Action for Education is a volunteer-run NGO, registered in Greece and the UK, that works alongside refugee communities on the Greek islands and mainland. It host spaces that engage in lifelong learning through creativity, community and choice to support people whose basic human rights are not being met. In Chios, Samos and Athens, centres provide education programmes, basic services and safe spaces for women, children and youth.
The Zoe Trust began working with Action for Education (AFE) in June 2017. We started with a couple of small grants for sports equipment and teaching supplies for the original project on Chios. Then, buoyed by the enthusiasm of the volunteer-run team, we co-funded the creation of a computer lab on Samos in January 2019.
Action for Education does not fail to impress with its tireless and evocative communication through its website, quarterly reports, and FB page about its work tackling the tragically deteriorating asylum situation on the islands. In September 2019, we decided to deepen our commitment and support so trustee Tanya Murphy visited the project in Samos.
Tanya divided her time between informally meeting participants and volunteers in the centres, and intensive strategy sessions with the coordination team. In particular, Tanya supported the strengthening of the organisation’s strategy to monitor its impact and the creation of new governance structures.
She enjoyed whiling away a few hours in the Computer Lab, open 12 hours per day. It is a vibrant space run by asylum seeker volunteers with a background in technology and IT and host to numerous classes and online learning sessions. She particularly enjoyed the daily 2 hour internet café when girls and boys, men and women can use the computers as they please, whether to communicate with a loved one, play computer games or surf the net.
Another highlight, was Women’s Day at Banana House day centre. While the centre is usually open to both young men and women, it is reserved for women and small children one day per week. Women can relax together, enjoy the warm showers, eat, drink, enjoy free wifi, and study at their ease. How this day came about is a typical example of the rapid responsiveness of the team. The coordinators noticed that at first, few women came to the centre. By creating a weekly women-only day, they soon discovered to their delight that not only did the centre fill up on these days, but that women started to attend the mixed gender days too.
Overall, what struck Tanya the most was the warm atmosphere of each centre and the mutual respect with which everyone treated one another. It is rare for asylum seekers to find places to just be themselves with no demands and to be accepted for who they are.
We are committed to supporting Action for Education’s activities further by providing ongoing strategic and fundraising guidance. We invite you to join us in supporting this inspiring innovative education project and help asylum seekers’ lives become a little more bearable in their first European port of call.
Click here to hear Action for Education coordinators and volunteers speak about their experience and motivation.