The Unmentionables Resource Centre

We were really impressed with The Unmentionables new resource centre in Athens, when we visited last month.  We already have a great working relationship with the team and you may be aware that we have funded several large bulk buys of underwear for distribution in camps in Greece over the last year through them.

This new centre is a safe space in Athens offering sexual and reproductive health education to forcibly displaced people in the city.  The centre is open to men, women and their families.  Classes are run in Arabic, Farsi and English by trained community educators on reproductive physiology, menstrual health management, contraceptives, sexually transmitted infections, sexual and reproductive rights, and sexual and gender based violence.

The centre also provides the community with a hot shower, bath, and medical and psychosocial support.  A free shop in the centre offers provisions of sanitary pads, underwear, condoms, bras and dental kits, and there is space to offer emergency accommodation.  We are planning to help fund the underwear on offer here.  If you would like to contribute towards this, please consider donating to us, don’t forget to gift aid your donation if you’re a UK tax payer to make it go even further .

Rafiq’s Story

We met Rafiq from Syria, in Athens at the end of last year (his name has been changed to protect his identity), and he told us his story.  Author of the newly published book “A Human Love Story- Journeys to the Heart”, Matthew Hopwood, has helped us put Rafiq’s story together.

Life before the war:

I was a student, I studied engineering. I finished my studies in 2015 during the war. All my university life was during the war.  I had to stay at home when there was fighting in the streets.  All we could do was stay inside and pray.  There were friends and relatives dying.  You couldn’t go out when they were fighting.  The first time there was fighting in our street was September 2011.  From the beginning it was a battlefield.

My family and I left the house & moved to the countryside, to relatives, where things were calmer. We had some peace there.  We stayed there for two months and then moved back home.  However it became more complicated again, the city became divided.  Things became dangerous so we left again; four siblings and mum and dad.

After a year the regime took control of our home area again. Life became a little better.  There is no place like home – which is why we returned.  We stayed until 2015.

Our city became under siege in 2015. We were seven months under siege.  It was so difficult.  No electricity, lack of food and water.  The queue for bread was seven hours long.  Food was dropped in by planes.  A six to seven hour queue for food was normal.  There were more than 400,000 of us under siege in the city at that time.  There was not enough food for everyone.  All the people wanted to leave.  To ease the pressure some people were allowed to leave during this time.  Many people including me and my family left.  But my father stayed.  We have two houses and a car, it was everything he had achieved in his life and we were scared it would be taken if we all left it.  Now we wish he had left with us.  The city is still under siege, for three years now, and the situation is more dangerous.

I went alone to Damascus by plane as it was almost impossible by bus. I went to continue my studies further as a post graduate.  I applied to Damascus University and was accepted.

During that time I decided to go to Europe because I knew that when my studies finished I would be called to join the army and I didn’t want to join the war, or kill anyone, or protect any oppressors. I told my family by phone.  My mother encouraged me because she knew if I stayed my future would be so uncertain, so it was better to go.  My father didn’t accept it at first, he wanted the family close and not to be separated.  But later he accepted that I made the right decision.

In the beginning of 2016 I went from Damascus in the North of Syria and crossed into Turkey. I spent the night walking in the mountains, with many people and families I didn’t know.  There was a family from Aleppo with two small daughters.  They couldn’t carry everything in the mountains so I carried their baby for them.  We are still in contact.  We arrived in Turkey in muddy clothes.  Many families had dropped their bags on the way as they couldn’t carry them.

The 11th of February was my first time out of Syria. I had just a simple backpack with me as I knew the journey would be difficult.  My brother in Lebanon borrowed some money from a friend for me to use to cross the sea to Greece.  I went to Izmir in Turkey.  I can’t say how many people were there but there were many.  We were taken to an apartment and a truck was brought.  We were all put inside the truck and taken to a point on the coast two hours from Izmir.  Each point was different depending on the smuggler and what Greek Island you wanted to go to.

At night fifty people were put into a rubber boat. You could see the Greek Island on the other side.  One of us was to drive the boat.  Fifty-sixty people were put into the boat, if you were lucky there was only forty.

We started crossing the sea. In the middle of the crossing coastguards came.  We were confused.  Were they Greek or Turkish? If they were Greek they would take us to Greece, if Turkish they would take us back.  One of the coastguards jumped onto our boat.  We were happy but then he said ‘we are the Turkish Coastguards’. Spirits dropped and we were sent back.

This happened two more times. The 4th time I managed to arrive in Lesbos.  The first three times the sea had been calm.  The fourth time it was raining, in the middle of the sea it became rough.  The children were crying, we could not return, only pray to God.  The waves came into our boats and all our clothes were wet.  After four hours on the boat the Greek coastguards took us.

We stayed with them for four hours and during that time they also took three more boats from the sea. I was thirsty and hungry and hadn’t eaten for more than 36 hours.  I was exhausted.

I arrived in Lesbos and in three hours got my papers which allowed me to move in Greece. The borders were not completely closed, so in two days I managed to arrive at the Greek/Macedonian border.  My aim was to get to Germany to my brother who had arrived there the year before.  But the borders had started to close.  There were about 5000 people waiting in a line.  Everyday 100 -150 people were allowed to cross legally.  After about 2 weeks, the borders closed completely.  I stayed there for almost two months in a small tent.  After two months I gave up and went to a different camp because I had a friend there that I knew from University. I stayed there two months until the police kicked us all out and we were moved to other camps. I stayed about three months there. We were living in an abandoned factory and were given food. There was nothing to do, we could do nothing, we were treated like animals!

After a year the relocation process started for me. I have been granted relocation to Switzerland. I was so happy to receive this as it’s close to my brother. I hope to find safety there and start my life again.

At home, my mum and siblings are now in Damascus. My father is still in his city, which is still under siege. My father and mother sometimes send me photos but I can’t look at the photo’s of my father. It’s not him with such a thin face, looking so old. He is amongst the 100,000 or so people who remain there, still having food dropped in by air. In Damascus things are a little better now but things are still not completely safe. I sell the art I make in Greece and send money to help my family.

Now we wait. We wait for a solution for Syria. If the war finishes, I will go back – and I want to go back to my home. There is no place like home.

If you want to help people like Rafiq in Greece, please consider donating to us.  We work with “grassroot” organisations, and help to plug the gaps in care and aid .

Catching up with The Khora


New, updated info maps on offer at The Khora

It was great to catch up with the team at The Khora during our recent visit to Athens.  The info maps on offer that we sponsor have been updated in collaboration with some other groups.  The booklets are available in English, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and French containing vital information on services in education, medical, psychological and social, women children and minors, LGBT, legal, basic needs.  In addition the booklets have a map in the centrefold pinpointing the location of each service.

Its great to hear how many people these maps are reaching, not just in the city, but also in some of the islands where they are distributed!  They are also given to other organisations to distribute themselves, especially to the nearby squats where services such as food, education or showers are not offered as they are in the official camps.

The Khora team are looking to increase the number of events being held in the centre, and they will look to advertise these via the info maps.

This initiative continues to provide a lifeline for many people.  Please help us to continue to be able to provide it .

Update from ATLAS


It was great to catch up with the team at ATLAS last week.  ATLAS is based in Athens offering support to the LGBT refugee community.  The people it reaches out to face discrimination and prejudice not only from their own communities, but also often from the local LGBT community.  So far we have been able to fund emergency accommodation for 2 people in the city as well as the provision of  leaflets that were distributed in the Ritsona camp.

The leaflets help connect people to guidance, advice, services, social events and medical help, through a helpline in a number of relevant languages.


Thanks to your support, we have been able to give a grant to the amazing TIAFI community centre on the Aegean coast of Turkey. This incredible centre provides a haven for vulnerable refugees in the area and offers a great range of services. Many of the regular visitors are young Syrian mothers, many of whom have missing or deceased husbands. Our grant will pay for transport to the centre for disabled child refugees where they receive additional support.

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.

Click the donate button to make a difference and help refugees through this and the other projects we’re supporting. If you’re a UK tax payer, don’t forget to gift aid your donation to make it go even further.

We’re launching a new, exclusive clothing range

Be one of the 1st to check out our new, exclusive and exciting range of branded clothing.

All of the proceeds we make from the sale of these new ranges will go toward supporting refugees.

We are launching 2 ranges.  #trending is a collection of simple but powerful hashtags that we have found to be pertinent and significant in our cause over the last few years.

The 2nd of our ranges is #illustrated  This collection has been designed by a young, talented Syrian man.  His range of moving and creative images are accompanied by a relevant hashtag.  All the proceeds from the sale of this range will go to him to help him rebuild his life in Europe.

Check out our shop

Update on The Khora Info Map Project

InfopointWith fewer volunteers over the Christmas period, December has been quite a quiet month where the team have mainly been focusing on keeping the information they are distributing updated. They have assigned the research of each type of service (e.g. clothes, food, medical help) to a different member of the team with the aim of gaining more thorough and in depth knowledge of each area and have also tried to visit places when possible. In particular, with the current closure of The Khoras free shop, researching updated information on other free shops to direct people to was a priority.

The team have been updating the info maps with this new information, and for most of the month have been continuing to distribute them at Infopoints (although for the past week they could not due to a shortage of volunteers). They have also been giving the maps to other organisations in Athens, and to a charity on Lesvos to give to refugees who are about to move to the mainland.

As we helped fund a large printer for The Khora last year, we now fund mainly paper and laminating where required for this vital project.

Click the donate button to make a difference and help refugees through this and the other projects we’re supporting. If you’re a UK tax payer, don’t forget to gift aid your donation to make it go even further.

Samos Volunteers

Responding to the significant overcrowding of the hotspot camps on the Greek islands, we are grateful for your support which has meant we have been able to give a grant of 500 Euros to Samos Volunteers working hard to help and support refugees that Samos is hosting.

They have an urgent needs list so with the funds they will be able to purchase what they need most to continue their amazing work, whilst supporting the local economy at the same time.  The money will also support the women and children’s activities as well as materials needed for the classes.

We can only continue to make a difference like this with your support and there are so many in so much need in Greece. If you want to be a part of something amazing, you can donate here