The generously observant among you will have realised by now that I’m raising money for a community centre for refugees in Athens called Khora.
I promised you all that I’d do my best to find out where our money is going, and that I have done. Thanks to sunset on Strefi.
THINGS I HAVE LEARNT ABOUT KHORA
- Khora is a wildly ambitious organisation, comprising education, legal advice, daycare, welfare, community kitchen, free shop, and many other departments. If you’ve got an idea, they’ll help you carry the baton.
- They are run by consensus. Yes, this means meetings go on for a very long time, in multiple languages.
- They are looking for a new building to rent after they were evicted from their old one in June by an overzealous municipality.
- They are seeing their work transition from emergency aid to helping refugees establish themselves in Greece.
- It seems Khora works best as a mother to passion projects. Sometimes these passion projects grow into fruit that fall from Khora, seeding new trees in the orchard.
- One such example is the Scrap Coop, a community carpentry workshop that started life in the old Khora building. Now its own entity and hoping to branch out into bike mechanics.
- Another example is the Khora Free Shop where anyone – refugees, the homeless, locals – can pick up essentials for free. It currently runs 3 days a week, powered entirely by volunteers led by the indomitable Rizwan, in a building transformed into what looks like a Shoreditch vintage pop-up.
- The volunteers who run Khora (for it is entirely volunteer run) are a roughly 50/50 mix of refugees and non-refugees. I have met people from Switzerland, Austria, Baluchistan, Palestine, Syria and Pakistan, but Khora has a strong UK presence. British volunteers make up the largest single contingent.
- Language is a great barrier to success.
- Resources are scarce. The Khora Free Shop has clothes to give away to families, some toys and books for the children, and a heroic donation of soap and shower gel from cosmetics brand Lush.
But more striking is what we don’t have. It’s just bad luck we don’t have your size trousers, we ran out of Pampers weeks ago, and there are no razors, no. All we can do is shrug. The main warehouse in Athens is an empty husk of its former self.
The volunteers here say that Europe has forgotten about the refugees in Greece. The crisis is out of the news, so it must be over.
When we think about, we know this can’t be true, but we don’t think about it.