Back in Greece for the first time since the pandemic.

Due to stormy weather, we had to adapt our travel plans. We are disappointed not to be able to make it to Chios but we had a packed 36h in Lesbos, catching up with our partners, meeting new and old friends.

We visited the Parea centre (Europe Cares, Leave no one behind) on the old grounds of OHF. Here, refugees and asylum seekers are made to feel welcome and can access medical and legal help provided by different NGOs as well as education services for children, meal deliveries or a repair shop.

The visitors, around 350-400 daily can relax a little, away from their ‘home’ in the camp, where around 2000 people live. Music sessions, a cup of tea or a game of table-football allow for a pause from the continual worries and discomfort of life in the camp. Thank you Lennard and Silvia for giving us a tour!

At YSFR’s Lesbos sport centre, we caught up with founder Estelle at the end of her boxing training. On offer, many different classes from weight lifting to volley ball. Sport gives focus and strength of body and mind. The place buzzes with energy!

We met with old friends: Mahmoud who runs his successful Syrian take-away and sweet shop Reem (always delicious)

Or X still waiting after many years for his papers, life on hold. We listen to difficult life stories, stories of loss, separation, dangerous travels, hard to imagine for those of us living in comfort and safety.

Attika Human Support, one of our oldest partners, maintains its presence on the ground. We caught up with Aris, who updated us on the changes the island has seen over the last three years.

Many have moved to the Greek mainland in search of better opportunities (which rarely materialise) and a large number of NGOs has left for Athens. The island is much quieter. Still, for those stuck there or in transit, life remains a struggle: food, warmth, identity papers are not a given, and the services and human warmth the remaining NGOs bring is much needed.

Next stop: Samos.