The Youth Centre
In response to the growing number of women on the waiting list to join the youth centre, we opened a second female-only group. Another 30 young women now have access to our service. Engagement has been consistent. The atmosphere is always positive and energetic, as the young women from different cultures get to know each other, learn new skills and express their creativity in projects, cook alongside each other – and of course, the session always finishes with dancing. We are pleased to be able to provide a much-needed monthly pack of sanitary products to each of these women, thanks to our generous donors.
We also welcomed back to the team many returning volunteers alongside some new volunteers. This mixture brought together the experience of the returning volunteers and the ideas of the new team members which created a consistent but fresh start to the new year.
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Every month, we focus on a different topic in the Youth Centre, an opportunity to discover new ideas and embrace creativity. In January we learnt all about ‘space’. We used virtual tours to travel to the edges of the universe, organised evening stargazing trips, and took inspiration from the colours and sharps to make beautiful artwork and jewellery. We also learnt about the people who make space exploration possible, using plastic bottles and water pressure to experiment with the physics of launching a rocket ourselves.
In February, we took on the theme of 'Health'. With the weather dry and not yet too hot, we took the opportunity to get outside and play some team sports. We learnt first hand about the physical, mental and community benefits that sports can bring. Back at the Youth Centre we learnt about healthy and balanced diets, we created health plans and had an inter-group fitness competition.
March has brought with it COVID-19, causing us to close our centre to adhere to government recommendations and assist in the vital prevention of the virus.
In June 2019 Action for Education and METAdrasi started a partnership to provide non-formal education to 15 to 18 year-olds in Vial. In January 2020 we renewed our Memorandum of Understanding with METAdrasi to continue this successful collaboration.
In this Learning Centre, we provide a broad curriculum that emphasises both academic development and the emotional well-being of our students. We are continuously striving to improve our curriculum, learning from best practices of other projects and our own experience.
In each session, we dedicate one period to project-based learning wherein we encourage our students to explore new interests like music, geography, culture and science. Through art projects we also give students opportunities for self-expression.
Since January we have piloted a Self-Directed Learning programme for our most advanced students. The SDL-students receive guidance to develop a self-study plan, set their own goals and explore their own interests. Using laptops, the students are enabled to find resources and online lessons that help them to achieve their goals.
“It is inspiring to see how dedicated the students are, and how fast they progress through the levels” says volunteer teacher Julie. “The eagerness to learn among our students is stunning, throughout my career as a teacher I have never met such determined students as here in Vial.” says Coordinator Matthias Mertens.
The outbreak of Covid-19 forced us to temporarily close this centre. Yet, this crisis underlined the need for our work, and only resulted in strengthening our resolve to guarantee our students with opportunities to learn. In collaboration with METAdrasi we provide paper self-study packs to our students in the camp. To further extend learning support for our students we have developed simple and easy to access online resources.
A New Project on Chios
In February we started working on our new project in Chios as a response to the deteriorating conditions in Vial camp and declining services available outside of the camp. Together with Be Aware and Share we decided to react to the situation in Chios and set up a new project.
The former warehouse we rented is a 20-minute walk from Vial and will allow us to offer many more spaces for young people to learn, rest and explore. So far this is the most ambitious project taken on by us, this former warehouse space being massive and needing a lot of preparation work.
Over the past weeks, we've re-cemented the floors, built and painted new walls, and turned this space into a welcoming centre in collaboration with a highly motivated team of community and international volunteers.
Now with 4 classrooms, a barbershop, tailor-shop, computer lab, three showers, a solar-heated boiler on the roof and a large entrance area, the project is beginning to take shape. What started as a simple desire to respond to the unacceptable situation where young refugees are denied their basic human rights has quickly become a new, fully-fledged youth centre with the potential to give 200 additional participants access to basic needs and a variety of learning opportunities.
A huge thank you goes to Help Refugees for funding the start-up cost of the project as well as to CESRT for supporting us with helping hands from their volunteer team, to The School Bus Project, and our implementing partner Be Aware and Share.