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Ritsona refugee camp
1. What can I do to get prepared?We recommend that volunteers acquaint themselves with the context of the refugee situation and with cultures of the Middle East. Our program focuses on the humanitarian policy of "do no harm". We have seen wonderful efforts on the ground by volunteers and without them a lot of the relief efforts for refugees would disappear. We recognise the importance of sending well-prepared volunteers in order to have a positive impact and ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved. We ask all incoming volunteers complete a module on humanitarian assistance through Disaster Ready. Details about this training will be sent to you after registration.
In all locations, safety and security always comes first, and in case of emergency we do have procedures to follow. Your mental health and self care are also extremely important. We do not have a psychologist in our team, but we do group debriefs and individual check ins on a weekly basis. The program managers and the volunteer coordinator are going to be your focal points on site. If you feel you need any kind of additional help, we can redirect you.
2. What should I wear?The weather in Greece sometimes changes dramatically from day to day. We recommend that volunteers pack heavy-duty shoes and clothes resistant to rain and wind, as well as clothes for hot days. Please ensure you wear shirts that cover your shoulders and trousers that reach below the knee so that we can be culturally sensitive to the populations we serve and work with.
3. Should I get a SIM card?Yes! We strongly recommend that volunteers bring an unlocked phone and purchase a Greek SIM card with data (the major phone companies in Greece are Vodafone and Cosmote). SIM cards are available to buy in Chalkida city centre. Vodafone offers a monthly plan: 10 euros for 5GB. However, if you hold a SIM card from any EU country,the data roaming is free. Most of our communications are done over Whatsapp and it is very important that volunteers and staff are able to stay in touch.
Lighthouse Relief runs a Child Friendly Space and a Youth Engagement Space. Both spaces are safe environments for the almost 900 residents in Ritsona camp, and we carry out different recreational and informal educational activities on a daily basis.
We work closely with IOM, the site management support agency, UNCHR and all the other local and international organizations on site to secure smooth coordination and communication on site, and we cooperate strongly to ensure that protection cased are promptly followed up. We aim to make Ritsona camp a community for the residents by supporting them together with the other organisations in setting up communal areas and maintaining the safety of the site.
1. What will it be like volunteering?Volunteering in the camps can be frustrating as people are stranded with limited information about their future and there is sometimes tension in the communities. Days can feel slow and it takes time to see an impact in our work. There are also factors in a refugee camp setting which may be beyond our control. Do not expect an emergency setting, but an environment where we patiently work together to improve the situation and the services we give. The nature of the work here can be highly frustrating, stressful and emotionally taxing. The environment can be tense.
2. Should I rent a car?Yes! Ritsona camp is located in a rural area with limited public transportation. Lighthouse Relief staff will unfortunately not be able to transport you to camp. We highly recommend either to rent a car or to share rides with fellow volunteers – please make sure to share rides with volunteers of the same programmes as the Child Space and the Youth Space have different operating hours. More information will be provided upon the success of your application. If it is difficult to rent a car or share rides, taxi is also an option.
It takes the following times to reach the camp by car: from Athens Airport and city centre: 1 hour; and from Chalkida: 20 min. To reach Chalkida, you may connect to the regional bus or train stations from Athens International Airport by taking bus no. X93. For the bus, get off the X93 at the city center bus station KTEL Loision and take the regional bus from platform no. 5. You may check the bus schedules and tickets are €6.75 to €7.50 one way. It takes 1 1/2 hours and arrives at Stathmos Iperastikon Leoforion, which is 30 minutes by foot or 5-10 minutes by taxi to the city center. For the train, get off at Kato Patisia metro station, take the green line one stop to Attiki metro station, and walk to Athens Railway Larissa Train Station to take the train to Chalkida. For train service, be sure to check if a strike is ongoing.
3. Where can I stay?There are hotels and rental accommodations in Chalkida. It is also possible to live in Vathi and Avlida Beach. Once accepted, you will be sent a list of suggested accommodation options available. We also suggest that you share accommodation with other fellow volunteers to cut down on expenses. You will find the contacts of other volunteers to share accommodation and transportation with in our Facebook group – you will be added after the volunteering position is confirmed.
On Lesvos we provide initial assistance to people arriving in boats and also conduct beach cleanup and upcycling. Although arrivals have fallen since 2015, they are ongoing. We maintain a presence on the shore 24/7 and a camp at Skala Sikamineas where we provide assistance. Volunteers should be prepared to be ready to work at any time of day. The refugees are immediately under arrest at arrival and taken by Frontex which can cause frustration. It’s important that our volunteers keep calm so people arriving feel safe after the dangerous journey.
1. Where is it?Lighthouse Relief’s field office and base camp is located in the village of Skala Sikamineas.
2. How do I get there?Mytilene Airport, the closest airport, is located one hour's drive from Skala Sikamineas. It costs 70 euros by taxi. Public transport to Skala Sikamnieas is very limited. A car or scooter is the most convenient. It takes 5 minutes to walk to the camp from the village of Skala Sikamineas.
3. Where can I stay?There are a hotels and rental accommodations in Skala Sikamineas, for example Nikis, Hotel Gorgona, Karagiannaki and Afrodites.