Students Learn From Local NGOs in Greece
To gain practical experience for the College’s GEMC3001 course – a class which encourages students to reflect upon what it means to partake in global service – fourteen students traveled to Athens, Greece in June to learn about how local Greek NGOs serve displaced persons. The group of Morningsiders started their journey by situating themselves in the new environment. They learned some basic Greek vocabulary and were introduced to the history behind Athens and its great Acropolis. In preparation for NGO visits, students attended a lecture on Greek refugee law and were led on two unique tours around Athens – one on the city’s “invisible” side guided by a homeless leader of the Shedia NGO that works on urban homelessness and unemployment, and another exploring the city’s graffiti and its connection to migrant populations.
The local NGO visits began with a trip to Za’atar, a group whose goal is to empower refugees to achieve autonomy through skill-building. Students also dined at Taste of Damascus, a restaurant run by Za’atar that employs former refugees. Their next port of call was the Fáilte Centre, which serves as a space for counseling sessions, career advice, and children-geared activities. Later in the day, they visited Finding Refuge, an NGO focused on reducing homelessness in the refugee population. Finding Refuge was founded in 2019 by two US university students who had been inspired by a service trip to Greece. The following day, students spoke with one of the founders of KHORA, a collective that runs a free shop in Athens for individuals in need; all of KHORA’s decisions are made through non-hierarchical collaborative discussions. Following a visit to the Athens headquarters of the human-rights centred NGO Doctors of the World, students embarked on a three-day journey to the island of Lesvos, where they visited the Mavrovouni refugee camp under the supervision of Doctors of the World. On Lesvos, they also saw the remnants of two other former refugee camps, Kara Tepe and the infamous Moria camp that was destroyed by fire in September 2020. Lastly, they learned how the humanitarian legal aid team at FENIX provides legal representation, protection, and psychosocial services to refugees and asylum seekers on Lesvos.