November 15, 2016
Somewhere in Epirus, in a storage facility located in the Filippiada Refugee Camp, Lighthouse Relief’s regional coordinator stands before bags of clothing, undaunted.
“That’s my dream job. I love sorting,” she says.
In a way, that shouldn’t be surprising. Renate Hoare tirelessly sorts through the shifting information of refugee sites in the Epirus region. She is aware of the most delicate individual cases as well as the broader changes happening in the camps and region. Originally from Ireland, Renate joined Lighthouse Relief in July 2016. Prior to her work in Greece, she spent many years in Bali, Indonesia, working with the John Fawcett organization, which gives life changing cataract surgeries to those who cannot afford them. Lighthouse Relief is actively working in two camps in the region, Katsikas and Filippiada, but there are five camps in Epirus, as well as refugees relocated to hotels in several towns. She is a master of multi-tasking: her every day is a juggling act, a feat of somehow being in multiple places at once.
9:25 am, Lighthouse Relief Office, Katsikas
It’s 9:25am and Renate, starts her day by sweeping the floor of the LHR Epirus Office. After a peaceful sweep, the day sets pace at a run. Renate leads the daily 9:30 am briefing with staff and volunteers. The main topic today: When will the children at Katsikas Camp actually begin Greek school? Some have, some haven’t—since October, the Greek government has opened Greek public schools to refugee children, but there have been multiple delays. After the meeting, she grabs a coffee—“no time for the niceties of tea”—as she checks in with each member of her team on topics ranging from the board games initiative—engaging residents through chess, cards, backgammon—to heating Lighthouse Relief’s Female Friendly Space (FFS).
11 am, UNHCR Headquarters, Ioaninna
Renate’s running late until her meeting at UNHCR gets pushed back an hour—but she’s unruffled. “As you can see, everything is fluid.” And now, time for more coffee. At the meeting, they discuss UNHCR’s upcoming football workshop for 150 refugee children with former FC Barcelona players. Lighthouse Relief volunteers will help fit the children with new trainers before the workshop and paint faces after lunch.
1:00 pm, Katsikas Camp
After the UNHCR meeting, Renate heads straight to the camp coordination meeting in an old military hanger. It’s unheated and cigarette smoke hangs in the air. Representatives from different organisations discuss news about Greek public school, winterization, and electricity.
Renate leaves early to drop a tea kettle off at the FFS, where Medicins du Monde (MDM) is hosting a health discussion for women. Then she takes a brief walk and pops her head into a tent to see how a resident has converted the former beauty salon into a holding pen for carrier pigeons, which he flies in the evenings.
3:00 pm, Filippiada Camp
Now, she drives to Filippiada Camp, where Lighthouse Relief runs its Female Friendly Space and Infant and Young Child (IYCF) program. Renate visits her team there twice a week. The camp is about an hour drive from Katsikas. On those days, she spends two to three hours in the car.
On site, she visits the camp’s warehouse and to talk to Refugee Support, an NGO who converted the space into a well-organised shop with point systems so that residents can buy exactly what they need. But there’s still bags of shoes to discard, and Renate fills her car with five trash bags before coordinating interviews between Lighthouse Relief’s videographer and the Filippiada team. Waiting in Filippiada’s FFS, she works on a puzzle with a teen girl and covers a broken window. Renate meets with the Filippiada Camp team at 6PM. The sun has set and within five minutes, the electricity goes out, so they finish the meeting by cellphone light.
7:30 pm, Home
Renate drives back to Katsikas, her car brimming with bags of shoes and baby bottles. Bottles tumble as she turns on the winding roads. At home, she checks her email for the first time that day. She then reviews a document for a conference with European policy makers on female spaces in refugee camps, and finally goes to bed at 1:30AM. In less than 8 hours, her day will start anew.
Renate Hoare was the Regional Coordinator for Lighthouse Relief’s work in the Epirus region from July 2016 to January 2017. Before her role as Regional Coordinator, Renate started with Lighthouse Relief in 2016 as a volunteer for IYCF in Ritsona Refugee Camp, a program that remains very close to her heart. Currently, Renate is back in the United Kingdom, pursuing rigorous academic study with two modules, "Return to clinical Practice" followed by "International Humanitarian Development Program." For those interested in pursuing a coordination role within Lighthouse Relief, we encourage you to share you CV with us at email@example.com!