Layali Salon: Our Eco-Friendly Initiative

Layali Salon is the first salon in Athens that was built on the principles of using all natural, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products.  It is has always been important to us that our products and services have a small footprint on the environment.

Layali Salon

We feature all-natural Greek skincare and beauty brands; whenever possible we try to incorporate local and hand selected products.

Take a look at some of the great natural ingredients used for our in house hand mixed masks, scrubs, and conditioners :

  • Avocado Oil
  • Argan Oil
  • Greek Olive Oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Camomille
  • Henna
  • White Clay
  • And More

Not only does Layali Salon solely focus on training and employing the struggling refugee population, but we strive to make all services through Project Layali and Za’atar NGO as eco-friendly as possible. From our use of upcycled furniture, classes and activities to teach our beneficiaries about living sustainably, and the daily free vegan lunch, to the hair and skin products we feature; Project Layali and Za’atar NGO are committed to an all-around environmentally friendly approach to helping solve the refugee crisis in Athens.

Layali: A Refugee-Run Salon in the Heart of Athens!

Founded in February 2018, Project Layali assists refugees in building self-sustaining lifestyles by providing income-generating opportunities.  Instead of relying on charitable donations to create social impact, Layali focuses on projects operated as self-sufficient businesses. Our locations aim to increase positive interactions between refugees, locals, and tourists in Athens.

Our latest project, Layali Salon, is officially open for business! Layali Salon is a beauty salon located in the heart of Athens, staffed by refugees from across the Middle East and Africa. The project is will also manag a paid apprenticeship program whereby refugees and migrants can gain entry-level experience in the beauty industry.

Since its launch, Layali Salon has garnered buzz with the locals due to its philanthropic work and desire to provide refugees and asylum-seekers with financial independence. Click here to read an article about the salon covered by CNN Greece.

Head to 78, Pipinou Street in Athens for a fresh haircut and become a part of our community!

Want to learn more? Visit our website or show us some love on Instagram!

Three Ways You Can Help Za’atar in 2019

Is your New Year’s resolution to get more involved with volunteer efforts? Za’atar is here with a list of three easy ways you can help in 2019.

1. Volunteer: Volunteers are crucial to Za’atar’s ability to achieve our goals. There are multiple ways that you can give your time. If you have two weeks or more to spend in Athens, you can help directly at the Orange House. We look for volunteers to work between four or five six-hour shifts each week.

While at the Orange House you can interact with our refugee community and help with tasks such as teaching languages, cooking and cleaning. For more information on volunteering in Athens visit

Za’atar volunteers and refugees on a day trip.

However, if you can’t join us in Athens, that doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer! There are also opportunities to volunteer remotely. To learn more, send an email to

2. Fundraising: Za’atar is a non-profit that relies on private donations and fundraisers to support our services. If you’re a great organizer, you can help by creating and running a fundraiser. Some examples of fundraising events include cake sales, races, sponsored challenges or trivia nights.

English books donated by National Geographic.

3. Live More Ethically: When was the last time you thought about where your clothes were made? Considering the ethics of the companies you support is one simple way to live a more ethical life. Some major corporations use production means that are at odds with Za’atar’s mission. In a sense, every good that we buy can be a political act in itself.

This is why Za’atar has created the Layali project to employ refugees at fair wages. The shop sells ethically made goods such as clothing, jewelry and bags.

This list is just the beginning of ways you can help Za’atar in 2019. For more updates on volunteer opportunities throughout the year, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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.