Winter 2016: Lesbos Island, Greece
Off the coast of Turkey and situated in the Agean Sea is the Greek island of Lesbos. In just a few years, this island became one of the most sensitive border crossings for more than 1 million people escaping way and repression in their own country. KARA TEPE, built quickly as a temporary shelter, is still operating today. This camp, next to the town of Mytilene, welcomes the most vulnerable refugees including single women, children, the elderly and disabled.
1000 people including 700 children were gathering in this camp when we arrived.
They live in 183 shelters, all designed and funded by Ikea Foundation, Better Shelter and the UNHCR. Electricity is provided by solar panels, and entire community has access to showers, drinking water and toilets. Every day, volunteers and NGOs work together to improve the situation by way of :
– Cooking and food delivery
– Providing clothes
– Giving Legal assistance
– Distributing treatment and psychological support
– Disseminating hygiene packs
– Teaching English
– Building centers for men and woman
– Growing a communal vegetable garden
– Offering art activities
Among all these organisations, WOKE had the chance to work with LATRA, a Greek organisation, run by Aris Papadopoulos. LATRA is an innovation studio specializing in circular design, environmental engineering and big-data applications for the humanitarian sector, and is also a member of the global UNICEF Design Pool. LATRA’s goal is to improve refugee life using Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
No two days of working onsite at KARA TEPE were the same for our volunteers. One day we worked to secure the shelters while the next we constructed a new playground for the community’s children. Regardless of the challenge at hand, every day we approached our problem solving through these three simple steps:
– Studying and prioritizing the needs of the refugees
– Organizing ourselves into groups
– Executing innovative solutions for the issue at hand
That’s the everyday life for a LATRA volunteer!