#ToTheFuture: Our commitment to volunteer housing

by Jacob Warn

Today, on International Migrants Day, we’re making a special announcement.

Every year, millions of us across the world leave behind our homes, lives and families. We cross seas, countries and continents. We leave with a clear purpose, we leave with no purpose. We leave by choice or are compelled to do so due to war or conflict, politics or economics, identity or ideology.

Our pasts and presents may be full of joy and happiness or full of horror and suffering. There may be great uncertainty or insecurity at the root of our migration or one hundred thousand other reasons why we might move and leave so much of ourselves behind.

And though each and every person who undertakes this journey meets with a unique future, we must be able to guarantee one essential aspect.

Wherever we are, whoever we are, we have the right to a future of opportunity. A future that is safe, nurturing and self-determined.

We recognise that our work in Greece is just one tiny drop in an ocean that stretches beyond the horizon. Yet it is towards this inherent right to a full and proper future that we strive in our work.

And a key part of this comes down to how we support our teams. About one year ago, we decided to change our model of volunteering and put a real, concerted effort into developing community-led projects.

At the heart of this was recognising that flying out and housing international volunteers is all well and good, but that it ultimately perpetuates a system that disadvantages those already here with us, living in camps, from actively engaging.

So over the past 12 months, we’ve shifted our approach. Of course, we still welcome volunteers from around the world to come to teach and work with us. They remain an essential part of our projects. But at this point, we can also boldly state with a sense of pride that we’re providing a majority of housing and opportunities to local volunteers who are a part of the refugee community we work with.

This point has not been easy to reach organisationally for the plain and simple fact that we have had to expand our volunteer housing provision. And this costs tens of thousands of euros every year. Yet by offering fair housing to all, we are more able to catalyse the impact we wish to see in our projects. This impact stems from more local community involvement than ever before.

In 2021, we will now be able to offer accommodation to every single volunteer who works with us from the refugee community. This year, that’s been 25 people and next year it’ll be many more. This housing comes with the opportunity to build a stronger future, gain skills and prepare in numerous ways mentally and emotionally for the next step.

If you’re with us in this endeavour, I implore you to join our AFE 2021 campaign and help us uphold this commitment and approach as we scale up our work. Support here.

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