Where do we start? Obviously, everything we have read, seen and heard on the news about the refugees is not what we see with our own eyes. Nor can we take photographs because in front of us we have real people and not just stories to tell. Skaramanga is a town of containers inhabited by circa 3400 people, about 50% of them Syrians and the rest half Iraqui/Kurds and Afghans. Everybody is waiting.
They are waiting to see if they are allowed to restart their lives so abruptly interrupted. University students who want to start to hope again. Children born in the war, who really want to go to school, people who want to work to sustain their families. To photograph them feels like a crude imposition. Everybody greets you with a smile. They ask you where you come from and they thank you to be there with them. The vitality of 1700 children and minors is almost tangible and sometimes it turns to violence. You can’t imagine what they have seen and heard, how much fear they have felt and how they absorb the anxiety of the adults around them. You see people looking into space and you imagine them prisoners of their own anguish. Worst of all are the men, who have no roles nor responsibilities, cannot protect their families nor can they provide for them. Teenagers had to put a stop to their projects, hopes and dreams and are now immobilized. Everyone is waiting to live their present and their future. Skaramanga is the best, most organized and desirable refugees camp in Greece. Those people are the privileged ones. Imagine the rest…
Established in 2005, Crete For Life is a registered charity committed to children and young adults, operating from Crete, Greece. Among other projects, Crete For Life is dedicated to supporting children and unaccompanied minors mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, who are now refugees in Greece. Crete For life is providing support and assistance to other NGOs and no profit on the ground in Skaramaga, a refugees camp outside Athens, Greece.The camp is hosting circa 3400 refugees, of whom over 1795 are under 18 years, living with either one or both parents or unaccompanied. They have left their families and their countries for survival and a better life; many of these children have endured trauma, poverty, and lack of education. While travelling, they have suffered hardships and dangers. Some have become separated from their families during long and dangerous journeys; others are sent alone with traffickers and smugglers by parents desperate to deliver their children to safe havens; others still are orphans. All are among the most vulnerables of refugees.
Refugees at Skaramaga’s camp are building a community centre to meet, learn, play, communicate, relax & engage; it will be ready in mid-October 2016. The centre is being sponsored by private and public donors, and an international NGO is providing free WIFI throughout the camp. The Community centre will create a safe place and a social hub within the camp where the community can come together, combating potential isolation individuals may face. What are needed at the moment are laptops, a printer/scanner and a projector. Refugees camps such a Skaramaga are places of waiting: on the outcome of asylum applications, family reunification, resettlement etc. By being on line, users of the community centre media room will be able to work on their official papers, stay in touch with their families and loved ones, learn skills and relevant languages, study, watch movies, sport and relax.
Laptops can be bought for around € 200 each: a printer/scanner about € 350 and a suitable projector costs around € 300. All will be new and will have the statuatory guarantee. The present need is for 15 laptops, one printer/scanner, and one projector. Factoring shipping and setup costs, together with software, earphone and other accessories, the cost for each laptop will be €250. Paper and ink will be provided by other charities on site. The total costs for 15 laptops is € 3750 and for laptops, printer/scanner and projector is €4400
The goal is to provide enough laptops (desktops take up to much space) for groups of children and the adults supervising them, to be on the internet. Most adult refugees have smartphone and they pay for their charges, which in Greece are quite high. To be able to be on Skype, for example, and see and talk to their families on real time, will be priceless. On the other hand, every refugee must follow a complex bureaucracy: it requires many official documents to be printed, signed, copied and sent to various officials. The community currently have nowhere to complete these vital requirements, but the laptops and printer/scanner at the community centre will be available to them 24 hours a day. In addition to this, for example, having available computers will allow children and young adult to learn/refresh their skill and reduce the educational gaps due to their current situation.
The main objective is to make children and young adults independent by having a safe place where to connect with their families, enquiry about their rights, learn, watch a movie and hang out together. The reason is because, for disenfranchised and disconnected children, having access to internet gives them the ability to reconnect, stay in touch, be together with their loved ones and friends in other countries, in real time. Connecting, keeping community together, allowing education to start again or afresh, allowing to be informed, knowing what happens in theirs and other countries and in the outside world. Their independence will help them to make informed decisions. They can also validate what is asked of them by others and by authorities having first hand information, for example regarding their status. If knowledge is power, independence gives knowledge.
Crete For Life will buy the laptops, printer/scanner, accessories and projector and will consign them directly to the Skaramaga Camp community centre. Crete For Life cooperates with all the other associations working at the camp, such as Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and, in this particular project with the Norwegian NGO “A Drop In The Ocean”. The community centre at Skaramaga will be run by the refugees themselves. The laptops, printer and projector will be used under the migrants’s own supervision and will be kept under lock and key when not in use. It has been calculated that due to the huge number of refugees in Greece, the processing of all the asylum and resettlement requests will take up to six years. Camps such as Skaramaga are a new reality in Greece, but they here to stay. It is a horrendous reality that many children and young adults are totally missing out on their most formative years. The vast majority of them are bored, intelligent, kind children, eager to fill their time with something meaningful. Crete for Life would like to offer the possibility of connecting these unfortunate children of Skaramagas to the outside world, via the use of free of charge fast internet.