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Ritsona refugee camps
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. Self-care is very important, and if you feel like you need help, there is support available.
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.
3. Should I get a SIM card?Yes! You need to bring an unlocked phone and purchase a Greek SIM card with data. Most of our communication is done over Whatsapp and it is important to be able to stay in touch. SIM cards can be purchased in the bigger cities.
Lighthouse Relief has a coordinating role and we run a Child Friendly Space and a Youth Engagement Space. We also conduct construction. We aim to make Ritsona camp a community for the residents by supporting them together with the two other volunteer organisations in setting up communal areas, safe spaces for women and children and more.
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. A car is also a great way to support Lighthouse Relief, as it enables you to get around easily and help with warehouse transportation, purchasing and distribution. 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. If you have been accepted and are experiencing difficulties, you may contact our volunteer coordinator.
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.