So, in case you didn’t know, I went away to Athens last weekend with my friend and her little girl. It was the first time I went away on holiday sans husband and kids. I realised, as I boarded the plane, that it was the first time I boarded a plane (not Royal Brunei/going back home) without any accompaniment. A few airport officials looked behind me -on several occasions – and asked if there was anyone else with me. Errr, no?
So anyway, how was it you ask? Greece has been absolutely lovely – laidback culture, friendly people, mediterranean food and culture (I like) and the weather was good! Hello sunnies, I can now utilise you! *looks out at the grey skies of England* It was also relatively cheap compared to travelling around other parts of Europe!!
What I wanted to talk about though is my visit to Orange House project. It is a centre which houses refugee women and children (can accomodate about 20) and also has an ‘open kitchen’ principle everyday — about 60 people will be eating there daily (outside Ramadan month).
I came across their website before coming over and was intrigued. They called for direct donations (money or items) and so, I asked if I could bring something over from UK. They were more in need of fresh groceries – which is no surprise as they are feeding lots of people on daily basis!
I went over to the house (which is basically a building with multiple levels – two levels I think and also rooftop garden), which is in the middle of the city — a bit further from the touristy areas. Only cost me 5 euros from hotel/central area.
I learnt more about the Orange House Project from the founder/volunteers. Marina, one of the founders, said she wanted to do something and house the refugees… so she has asked around other organisations who is helping out with the rent and bills. Everything is voluntary based/from donations.
There is a communal area (see below) and living quarters. The living quarters consist of rooms (with bunk beds) communal bathroom and kitchen. It basically reminds me of uni dorms. There is also a small computer room – think old stlye computers (also donated) yang sebagak basar that we left in the 90s.
With Marina (French-Greek) and Hasan (Syrian-Greek) – these two cemented my knowledge that Greek people are friendly!
They also do classes for the refugees, either those who lives there or any refugee who is interested. Many are language classes but they also have yoga and guitar classes — which I thought was sweet, mau jua beriadah kan, after all they’ve been through. One of the things they ask of the women who lives there is that they have to do 5 classes a week, be it something sporty or language. They also help with looking for jobs and filling in CVs. And also just simple things like finding volunteers to give haircut to the refugees. I just love the ethos and principles of the project.
What also astounds me is that the volunteers/founders have full time jobs too!!
I went to the wholesale supermarket and we bought loooaaadsss of stuff, hopefully that will last for a week or two? Hasan, one of the volunteers, said Ramadan is covered at least. Part of me was sad because there was a lot of thought on what to buy and how much it would cost. He asked if I was ok to buy some food stuff for the kids (ie biscuits). Of course!! What a contrast to our weekly family grocery shopping – alhamdulillah, since graduating from medical school, I have never had to think hard whether to buy something or not from the supermarkets because it’s expensive and not a necessity. I would buy the kids snacks unthinkingly and would only refuse if we had too many sweet/chocolatey stuff already. It just brings things to perspective really.
Playing tetris with the groceries – how to fit it all in a small hatchback!
I met some of the women there but didnt have much time to talk for long. I did play with the kids there, who are so sweet – though I must say, they play a mean game of Uno! I lost twice to 7-8 year old girls 😥😥
InshaAllah, I can come back again to Athens and hopefully pay a visit to Orange House project as well.
My sharing this is hopefully not to be riya (show off) but to inspire others to find ways to spread our kindness and wealth. I came across this crowdfunding website awhile ago of a 10 yr old boy from UK, who wanted to give something to refugees. He felt so sad seeing and hearing about the refugee crisis. He raised some money and bought a whole load of heavy blankets and winter stuff to be distributed at refugee camps. His parents actually flew with him and they drove to Turkey’s borders to distribute the stuff. He also bought some toys/balls because he wanted something to cheer up the kids. I thought if this ten year old kid had the guts and energy to do this and is proactively doing something, why can’t I?
PS Thanks to those who donated for the groceries as well!
PPS Another post on Athens itself to come!