HOLY TRINITY CORFU

21 L.Mavili Street, Corfu 49100. Tel (+30) 6986538755

2nd Place - Rita Alamanou - Old Fortress

3rd Place - Maria Smyth - Traffic Jam North Corfu

4th Place - Anne Giannouka - Prospero's Cell 

5th Place - Maria Smyth - Afionas Village 

6th Place - Ellen Barr - Danilia Morning glory

7th Place -  Calliope Giannouka - Giali Beach West Corfu

8th Place - Maria Smyth - Sinarades

9th Place - Marion Andriotis - Glorious Spring Flowers

10th Place - Jackie & Brian Vallance - Easter Saturday Pot Throwing

11th Place - Anne Giannouka - North Corfu Winter

12th Place - Fiona Retsis - Mouse Island in the mist

13th Place - Lorraine Tombros - Vegetable Market

Thank you to all who entered and voted. We will keep you informed about a calendar for 2018

HTC SUPPORTING THE REFUGEES IN GREECE 

 

16th August 2016

KATSIKAS REFUGEE CAMP IOANNINA

I have been here 2 weeks, as a volunteer with the Swedish organisation “Lighthouse Relief.” My role is to support pregnant and breastfeeding mothers with children under two. It is much more my field of relevant experience than that of clinical support in the Red Cross medical tents (though it was good at the time of volunteering in Idomeni camp, it being in theory a “transit camp”).

 

Katsikas camp is situated some 8 km west of Ioannina, the main town of Epiros province. It is very much smaller than Idomeni which at its fullest had some 15,000 refugees. Katsikas camp is situated just outside the small village of Katsikas and is an old army camp. It houses some 400 refugees, mainly (now) Syrians. About a month ago its 200 minority Yazidi population left of their own accord – historically they have never been accepted by larger Arabic speaking populations. These particular Yazidis came from Afghanistan. They had felt threatened and experienced some hostility from the majority Syrian population on site. They have been housed in another camp nearby.

 

Initially the army has run Katsikas camp but moves are afoot for a transfer to the local municipality’s jurisdiction and the local mayor. We have heard that this transfer includes the placement of 80 paid Greek “volunteers ‘ from OIM and ARSIS. . Currently the two NGO’s with main responsibility for meeting identified needs on site are the Spanish “Olvidados” and our own. There is also A.I.R. (Spanish) which is responsible for the logistics of camp organization, all 3 being directly under the Army’s authority regarding the camp setup. The parachuting in of this 80-strong Greek team with no particular designated role in Katsikas is viewed as a purely political move rather than one responding to identified need. Not necessarily in the interest of the refugees.

 

There is also concern about the proposed transfer in so far as currently working with the army hierarchy has proved somewhat challenging but working with a municipal body may prove to be “Kafkaist “ or like Dicken’s “Circumlocution Office”!!! Most Greeks will agree with this concept of local government officialdom!

 

I have to say, I had expected far less coming and going of volunteers working in camp, having on my previous visit, been informed by Olvidados that any volunteer accepted by their organization should be staying for a minimum of 3 months and because initially my application had been refused by Lighthouse Relief because all posts were filled. However, after many unexpected events within our organization previous to my arrival, there has been a total changeover of staff/volunteers . Consequently it is like Paddy’s Market and I find it hard to keep up with all the comings and goings and all the new faces. So must the refugees with whom we are working but we are assured that this situation of ordered chaos is only temporary.

 

It does highlight for me the fact that. in a more settled camp, continuity and long-term work is essential for all concerned . At Idomeni so many of identified problems were the direct result of free-floating interventions by independent groups or individuals, however well-meaning and with the best of intentions. Without a good over-arching strategy that all concerned parties, including the community, “buy into’ and a responsible management in place, positive outcomes are unlikely to follow . But then, that camp WAS supposed to be transitional and not the more permanent camp that it later turned out to be.

 

I am working in the “Female Friendly Space” (FFS), my session is one of several designated activities filling the opening times between 11am and 7pm daily in this area We run a 2 hour session aimed at Pregnant and Lactating Mothers with children under two years of age. The aim is to provide these people with a designated time during which they can unwind and relax, enjoy nutritious snacks for themselves and their children. During other sessions, there are opportunities to learn English, do Yoga, learn to knit, have a massage and many other ideas yet to be put into practice. Different NGO’s on site are responsible to fill the various slots as appropriate.

 

There is the Child Friendly Space (school) and the Gym and Shisha tent (Hookah) for the men. Teenage boys have an area for kicking the football and I think a basket ball post. There is the library area, the Tea Tent is being re-established and I believe a small playground area for the little ones. On the site”map” there is a designated garden space which we hope to utilize and promote as an allotment.

 

There had been a kitchen area which, for hygiene reasons and as a fire hazard has been removed. But the people still light fires unofficially to cook on despite this and the fact that outdoor fires are prohibited in Greece from May to November. However the food provided by the army is so dire, I think a blind eye is turned to this fact. Pasta and bread with no vegetables, one piece of fruit daily (maybe) and meat once a week is NOT nutritious by any stretch of the imagination. Given that the bulk of the camp population consists of children and some elderly and pregnant women, this is truly a disgrace.

 

Every effort is made to use the expertise and skills of the community members to identify and. if possible, to provide essential community services. The school is an excellent example of this approach The refugees are not permitted to be paid for any work done on site (or outside of it) until fully registered as asylum seekers so anything they do is, in effect, volunteering eg school teachers, camp construction workers who offer their skills etc. Most of the Syrians refugees in the camp are middle class, well –educated and highly skilled though there is a percentage of illiterate people [Mainly women) as well. Due to the ongoing war situation, many children have never been to school.

 

An emerging problem is the simmering anger that exists in the camp, both amongst the adults (mainly young males) but also exhibited in Domestic violenceincidents which are increasingly frequent, and amongst the children. The latter exhibit very aggressive behavior, often totally out of the blue and randomly, towards anybody who happens to be in range, as well as to their peers and siblings. Much of the parents’ interaction with their children is what we would consider to be quite harsh, even in play – a lot of physical (often hard) slapping. An example of unwarranted, random aggression occurred when one of the volunteers, who is using crutches, had a child suddenly attempt to kick one crutch from under her arm whilst she was walking in the camp.

 

Teachers report consistently facing situations where all the usual ways of reducing and countering aggressive and disruptive behavior in the classroom and the playground fail dismally. They reckon that only 25% of the children they are teaching benefit from their lessons, the remaining 75% are incapable of absorbing much in the classroom because of disruptive/aggressive behavior which gets in the way or because of inability to concentrate for any length of time. Much of the art work of the children indicates that far too many are still not dealing with their traumatic life’s experiences in any constructive way. If the family members are struggling to move on, or have mental health issues, these children are not receiving adequate nurturing and support to do so either. There is so much help and resources needed to deal with this pandemic post-traumatic stress on the camp that is simply not available.

 

Another huge issue is the slow response of the bureaucratic systems to adequately and speedily progress the Family reunion process. So many women are now the sole parent left to safeguard and to protect children: their husband, the children’s father, having already arrived in another country ahead of them but they have been left behind and trapped by the sudden closure of Europe’s borders to refugees. Many pregnant mothers have had their babies delivered in Greece without their husband’s being present. Many have really ill or traumatized children to manage without their husband’s/father’s support. Many unaccompanied minors are also residing in the camp whose parents or relatives are ahead of them in other European countries. There is the ever present, very real and constant danger of rape, human trafficking, prostitution and child abuse on the camp site (as in all refugee camps).

 

Polygamy is common and legal in Syria, and so is also a phenomenon of the camp at Katsikas. Where the

Family Reunion process is concerned, this is going to cause immense heartache and have tragic consequences for such families. In the EU polygamy is illegal and not permitted. So such fathers are going to have to choose ONE wife who will then effectively become the legal father of ALL his children, irrespective of which of his wives gave birth to them. The remaining wives will not be permitted to join this family or to accompany them onto the next country. Effectively they will be abandoned and forced to stay on in Greece (their first country of registration as they no longer are entitled to claim reunification as a FAMILY member) and left to fend for themselves. Can you imagine what this means????

 

Perhaps the most difficult thing is the fact that the refugees have no certainty in their lives, no access solid and true information that they can rely on, no way of planning ahead, very little hope for improvement in their life’s situation. They live from day to day, a life of monotony, boredom, fear and anxiety, anger and despair. The refugees have set up a clock replicating the clock

people in Homs created when a mass killing took place and Time, for them, stood still. Hare in Katsikas, it stopped at 11.15, the time that they arrived at the camp in Katsikas.

 

They cannot regain a sense of personal self-worth or dignity whilst living in these camps where they cannot live independent lives, cook their own meals, work to support themselves or their families, always depending on handouts, on the whim of their keepers, whether the NGO’s and volunteers helping them, the army which controls the camp or the government, the EU who make all the rules that govern their lives. No real healing, moving on psychologically and reducing the post –traumatic syndrome which engulfs so many individuals and families is possible in these. sad circumstances. Nor is there light at the end of this terrible tunnel …….. The war that directly is responsible for this mass movement of refugees is waging on and on and on. Sieges, bombing, gassing, starvation are daily reality for millions left behind in Syria and Europe has closed its borders. Deals have been done over their heads at their expense. After all they have gone through to get this far and now They are truly TRAPPED and they know it.

 

And yet, somehow, their resilience, their enormous courage and their hope flickers, struggles to survive, lives on………….

 

March 2016

Recently three ladies from the church family visited the refugee camp at Katsikas (near Ioannina).  Here’s a brief summary of events leading up to the visit and some thoughts after the event.

The church now has twenty-one people who have pledged 10 Euros a month for a year and this amount plus the one off donations from friends from the UK and visitors from the retreat flat has kept the refugee fund going. This money is used solely for the refugees’ needs and to help subsidise travel for the volunteers.

 

“Using an up to date list of current needs for the refugees living at the camp I headed to the shops to purchase as much as was possible in Corfu before the trip and then taking the rest of the donations from March to May as cash to use when we arrived at the camp.

From past experience we know that this method works pretty well as the needs of the camp are so diverse and vary on a daily basis.

From the ‘needs’ list I managed to source school bags, baby bottles, yoga mats, small rugs, sanitary products, white boards and pens and finally exercise books and pencils for the small school that has developed in Katsikas camp. Some of the teaching is carried out in the early morning by Greek teachers before they go off to their main teaching job at local Greek schools.

The manager of a stationary shop in town was particularly generous, as soon as he realised that the books were for the refugee children he gave 10% off and free pencils. He said the plight of the children really touched his heart.

I did hear that some of the children at Katsikas had already been out of school for over a year.

The visit to the refugee camp was (as always) a very strange experience. It is easy to think you know how you would run it more effectively or do things differently but the NGOs really do try to do their best in a very difficult and politically charged situation. The local Greek population are, as ever, very helpful and generous in many ways and put other European countries to shame time and time again.

The most prized possession that we brought with us was the sewing machine that Lindsay had managed to find. It was received literally with open arms of gratitude.

The stationery and the school related items were also like gold dust with at least three different organisations saying that they wanted them which resulted in our bags being ‘argued’ over and being loaded on and then loaded off a minibus!

What stood out for me the most on this visit was the disempowerment of the people staying there. They had been told unofficially that it could be six to twelve months before their cases are reviewed. The women, younger girls and the children are able to busy themselves for part of the day with various organised activities and chores but for the men and older boys each day lies open before them with no prospect of how to fill the hours.

There are communal kitchens and a gym in the pipeline but as it stands there is nothing for the men to do and very little that they are empowered to do apart from wait and wait. The Wi-Fi is unpredictable and there are no books, magazines or newspapers in Arabic available.

After liaising with a lady from the Spanish NGO ‘Olvidados,’ who are currently running the distribution warehouse, we purchased sugar, jam, chocolate spread, dried fruit, nuts and other products they specifically asked for as Ramadan was fast approaching and they had 250 families (we think) that were going to take part.

We left again with stunned sadness for the plight of the refugee and returned to the comfort of our own bath and bed at the end of a grimy and tiring day.”

 

Visit to Katsikas camp.

When visited by the Liveticker bus team ( they have been  visiting and commenting on many of the newly established official camps opened to accommodate refugees) it was in April around the time of the road protests on the Eglatia by those refugees based there who were attempting to draw the attention of   the wider world to their dire living conditions.  According to UNHCR only 20 toilets and 12 showers for the whole camp (at least 1000 people at that time)

. There is no hot water so people boil it for washing etc in closed tins, one of which exploded in the face of a young girl when the build-up of steam inside caused it to explode in her face, causing extensive scalding and serious burns.

When it rains the water enters into the tents and after the rains, snakes and scorpions emerge. People are accommodated in tents, in many cases extensive families mean in overcrowded conditions. They must sleep on rough stony ground, without any mattresses or a proper solid base.

People report that the daily meal provided by the army was never varied, was tasteless and often “off” They did not have cooking facilities so couldn’t prepare their own meals.

Lindsay visited around the  same time and her observations confirmed the above.  Idomeni was a haven by comparison! In addition there was a well-established support network of NGO’s and volunteers on site. Both very minimal and the army restricted their free movement in and out of the camp.

When we visited in June, Lindsay reported  a noticeable improvement in living conditions in the camp although much remains to be done. For example the people are still sleeping on rough ground.

However a Spanish NGO “Olvidades” and a Swedish NGO “Lighthouse Relief” were managing the camp. MSF and the Red Cross had medical tents, but care was only available intermittently not 24 hour cover as was the case at Idomeni. But the health needs of the community are different, now that it is a more settled populace: chronic illnesses, psychiatric conditions, preventive health especially for the 0-5 age group (vaccinations etc).

The Olvidades organization runs a tight ship, overseeing the distribution of clothes and household items as well as jointly with Lighthouse Relief attending to the needs of the community: a gym was in the process of being set up for the men and the many bored male populace.  There is a football team which plays matches against local Ioannina football clubs (supported and cheered on by women and children at the camp), There is a dedicated women’s   and a similar one for the children,  A school is being set up and supported by volunteer teachers (both Greeks and members of the refugee community)

New toilets (squat variety which are more culturally acceptable) and shower units are being built. (by Greek workmen – could not skilled refugees be involved here?).

There was some (unexplained to us) dispute over the small kitchen that had been opened on site so they could cook and provide some of their own traditional food as a supplement to army provision.  It appears that regular meetings between the NGO’s and army personnel are ongoing on this issue but as well on the introduction of other improvements some of which are the refugees’ own suggestions. That must be a positive sign – constructive communication and cooperation between all bodies concerned is a vital must.

There is a huge storage point which houses the “office” of Olvidades. Here 11 families a day, between strictly regulated hours, may come and choose basic clothing that they might need as well as a choice of any three household items available.  After each family has had their turn, the shelves and stock are replenished with similar items so that everyone has fair access to these goods.Nothing is given without the presentation of the ID (registration) card. One’s experience of the mayhem that was rampant in the Clothing Tent at Idomeni confirms that such controls are absolutely essential.

There is regular rubbish collection and people are encouraged to use the available facilities for their refuse and not to just throw it outside of their tent doors. (huge problem at Idomeni). In fact there are designated refugee monitors/collectors and hopefully some educational input about environmental and hygiene issues..

Evidence that the communities are aware that they will be based at this camp for an idefinitely long period can be seen by the small gardens created at tent doors, and from the decorative tents proclaiming “Afghanistan area” and similarly, “Syria” .  We asked whether this signified “no go” areas between the two groups but were assured that this is not the case (although fighting does occur between the mainly young males from time to time (as was the case in Idomeni.

We saw young children filing out of “school” each carrying an exercise book and pencil. Some were proudly .coming to the official tent to claim their prize for achievement or good behaviour .

Water on tap is available (but still only cold) and, from our observation, only at certain times.

The people are free to move in and out of the camp but must present an ID and sign in and out Stricter control by army or police gatekeepers is evident: no media and visitors are grilled before being allowed to enter (remembering “activists” at Idomeni?)

The camp is 5 km outside of Ioannina but there is a small supermarket within easy walking distance.  Whether the camp is within range of public transport facilities or not, we did not ascertain.

Apart from the items brought from Corfu (Lindsay’s treadle sewing machine and school items were pounced upon by the volunteers), we had money to spend on items most needed at the time of our visit. A sit was the eve of  Ramadan and there are 250 refugees about to mark it, we were requested to get dried fruit. One of the Voluteers working with the women asked for “girlie” itiems: small mirrors, hair dye, nail files etc which we happily got from Metro using the membership card from Olvidades which were all duly delivered and and greatly appreciated by the organization members.

Local Greeks, Churches and other charities bring contributions to the camp too. Of course, more than ever “hands on deck” are needed as the camp settles down and if the needs of the community identified are to be met. One good move, I noted, is that only volunteers able to stay for a minimum of 3 months (Olvidades stipulation, I think it is less for Lighthouse Relief, depending on one’s role and skills on offer.) are being accepted. That is essential – for the volunteers to get into role and to begin to understand the volunteers, their aspirations and their felt, as well as real, needs. To provide continuity for the refugees themselves (their lives have been SO full of chaotic traumatic changes) and  to allow time for the build up of trust between volunteers and refugees themselves.  They have been saying so loudly and so piteously that they are “slowly dying” – we have to hear them and to respond by simply “being there for them” in whatever way can and know how to be..

The information below is taken from the website of Lighthouse Relief.  Perhaps there may be some takers???

 

1. VOLUNTEERING IN KATSIKAS REFUGEE CAMP.

 

1. AM I NEEDED?

We have a team of staff volunteers on site with a background in the specific areas we work with. We welcome skilled volunteers to join in a supporting role if you have a background in:

  • Children's care (especially focused on troubled or traumatised children)
  • Women's care
  • Teaching (especially female English teachers)
  • Social work
  • Protection
  • Infant feeding
  • Nutrition
  • Construction
  • Language (Arabic, Farsi/Dari, Kurdish, and especially Greek)
  • Communication (photo/video/text)
  • Medical work

For the medical support, we are looking for doctors, midwives and nurses who are experienced in pediatrics, obstretics and gynecology, or have a background in women’s or children’s health and at least 2 years working experience.

We also gladly receive applications from people wanting to fund and/or work with specific leisure or school activities that would be suitable for our Communal Spaces, Child Friendly Space and Female Friendly Space

II would add an idea of my own – gardening skills. The people themselves have already shown their natural instinct to ground themselves by creating a small garden space in the most inhospitable condititions and in the face of such uncertainty in their personal lives and for the future. The summer is hardly the time for much movement in this area, but the future? Maybe the donation of vegetable plants, gardening tools etc??? and a sharing of knowledge and skills. As a gardener myself one has to learn anew about which plants, when to put them in and how to adapt to a very local Mediterranean mini-climate.

 

A Prayer for Refugees;

Lord God, no one is a stranger to you and no one is ever far from your loving care. In your kindness, watch over refugees and victims of war, those separated from their loved ones, young people who are lost, and those who have left home or who have run away from home. Bring them safely to the place where they long to be and help us always to show your kindness to strangers and to all in need. We pray these things in the name of your Son who was Himself born into the troubled life of a refugee.

Amen.

 

For more information on giving email trishmariawilson@gmail.com or follow posts by Lindsay Hollingdale and Are You Syrious? Facebook page.

The Retreat Flat at HTC

A place of refreshment and renewal

Book your holiday here in Corfu and stay in our upstairs apartment.

The retreat flat is a an air-conditioned, self-contained flat consisting of a hallway leading to a sitting/dining Room, kitchen (fully equipped with cooker, frige-freezer etc.. and a washing machine), double bedroom with en-suite bathroom. The flat is accessed by its own staircase (which at present has no lift facilities). Wi-Fi is available. International calls, free of charge, can be booked at the office in the church rooms below.

For more details, photos, check for availability and how to book click here