Za'atar NGO was founded in May, 2016. All of our projects assist Athens' refugee population. No matter the project, we operate with the philosophy that we must empower, and not pity, the refugees and migrants we work with. We look to help our beneficiaries create self-sufficient lifestyles whether they plan to remain in Greece or move to other countries around the world.
Our work focuses on peoples of all genders, ages, and ethnicities. Additionally, we have special programs that provide support to women, children, single parents and members of the LGBTQ community.
The Orange House is the home of Za'atar NGO. A three-story building in the heart of central Athens, The Orange House provides a variety services to refugees and migrants based in Exarcheia. Here, refugees find a safe place to feel empowered, learn, and grow open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 8:30pm.
The largest service the Orange House offers is our daily schedule of classes. Offering language classes in Greek, English, German, French, and Spanish, our school's curriculum fills two classrooms 6 days a week. We make a particular effort to employ teachers from the refugee community so classes can be taught by a Farsi or Arabic native speaker. In addition to language classes, the Orange House also offers extra curricular courses such as Yoga, Dance, Guitar, Piano, DJ Club, and Book Club.
Many beneficiaries arrive at the Orange House just to use our free Wifi so they can stay in touch with their families. But upon arrival they learn about the other services we offer including a hot shower, a free daily meal, and CV workshops.
Individuals from across Athens who are living in accommodation without water come to the Orange House to use our shower, open all day. Our lunch is served daily at 3:00pm and always served without meat in order to both reduce costs and our environmental footprint. Read more about our efforts to reduce our environmental impact below.
Finally, our CV workshops are slowly growing into a larger jobs support program through a new organization, Project Layali, founded by Za'atar's team. You can read more about Za'atar's efforts to assist refugees and migrants with employment opportunities below.
women's & children's shelter
On the upper floors of our building is a shelter which provides long term housing for up to 20 female refugees and their children. Our residents generally stay at the Orange House between four and six months and come from countries around the world such as Syria, Congo, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Referrals for the shelter come from organizations across Greece including other NGO's, the UNHCR, and refugee camps near Athens.
In order to live at the Orange House, residents are required to take a minimum of five classes per week. Residents are also responsible for cooking the daily meal offered at the shelter and cleaning the shelter every evening. These requirements are the result of a philosophy that emphasizes empowering and not pitying refugees.
The shelter becomes a place not just for our residents to live, but also for them to interact with women from around the world. We make an effort to put women from different countries and cultures in the same bedroom in order to enocurage cross cultural communication.
In Greece, there exist limited organizations that assist refugees to build not just a livelihood, but a self-sufficient livelihood. Za'atar aims to change that narrative by helping our beneficiaries find paying work so that they no longer have to rely on the charitable services Za'atar offers.
This process begins with the CV workshops we provide at the Orange House where both residents and community center attendees can receive assistance in crafting a professional resume. As of July 2018, Za'atar NGO has helped place over 35 refugees in legal jobs across Greece. Many of these jobs are in Greece's thriving tourism industry.
Za’atar NGO is currently establishing a new project, Project Layali, which was developed to further Za’atar’s mission of helping refugees return to self-sufficient lifestyles. The project will offer vocational training in marketable skills that will allow refugees to obtain employment, both in Greece and abroad.
Through Project Layali, Za’atar seeks to establish a sustainable source of funding for its programs, while providing a service that expands upon pre-existing initiatives. Refugees enrolled in the program will gain new skill sets, valuable work experience, financial self-sufficiency, and the empowerment to take next steps.
The LGBTQ Project at Za’atar is a social initiative that takes steps to extend supportive provisions to the LGBTQ refugee population. Most LGBTQ 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.
Za’atar’s mission is to provide this vulnerable group with much needed support.
A mentoring program facilitated by volunteers who speak Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Kurdish, French and English, and identify as LGBTQ themselves, guide and teach refugees and vulnerable individuals about LGBTQ rights, and connect them with appropriate resources. It is important that the broader refugee community is educated on LGBTQ rights to establish long-term cultural integration for all of its members.
Za’atar additionally seeks to help LGBTQ refugees establish community groups so that they can meet others facing the same issues and form friendships. A dedicated effort is made to reach out to refugees in camps and informal settlements, making sure our services, contact number and Facebook group is known and accessible. Za’atar is a declared LGBTQ friendly non-profit organization, only accepting volunteers that are also LGBTQ friendly. These initiatives offer the education and resources to encourage and support the cultural integration of vulnerable refugees.
The Orange House proactively follows operational practices that are sustainable and ecologically conscious. We care about the environment and source donations of second hand or repaired furniture to meet the needs of the shelter and community center. Seminars are offered to residents of the shelter that discuss eco-friendly behaviors and awareness.
We sort and recycle all garbage and waste products, and try to reduce our ecological footprint by minimizing the use of meat in our lunch program. This philosophy has helped Za’atar maintain a low operating budget, and ensures all donations sent to Za’atar are spent responsibly and with greatest direct positive impact to the beneficiaries.
Recently, the Orange House upgraded it's shower to provide hot water through the use of solar panels installed on the roof of our shelter. This change provided three primary benefits. First, it reduced electricity costs. Second, the solar panels reduce our carbon footprint. Finally, the solar panels allow us to provide hot water for beneficiaries throughout the day without interruption.
Our goal at Za'atar NGO is not just to provide assistance to the refugee community but to do so while encouraging integration with the local Greek Community and the broader refugee support community. By sharing our resources with other organizations, we can ensure 100% of available funds are being used for the direct benefit of migrants and refugees.
We help support other refugee organization by providing fresh food to squats in and around Exarcheia. Recently, the team at Za'atar served Falafel to students at a local Greek elementary school.
We encourage our community center attendees and residents to participate in cultural events throughout Athens and organize weekly trips to events every Sunday. Recently, these trips have included basketballs tournaments, trips to museums and the Acropolis, and a beach clean up event at a popular local beach.
Whenever possible, we look to integrate with Greek businesses and individuals to provide our services. For example, much of the food we receive that is used to cook our daily meal comes from neighborhood bakeries and restaurants.
Many refugees will be in Greece for decades to come and Za'atar considers part of its responsibility to facilitate the necessary two-way process of integration.