Update from The Orange House

We continue to provide significant support to The Orange House, mostly through funding of food for the residents and day visitors. This place really is special and is like an Oasis in the bustle of Athens.  Read a detailed update from the team there.

We have about 2400 people coming per month, mostly for language classes but also to use the wifi, laundry machine or shower. Hot showers are available from 10am-2pm and then from 5pm-8.30pm and they are usually busy the whole time.  About 300-350 lunches are served monthly.  The Orange house can accommodate up to 20 residents.  We close the centre on Sundays so the residents can enjoy the house to themselves.

We firmly believe that providing services for specific populations is needed however we believe in diversity and also the importance to offer services for men. Its only our dance class that is not open to men, otherwise all our classes are mixed which we feel is important.  We believe the same for our LBGT asylum seekers, and were happy to hear one of our beneficiaries saying the only place he felt safe in Athens was in The Orange House.  We believe that our training helps make sure volunteers take action in case of any sexist, racist or homophobic comments or discriminating behaviour.

The main team is comprised of people who all have refugee origins. We always make sure to have team members who are able to speak (minimum) Arabic, French, English, Greek and Farsi.

We are also offering specific classes for our volunteers such as Farsi and Arabic and encourage them to attend training organized by other NGOs to make sure our team is as professional as possible.

We are getting more people coming to use the shower, around 480 per month and recently posted about receiving more towels to cope with it. We informed our main donor, Help Refugees foundation to see if they could increase our budget for water and electricity as we expect the bills to rise. We have a break from 2 to 5 pm as we sometimes use the kitchen at this time to cook lunch for the visitors. Also it gives our volunteers time to clean the bathroom and tidy it up.

Hestia Hellas are now committed to giving us their leftovers 3 times a week. Some of the residents go to pick it up and serve it at the Orange House. It is usually soup (vegetables and halal meat).

The hygiene products donations are still so appreciated by the residents! Specifically the body creams as they feel like we pamper them and give extra attention not just the basic food, they are so surprised and happy when we show them all the donations.

An office inside the building in front of the orange house got attacked by twenty « anarchists ». When seeing people arriving to attack, we immediately turned down the shutters. In case of any similar issue, we will turn shutters down and can lock ourselves inside classrooms as they attack furniture, not people. We had two nights of intense riots on November 17th and December 6th, as every year. Our residents and visitors are informed of these events in advance to make sure it does not stress them too much. We provide masks to ensure smooth breathing. We usually close at 5:30 pm when there is a risk of riots to keep everyone safe.

We are now closing the Orange House at 8:30 pm instead of 10 pm ad it is getting darker earlier.

We had several vulnerable residents in October: having memory troubles, almost fainting, heart problems, etc. The solidarity among them was very important to help us deal with these. They are very organized and help each other. The Red Cross came to provide first aid training translated into Farsi and French for our residents.

Our bedrooms are still mixed, it encourages residents to meet with new cultures and practice English. Our residents have been very involved in the running of our shelter: Arghavan is an Iranian woman helping with cooking lunch for our visitors. Shery is Iranian and Olga is from Congo, they are both doing shifts as any international volunteers and help us as well with interpretation and other tasks.

The atmosphere has been really positive these past few weeks with residents sharing skills. We organized the birthday party of Olga, a goodbye party for an Iranian family who finally got to reunite with their family members in Belgium, and various workshops about environment, hygiene, photography, CV and job search, etc.

We are happy to welcome more refugees volunteering with us: Kamal and Golinar from Afghanistan, Mohammed and Hiba from Syria, Sherara from Iran, Olga from Congo, etc. This is important for us as we received a lot of positive feedback from refugees saying that it really is important for them to be taught in a language that they know well such as Arabic, Farsi or French. We offer Greek for Farsi/Urdu/Pashto speakers, Greek for Arabic speakers and Greek for French people; the same goes for English.

We offered drama class, singing and music. We are still offering dance classes every Wednesday morning and our dance teacher has been more involved in the generalist work of the NGO: offering to share her decorations skills with us, inviting our residents to her show, the residents have been really grateful for these specific attentions.

We had some workshops on singing and music (guitar, drum, etc.) and are now putting up posters in music schools in the neighborhood to find more volunteers to continue this activity.

Starting January, we will offer an additional dance class taught by a professional art therapy teacher, it will be a mix of contemporary and classical dance.

Most of our classes are full so we had to create additional groups. We make sure to follow up with the students to see their progress and orient them to which class is appropriate for which level. We were happy that two Afghan men that started learning English two months ago with Nadim (English for Dari/Farsi speakers) are now comfortable enough in English to volunteer at the Orange House doing shifts during the day.

We are getting more men from Oinofyta camp during the day coming for English classes mostly, but also for German and French. As the camp is far, they usually spend the whole day at the Orange House.

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