations as needed
- Additional services for residents and visitors, including laundry, a showering facility for women and children, and a lunch program that runs from Mondays to Saturdays.
- Professional services including lawyers, social workers and psychologists with interpreters from a major Greek NGO attend Zaatar twice a month, and medical practitioners from a major Greek NGO attend Zaatar once a week.