Nea Chrani (9/10 April 2016)
The first thing I can say about Nea Chrani is … MOSQUITOES!!! The air was literally thick with them when we entered the camp, after showing our ID to the police outside. Within minutes of sitting down, we had been bitten several times through our clothes. We could only wonder how the refugees were coping sleeping in army issue tents and no real protection from this infestation …
The camp is situated in central/north-eastern Greece (nearest town, Katerini) an old sports ground and is managed by the Greek Air Force, who seemed pretty friendly when we were there. There are around 300 people there currently, a mixture of Syrians and Iraqis and the camp is not yet at capacity, but is getting there. Over a third of the residents are children, mostly young ones. There are rows of tents and very little shade aside from that.
Shortly after our arrival, we were directed to speak to a man called Ilias, who was in charge of the volunteer efforts. He was in the middle of distribution of clothing to refugees, which was carried out in a very orderly manner. We exchanged contacts and agreed to meet the next morning. When we arrived home that evening, we had both been bitten over 30 times and were itching like mad. We can only imagine what it must be like to be there all the time, constantly being eaten by mosquitos.
When we returned the next day, Ilias explained that he is part of an organisation called Otoposmou, which originally began as a psycho-social organisation looking after 500 local Greek families in need in the Katerini area. When they heard that refugees would move to the region as well, they expanded their operations to include the new arrivals. Otoposmou also serves Orfeas Hotel, Irakli and Camping Nireas, but their main operation is at Nea Chrani. Their base is in Katerini where they have an amazing space with a huge pharmacy, food store and lots of warehouse rooms.
The Air Force supplies the food here and Ilias and his team comes three times a day to distribute food as well as clothing in the evenings. There are adequate toilets and showers at Nea Chrani. Otoposmou have just bought washing machines for the camp to help residents clean clothes and also the reduce the amount of mosquitoes which are attracted by handwashing clothes.
Generally the atmosphere was happy in the camp, the children in particular were very affectionate and happy to see us. Residents offered us coffee and tea on several occasions. The main complaint was the mosquitoes – otherwise, several refugees were full of praise for the Greek volunteers who were working there.
- Otoposmou have a core group of about 20 – 25 volunteers and can draw on around 2,500 others on a more casual basis. They are enthusiastic about volunteers joining their operations and have big plans for the coming months. They would like to house six or seven refugee families in the grounds of their space in Katerini as they fully believe in integration of refugees into the local community. If you want more information about volunteering with them, their website is www.otoposmou.gr and you can email them on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Otoposmou have an incredibly impressive pharmacy system that serves thousands of people in need. If you go this website, you can see the top 100 medicines they are short of and hopefully help to supply them. We were especially asked for scabies medication as over 20 people at Nea Chrani have this.
- You can send donations to: Fleming 8 (Kapnikos Stathmos), 60100 Katerini, Greece.
- Otoposmou do not take financial donations but are currently looking for 3,000 euro worth of funding to convert a warehouse into a medical store. If anyone would like to buy the materials needed to do this (work will be done by Otoposmou), then please contact them on the email address already provided.
- Nea Chrani has enough clothes, etc, for now but please send MOSQUITO REPELLENT! Babies are being hospitalised the bites are so bad and it’s driving the residents crazy with the itching.
- Shampoo and soap is also needed
- The residents would love to have several of those big tea boilers.
Aside from the mosquitos, we really liked Nea Chrani and were incredibly impressed with Otoposmou and Ilias. They have an incredible organisation and structure already that serves the needs of refugees well. They are very quick to mobilise and have the best interests of the refugees at heart. We also like the idea of supporting an organisation that not only supports refugees but the needs of Greek families in need as well. We would urge people to donate medication and volunteer with Otoposmou and we look forward to seeing their fantastic plans come into fruition.
Camping Nireas (9 April 2016)
Camping Nireas is situated in a back road in Central/North-eastern Greece. The army are renting the site from a local man named George. We had to present our passports and then were told to come back later after the army had asked for permission from George to let us speak to him. When we returned several hours later, George was there and told us the following; refugees are housed in army issue tents with no flooring and there are currently around 350 people in the camp of mixed nationalities, but around 50 % were children and almost all came through Lesvos. There are toilets and hot water showers on the site.
The view of the entrance of Camping Nireas
George told us that the site is fine for clothes, etc, but they need the following items:
- Mosquito oil for kids and adult
- Baby things (NOT CLOTHES); nappies, baby wipes, cream, etc
- Shampoo and soap
All items can be sent to:
George is open to having volunteers come and work on the site, but they would need to speak to him first. Translators especially would be welcomed.