On June 14, 2016, The Radcliffe Foundation released a statement explaining its partnership with the Greek Ministry of Migration in an initiative aiming to house over 800 Syrian refugees in Thessaloniki in northern Greece. Frank Giustra, founder of The Radcliffe Foundation, worked alongside Amed Khan, an American philanthropist, to create a revolutionary alternative housing option for refugees in Thessaloniki.
Together, with the support of thousands of volunteers, they set out to “rehabilitate an abandoned clothing factory to provide housing for 800 refugees,” many of whom were women and children. According to project manager Mike Zuckerman, the project’s strategy was to “rehabilitate Greece’s abandoned infrastructure to aid in solving both the Economic Crisis and the Refugee Crisis at the same time.”
The facility, dubbed the Elpida Home, opened to families on July 24. Here are five ways the Radcliffe Foundation and the Elpida home are giving hope to refugees in Thessaloniki.
- Opening doors to relocated refugees: When the Greek government shut down Idomeni, a makeshift camp in northern Greece, 4,000 refugees were forced to relocate to old warehouses and abandoned factories. The living conditions were dangerously derelict and squalid.
- Creating opportunities for collaboration: According to the Radcliffe Foundation, the Elpida Project is a “public-private partnership [intended to] create humane living conditions and allow refugees to participate in the process, giving them a say in their own welfare.” The Radcliffe Foundation worked with NGOs and local volunteer groups to build the refuge.
- Inspiring humanity: According to Giustra, “The conditions that refugees face are heartbreaking…our goal in this project is not only to house these people…but equally as important, restore their dignity by treating them as human beings.” Furthermore, according to Khan, “This project will hopefully set the path for others, just like it, that put humanity above all else.”
- Meeting electrical, plumbing and dietary needs: The Elpida Home contains both individual housing units and common areas that are equipped with working electricity, running water and plumbing. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, in other refugee camps around Thessaloniki, “air circulation is poor, and supplies of food, water, toilets, showers and electricity are insufficient.” The overcrowded camps compound “the already high level of distress of refugee families, fueling tensions within refugee populations.” Refugees at The Elpida Home, in contrast, have access to showers, toilets and a children’s play area.
- Partnering with medical nonprofits to provide health care: Medecins du Monde is a nonprofit that has sent volunteers to the Elpida Home three days a week to provide psychological care for refugees. The Elpida Home also has a volunteer dental team on staff.
Between the joint efforts of the Greek Ministry of Migration and The Radcliffe Foundation, Syrain refugees inThessaloniki will have a better chance at overcoming the obstacles displacement creates.
– Hailey Visscher