ELEA (Ελαία) is the ancient Greek word for Olive Tree. The name was chosen because the olive tree represents peace, honour, strong roots, long duration and it’s an inseparable part of Greece. In the ancient times, Olympic champions were honoured with a crown made of an olive branch while peace was also sealed through the exchange of an olive branch between enemies. After the name Project Elea was chosen for the group, we found out that we would be based at the ELEONAS camp which in turn, means Olive Grove!
Project Elea is a group of volunteers from around the world who have come together to work collaboratively with the residents of Eleonas Refugee Camp in Athens to improve living standards and community well-being. Approved by the Greek Ministry of Migration and working independently within the camp, the project is a long-term one. In addition to providing basic services such as food & clothing distribution enormous emphasis goes into creative engagement through a varied schedule of activities (10-12 per day) focusing on education, sports, culture, environment and skill-sharing for both children and adults. The objective is to make the endless time residents spent at the camp more pleasant, positive and productive.
Here I am working. I came to the camp on foot. It gives me time to look around. Discover landmarks so that I know how to walk through Athens and I do not have to travel with google maps continuously. The distance from my house to the camp is 5 kilometers. That is easy to do, and it also gives energy.
The first working day has started. As far as an amount of volunteers is concerned, I quickly count 40 or so. And if you can believe the group app, then there are 170 in total! The Dutch is present in a considerable number. I noticed that I am pretty old. I estimate that there are about 6 over 45yrs. old. And I am one of them. The first week is about looking around and participating in various activities. Looking for what you find most pleasant work. The work day starts with a huddle, as if I am back at my former employer! What are we going to do and who does what! It is a good approach. It seems at least somewhat organized this way.
The activities are scheduled between 14:00 and 21:00. Here my biorhythm shouts stop! I am a morning person. And my bedtime is at 22:00 🙂 The question is whether I can follow this rhythm. I signed in for 3 activities. from 14:00 to 18:00. That is a nice start.
I have signed in for painting porto cabins, repairing bikes and something like carpenter ?! My work as a carpenter was nothing more than to dismantle pallets and saw them into useful shelves and get rid of the nails. The residents of the camp can request furniture made by the volunteers.
I did not have customers as a bicycle mechanic. No one came along with defective bicycles. No punctures!
Painting has not gone well. After 2 doors we stopped. The brushes were not good and that made it hard work without a good the result. It did not look like anything. There is a spray gun available, but nobody knows where it is. Agreed to stop everything and search for the spray gun and practice it. The intention was to start again the next day with the spray gun.
It is very impressive to work and walk between all the places. All those barracks in a row. Close together. No tents as I know them from the news. Men hanging out doing ?, children play outside, women are not that much outside. I can not see anything of the suffering as they are outlined on the news. It is only in my imagination that it speaks. I am not here as a disaster tourist, I want to be able to do something, do something meaningful.
Unfortunately, I could worked only one day. The Tuesday finally felled by the flu. Had a bad night, went ghosting a lot, looked at the toilet in a different way, cold, sweat, aching muscles, headache and snorting. It might have been a few weeks before but perhaps due to stress may have been ignored. So the rest of the week I stayed at home of which 3 in bed. Make a new start next week.