Empowering all.

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

After finding the good balance and position towards the people you have chosen to inform, accompany and support, having reflected on the complexity of the relationship tied between volunteers and beneficiaries, time has come to think about the eventual unconscious biases one may have towards the latter and perhaps should question in order to fulfil their mission as a volunteer to the best.

Za’atar Summer Series 2020 – 4/4

Empowering all.

Refugee, asylum-seeker and migrant people come from all walks and sizes, bearing their own story, each following their own path, facing their challenges while sharing the pain of one’s flight, the loss of one’s home and the will to build a new, safer, better life. However, once arrived in Europe, they may, depending on their origins and national public policies regarding immigration, find themselves in a variety of situations, and have a more or less easy access to resources. A great number of services aiming at refugee people offer a translation in Arabic and Farsi while French, which is the main language talked by people coming from Sub-Saharan Africa, is often forgotten, for example. The same can be said of housing policies, which favour some groups over others – based on an appreciation of their reasons for migrating, of course, those are not arbitrary decisions. Some similar or different forms of discrimination, more or less conscious, can also be observed within humanitarian organizations.

It is not rare to see volunteers spending some time and getting familiar with English-speaking beneficiaries – while English is not Greece’s national language. By doing so, however, they encourage people to learn and practice a language they themselves, foreign volunteers, speak and often have as a mother-tongue rather than those refugees and asylum-seekers’ integration into the Greek society, which cannot be possible without the tool of language.

Volunteers indeed tend to pay more attention to or be more friendly with beneficiaries who resemble them, exchanging with a young westernized English-speaker man rather than a middle-aged pious African woman trying to learn Greek, for instance.

All those behaviors are obviously not surprising considering humans, as social beings, are attracted to what looks familiar, known, and therefore, friendly. They, consequently, have to overcome mental barriers to exchange with individuals who appear or act in different, unknown, strange ways. However, when working as a humanitarian volunteer or worker, when undertaking a mission of support and empowerment of migrant, asylum-seeker and refugee people, it perhaps is of our responsibility, as human beings and social actors, to go beyond our prejudices and preconceptions, to overcome our fear of the Other, the unknown, the stranger-coming-from-far-away, in order to approach, exchange with and welcome them.

In this regard, progress could be achieved by simply raising awareness on those unconscious tendencies and bias one may have, through dedicated training and information. Because being willing to work among foreign people, volunteering with migrant, asylum-seeker and refugee people, does not mean one is completely emancipated from social constructs and prejudice.

And because empowerment begins with the eyes you chose to lay on the other.

Za’atar NGO is proud ! Athens 2020 Digital Pride

Covid-19 will not stop the LGBTQ+  community from celebrating its pride, raising awareness on its issues and defending its rights.

In this exceptional time of sanitary crisis restricting public gatherings, Athens Pride 2020 festivities are going virtual. From September 4th to 11th, a series of events is taking place online to commemorate, advocate for and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

As a proud actor of the promotion and defense of LGBTQ+ rights, Za’atar NGO will, once again, be present to Pride, through an online session of presentation of their dedicated program, ATLAS, by cofounder and director Marina Liakis, on September 11th at 1pm. This will be followed, at 3pm, by an intervention of Tony Haouam, university professor specialized on race and gender studies and head of the Pedagogical Commission of Migr’ENS – French organization that teaches French to asylum-seekers while accompanying them to navigate the French administration and legal system, and consultant for the NGO.

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, movement restrictions and increased anxiety, LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers are even more vulnerable. The ATLAS program and line have seen a rise in the number of calls and beneficiaries. This is a reminder of the precariousness of an already vulnerable population that Pride is also there to shed light on and support – which is the message Za’atar  NGO will make sure to spread.

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!


September Volunteers.

Our registry of volunteers for the month of September 2020.

Volunteer-beneficiary: a complex and specific relationship.

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

A journey is a story of landscapes, noises and flavours, bodies and faces, discoveries and encounters. This becomes even truer when travelling to volunteer – being part of a team, working alongside people from all walks and sizes to accompany, support and empower migrant, refugee and asylum-seeker people.

Za’atar Summer Series 2020 – 3/4

Volunteer-beneficiary: a complex and specific relationship.

Welcoming them all, meeting new faces every day, recognizing some as time goes on, one may find themselves share common tastes or thoughts, privileged moments or conversations and create a beautiful bond with one or a few beneficiaries. From human to human, suddenly connecting, beyond prejudice and borders.

However, one should not forget the specific framework and complexity of the volunteer-beneficiary relationship. Any interaction between a volunteer, working for an NGO whose mission is to accompany and support a specific group of vulnerable people, and one of its beneficiaries, implies an undeniable power dynamic. The former indeed finds themselves in a position of material, legal and existential stability and comfort while the latter surely lives in precarious conditions preventing them to navigate the environment as easily and freely, and therefore requiring some help or assistance. Keeping this in mind, working with a will to empower is a way to challenge this hierarchical relationship and give the beneficiaries the access, knowledge and means to achieve their own autonomy so that they, one day, do not need those services anymore.

In such conditions, deepened ties with one beneficiary may inevitably lead to some kind of favouritism in a framework where neutrality and equal treatment for all is required, to the detriment – and perhaps incomprehension of all the others. Beneficiaries may as well believe that, by tying strong links with volunteers, they could have an easier access to goods or services – housing or money, to the risk of establishing a situation of dependency.

Therefore, while approaching beneficiaries with benevolence, warmth and kindness is important and precious, being aware of the conditions, limits and asymmetry of the relationship one, as a volunteer in their work space, can build with vulnerable people they are in charge of accompanying and supporting on their way towards self-reliance and autonomy, is essential. 

And this, to achieve one’s mission as a volunteer to its best – that is, to empower all.

Getting ready.

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

Za’atar Summer Series 2020 – 2/4

Getting ready.

Now that you have reflected on your will to help and take action by volunteering, time has come to get ready for the adventure.

As you will have understood it by now, volunteering is not a common experience. Flying abroad to work for an NGO is not like taking a vacation – and it can actually be better! That is why, as any work and any adventure, volunteering requires preparation and planning, curiosity and learning.

Buy a guide, surf the Internet, and ask questions! Get to know the culture of the country and area you are travelling to, memorize a few words of the local language, list the places to visit and sites to discover in order to immerse yourself in this unknown culture.

But do not stop there!

Volunteering with refugee, asylum seeker and migrant people in Greece or Athens does not only mean getting familiar with Greeks’ culture and habits, best dishes and music. Meeting people from all walks and sizes, arriving in Europe from Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or the Middle-East, implies to be informed on all of this too – their origins, cultures and paths, while always remembering every individual has their own story. Educating yourself on what it means to be a migrant, an asylum seeker or a refugee – in general and, more precisely, the Greek situation ; the countries those people mostly come from and the common motives for their migration, as well as the challenges and hardships they may have been through, is very important before starting to volunteer.

Indeed, ignoring those preparatory steps may lead to some misunderstanding or negative reaction from people whose interaction codes, beliefs and values are different. If discomfort is important and mistakes necessary, learning about people’s backgrounds and making an effort to think differently, look at the world from another perspective, is both a form of respect and an enriching and humbling human experience.

Which is the whole point of the journey, right? 

August Volunteers

Our registry of volunteers for the month of August 2020.

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 


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

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

July Volunteers

Our registry of volunteers for the month of July 2020.