Nea Kavala‚ day fourteen, Wednesday, 22th of August 2018

My schedule today:

Women’s space, English class
Check out market

A small boy who had told us a few days ago that he would move alone to Belgium to live with his uncle and aunt the following day. Now he is still at the camp. He tells me that he was only waiting for his passport, and then he would have to leave. But it was not really sure if he would leave. He seemed to be sad. The boy speaks a little bit English but no French. I ask him if he’d know his uncle and aunt, but he didn’t understand my question.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

In the big community area there is a fire drill practiced by the military and the fire brigade. They make a fire in a grill and everybody who wants can try out the powder fire extinguisher. The children have a lot of fun. I ‘m happy to see this. I know that the people are very afraid of fire. Losing their homes again for them would mean to lose everything they have for another time.

Commuinty Space
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

I meet the mother and daughter whom I visited the day before again at the English class. They try their very best to speak and write in English, and they make fantastic progress.

Today is my second to the last day at Nea Kavala. I have my lunch break. A young man from Syria comes to sit down with me at the community space. You can clearly see, he isn’t going very well. He shows me some strange scarring’s on his arms and legs. As much as I understand those were caused by torture of his imprisonment for one year. He had pains but here at camp there wouldn’t be a doctor to care for him. He tells me in his cracked English that he has been here for five weeks now after he was imprisoned for one year.

Will the people at Nea Kavala ever get any chance in their live? Will they get the possibility to start a new life somewhere else. Or will they be refugees without any home? Will Nea Kavala turn into a long-term camp for people without any other perspectives? That is not the idea of Nea Kavala, but could this get possible? Will the people get used to live here?

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Some refugees already started to run their own business at the camp.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

My last gardening evening.
I see a small boy playing with a toy-machine gun. I’m startled. First he appeals to something else, later he directs it towards the other playing children. His mother gave it to him. Nobodys shows any reaction. This seems to be normal over here.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

I’ll miss the children and their parents.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Living at a camp like Nea Kavala gives people the chance to feel safe for the first time after many years making experiences of war and violence.
But how long?

Nea Kavala‚ day thirteen, Tuesday, 21th of August 2018

My schedule today:

Women’s Space, English class
Check out Market

Our coordinator Molly gives us an update of the political situation in Greece
(21th of August 2018)

  • Because of increased crossing the Evros around 6000 had stuck in the Balkans
  • Lesvos has now exceeded 10000 refugees which is a record. People are sleeping on the streets
  • Push backs from the EU are also gaining momentum
  • The agreement is that EU countries can send people back but must loosen restrictions on family reunification applications
  • Greece has no capacity left, there is no place for returned people to go. Families and unaccompanied minors will not be returned to Greece
  •  Nearly 60000 refugees in Greece as of June this year
  •  They won’t be returned to the islands

For aktuell information read:

Today a young colleague of mine and I are invited to the container of a Syrian family of my English class. It is cosy inside. The family consisting out of six members share two about 10 qm rooms in there. In the first room there are two fridges, a small place to cook and four beds.

Bunte Container
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

In the second room there are three big mats. The Muslim family celebrates Eid today, which is a day on which usually the extended families meets up, celebrates, dances and eat together. We sit down on the ground with the mother and the three daughters trying pita bread with a sauce consisting mayonnaise and garlic. Besides we also have crumbled egg and wine leaves filled with rice.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Considering that there are not much food choices at the camp the mother and the daughters have made fancy food. We would love to stay longer, but unfortunately, we only have half an hour lunchbreak today.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Quickly the youngest daughter shows us how talented she is. Besides being able to cook she is very good in drawing and besides being able to speak Arabic she also speaks Turkish, English and a few sentences French. I hope that the very best for this nice family.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

It is so amazing to see the positive energy in so many of the people and children! (S.L., volunteer from Norway)

Nea Kavala‚ day twelve, Monday, 20th of August 2018

My schedule today:

Women’s Space

I leave Pigi and go back to the hotel at Polycastro. The others decide to stay at the house and drive the 25 km to the camp every day. I prefer staying at the Hotel in the nearby city.

Today my parcel had arrived after a delay of one week. There are T-shirts and other shirts in it which got too small for my son. So that is exactly the size that was missing over here. I also had packed two first aid boxes.

English class
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Today there are two new entrants at my English class. Eight women went over to class level two. One of the new women has big problems following the lessons. I understand, that she had never written our letters before, so I sit down next to her and practise writing the letter A.

Der Buchstabe A
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

After a few minutes she copies it, it is lying on its side, but it definitely is an A. We continue with the other letters of the alphabet and she is so happy.

At the afternoon I work at the laundry again. I’m hungry, because I haven’t eaten for hours. I’m getting myself some sweet cakes and an ice coffee frappe at a Kurdish take away which is served by a refugee.

Falafel Imbiss
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

The making is very easy. A spoon full of Nescafé powder is getting mixed with a third cup of ice-cold water and then gets foamed up. This tastes incredibly delicious and it is more refreshing at this heat than hot coffee. He also makes delicious falafel.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

This evening it rains for the first time. Two children and I make a rain dance outside the laundry. Later at the gardening project we see a rainbow and the children enjoy a lot.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

I love the evening mood at Nea Kavala.

Would you like to live as a refugee?

You spend the whole day together with people you get to know better and better. It feels like being part of their community, but at the evenings you leave the camp, drive back to your hotel and after a couple of weeks you take the bus to the airport, you go back to your home …

And the refugees have to stay.

Nea Kavala‚ day ten, Saturday 18th of August 2018

My schedule today:

Making boxes at hangar
Sewing project
Feelings Meeting

After having packed new boxes with donated clothes at the big old hangar today I assist the sewing project. We’ve got four sewing machines and the people can arrive and make or repair their own clothes. Today there are two women and eight men.

The atmosphere is bustling. Arabic music is coming out of a resident’s mobile phone.

Näh-Workshop 1
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Two men are shortening trousers. A young couple askes for an elastic band. Unfortunately, we don’t have any. Another man is looking for white sewing thread instead of the black one. I could help him out for that. He smiles at me and gives the thread on to the trained Kurdish tailor.

A tattered shirt pocket gets stitched down, bedsheets are getting tailored to the desired size.

A torn open pillow gets patched, an oversized sweater gets sewed tighter. Often the men’s clothes donated from Western Europe are too big for the Kurdish and Syrian men.

Näh-Workshop 1
Foto: Andera Koltermann

A man got tailored a wall hanging for his container made from an old shirt. The people here in the camp are very spare an and creative with what they have.

A 16 years old boy enters with a bag. I ask if I could help him. He lets me know, that he can operate with sewing machines. He had started an apprenticeship to become a tailor but had to abort it after eight months because he had to escape from the war. The boy knows how to use needle and thread and he also knows to use the sewing machine. He is not as trained and as quick as these grown up tailors, but he loves to do repair works for a friend of him in the camp. One could see the great result of his work.

Another young man from Syria comes in and tells me that he had sewed on buttons on shirts in a factory at his homeplace. He’d love to learn how to work with a sewing machine.

While I am cutting out small cleaning rags for the kindergarten out of a remaining remnant, he asks me if anyone could help him to shorten some clothes. We ask one of the trained Kurdish tailors who is happy to help.

After some time, the young Syrian places himself in front of a sewing machine. The Kurdish trainee is helping him. A few minutes later he proudly presents his first self-made seam.

You can clearly see and feel how good the people feel to do some useful work, even if they don’t get any money. They are just working as volunteers like we do. In the community there can be seen a great together. Even though there are people out of several different countries and different reasons at the camp and even if the turnover rate is very high, it is a village where people live together.

Nähmaschine, weiß pink
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Today there are no children allowed in the room that is usually the school. But for a teen carefully looking into the room and showing me his flat cycle tire I find a pomp.

Even the sewing room is kind of place to socialise.

We can’t communicate with the refugees a lot, because they hardly speak any English. Also, my English skills to the topic sewing and textiles are rather rudimentary so we often communicate in sign language.

Näh-Workshop 4
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

At four o’clock some women of my English class are waiting in front of the door. They are exited. Soon they are writing their English test in the library next door. Whoever passes the test can move on to level two on Monday. If they pass I won’t be able to see them in my class on Monday. I’ll be teaching a new group of beginners. Which is nice but also sad at the same time because my women got a special place in my heart.

Speaking the same language makes communication much easier!

Every Saturday evening, we have our feeling meeting. We get two questions we must answer, first what our highlight was of the last week and second what had made us think.

My highlight had been to see that so many women were going to do the English test. What really made me think was that at camp people were almost dying while we were painting the shop.

Nea Kavala‚ day eight, Thursday, 16th of August 2018

Day off

On our day off a volunteer from Catalonia and I take the Intercity bus to Thessaloniki.

Hafen von Thessaloniki
Foto: Andea Koltermann

We visit the harbour, take a walk through the city.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

We visit some old Romains buildings over there and a typical market hall.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

While having a cup of coffee at the waterside I try to write down some answers to the questions that I had received from my friends the last days.

“Which possibilitys do NGO’s have to help refugees in Greece?”

What we can do while working here as a volunteer is to make the daily live a little bit more comfortable and easier. Six days a week the Dråpen i Havet volunteers help with distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables. They also sell some dry food and donated clothes, that refugees can buy with a cryptocurrency called Drops.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

They run a laundry where the residents can wash their clothes. During the summer in the evenings residents and volunteers do fun sport activities like volleyball in the community space.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

The organisation runs bike rentals for refugees and a build and repair workshop.

Foto: Andrea Koltermann

Most of the buildings like this canopy were self-made by refugees and volunteers.

We Are Here 2
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

The cooperating organisation We Are Here runs sport and childcare activities, gives English lessons and yoga classes to women, and starts gardening projects for all ages.

We Are Here
Foto: Andrea Koltermann

There is also a library where the refugees can borrow books two times a week.

There is the Childrens Friendly Place, where a young social worker and some volunteers play with them.

Foto: Isabel Sevé

Do the people already speak a little bit English or German?

Some people do, at most countrys they learn English at school but because of war and flight some children couldn’t visit school for a long time.

Will these people be able to leave the camp and to move to other countries?

Many people told me, that they wanted to go to Germany, to France, to Sweden or to some other places but first they needed visa. Some had been waiting at Nea Kavala for two years. Leaving Greece was not easy. Staying at Greece was almost impossible because there were hardly any jobs.

One guy had told me that he had been offered a job for a salary of € 13 / day at Thessaloniki harbour. After a few months he had stopped this hard work because living at Thessaloniki would cost much more than he had earned. Some companies really seem to exploit refugees.

Nobody knows if these people will ever get the possibility to get asylum in Greece or to get visa to move to another country. Some people have been waiting here for two years. One man had told me up to now he had allready done seven interviews at the Greek authorities and there was still no decision.

Is it frustrating to work at a refugee camp or do you think volunteering at Nea kavala is doing a good job?

Sometimes it is very frustrating, because there are no future prospects. Many times ask myself, if it makes any sense to be here, but when I see what NGOs had built up within the last to years I know that we do a good job. Every little piece of help is a drop in the ocean. And very drop makes a difference. That’s the Drop in the Ocean’s philosophie.

Nea Kavala two years ago:

1500 people in tents without water, no money for clothes…

After reading this I understood the worth of our work over here.

warm blankets for Nea Kavala, Donations here: