In 2017, the safety issue of the refugees whom SOS Refugiados served in the squats led us to look for solutions. There were more and more refugees on the streets of Athens and the Greek government planned to progressively close the squats. The objective of the VICTORIA SOCIAL CENTER was to provide humanitarian, social, health and legal coverage.
We rented a seven-story building in Athens that used to be a hotel. Few of us imagined that the restoration and opening could be done before the end of the year. Walls, ceilings, electrical system, kitchen tiling, installation of industrial appliances, lift repair, purchase of furniture… so much to do and very few resources! A supportive Greek furniture company gave us the furniture that we installed in the building. The huge presence of Spanish SOS Refugiados volunteers in Athens during the months of July and August 2017 made the miracle possible.
Hundreds of young and not-so-young people, enthusiastic about an idea and deployed in an ‘organized/disorganized’ way, made a spectacular facelift to a seven-storey building possible in record time. On the first floor we fitted out an equipped kitchen; on the second, a dining room. The warehouse was on the third floor and on the fourth floor were the classrooms for workshops. The volunteer hostel occupied the upper floors, where there were also other multi-purpose rooms.
PRESENTATION OF THE VICTORIA CENTER
At the end of July 2017, we organized a concert in Victoria Square in Athens to which we invited officials and volunteers from the different squats as well as refugees from these same centres. It was an act of communion among friends, to whom life gave us different destinies. We present the project in several languages. Many Greek volunteers gave us a hand. Also, young refugees offered to help us. During the first weeks since the opening of the Victoria Center, more than twenty refugees did their particular volunteer work with us, working in the kitchen, with the distribution of food and in translation tasks.
SOS REFUGIADOS was created with the aim of helping the most defenceless group of refugees. The VICTORIA CENTER was set up for this purpose. The first task was that of direct assistance to refugees. The project was designed to provide medical and welfare assistance in a more orderly and simple way, including legal advice to people with issues of matters of asylum and immigration. We gave food and humanitarian support to all those refugees who, although being in possession of their refugee card, did not receive aid from the Greek government. It is an important group, made up of families who fear deportation to Turkey and who have preferred to remain outside the refugee camps. These people are sleeping in the different squats in Athens or in the streets of the city. No less important was the task of providing financial support to several families in situations of vital need.
In collaboration with Zaporeak, we launched our Social Dining Room. This was done by giving about 600 meals a day to refugees who had an immigration and asylum card. We designated two floors of the building for shelter for volunteers from different countries and to make close bonds possible among them, which would have positive effects in projects with the refugees. We wanted to develop workshops in a more direct way that would allow our refugee friends to be busy, to develop their manual or intellectual skills and to be in a community space among themselves, according to their professional or hobby concerns. Workshops with women, children, sports activities, handicrafts (clay and ceramics in the squats at City Plaza and Trikoupi). The implementation of the Victoria Center generated friendship bonds, cultural, musical, gastronomic exchanges, etc., of great affective and social value. Refugees have felt supported and protected thanks to all of you who have collaborated with SOS REFUGIADOS.