Great news – Orange House is now greener than ever, and with constant hot water! In March 2018, we installed solar panels on the roof. This means big savings on the cost of electricity; constant hot water, and a more eco-friendly energy system.
Free hot showers are one of the most popular services Orange House offers – close to 500 people shower here every month, many of them from camps and squats which don’t offer hot water. Before the solar panels, residents could only shower in the evenings, and other visitors, at specified times of day. Also, everyone had to wait 15 minutes between showers, for the water to heat up! Now hot water is available all day long, so visitors can shower from 10am to 8:30pm, and residents, from 9am to 11pm. Orange House continues to provide shampoo and soap as needed, thanks to donations from the Lush Retail, a cosmetics store in the UK. Even the volunteers will benefit – they’ll no longer have to run up and down the stairs all day to turn the boiler on and off!
Za’atar’s Founder Marina Liakis said, “We saw how important showers were, when we were fixing the kitchen in the winter, because even when we were doing work in the basement, people were still coming every day to shower or to do their beards or hair. We are always looking for ways to improve OH services, and to be eco-friendly!” OH also held seminars for the residents about saving resources like water and electricity, and on recycling.
The solar panels were installed thanks to a generous donation from Humanity Now.
Za’atar plans to use finances saved on electricity bills to cover the cost of maintenance and improvements to Orange House, as updates and repairs are always needed. In addition, fundraising is ongoing to fix up the basement, improve the shower, build changing rooms, make the courtyard serviceable, and create a new classroom.
I could only volunteer at the Orange House for two weeks, but in that short amount of time I worked with an amazing range of people. Much of the work was supported by residents and visitors, which made every task go faster. Many of the refugee visitors were excited to practice English, which gave me an opportunity to connect with them. Volunteers were encouraged to innovate in order to maximize our contributions to the OH. That encouragement led to some exciting projects! The scheduling was also flexible enough to allow my girlfriend and I to work similar hours.
The nature of volunteering at the Orange House meant that my days included many different tasks that contributed to the larger mission: writing math tests for eager children, sharing stories about my life with interested adults, helping install a washing machine, and sorting puzzle pieces. While volunteering, I felt that each task was appreciated and supported by residents and visitors alike. Even though I was there for only a short time, I saw the power of the Orange House. Children opened up in the safe environment, adults found resources they never knew existed, and a strong community thrived in the heart of Athens.
Despite only being my third volunteer experience, my time at the Orange House was, without doubt, one of the most wonderful and enriching experiences I’ve ever had.
The Orange House is special, because it does not only help with a refugee’s basic needs such as food or housing, but it also provides a space where people can develop their human, social and cultural dimensions.
Day after day, dozens of people arrive in the house for classes, workshops or just relaxing and socializing. As a volunteer, it is so special to get to know so many people with different backgrounds and stories. Working in close proximity with these special people gives you the opportunity to get involved with the culture, thoughts and feelings of the residents and visitors. It also helps you to develop a special sensitivity and empathy towards others.
One of the major advantages of the Orange House is the small size of the organization. It allows you to get to know every member of the community and to have a real perception of the day to day operations of the organization and its residents. I really appreciate the opportunity Marina and Hassan gave me to work at the Orange House and the excellent job they are doing on preserving the dignity and humanity of all refugees.