The Community Centre's aim is to facilitate shared ownership and active involvement by those who use the space and the local community, to create a space where people from a diverse set of backgrounds, cultures and languages can learn, work, create, socialise and relax. As well as to offering support, including but not limited to; food, dentistry, internet and computer access, information, legal support, education, a kids area, a women’s space, a carpentry and metal workshop and a safe space to spend the day.
We accept money from various sources and none of the groups that donate to us impose criteria on how we run the project. The funding we take enables us to offer a wide selection of services whilst still maintaining our autonomy.
We accept money from the following groups:
- A group of cyclists from the UK, Thighs of Steel, rode from London to Athens in a relay 2 years in a row raising a combined total of 150,000 Euros which they have donated to this project. They will depart again from London in summer 2018.
- Help Refugees, a UK charity, donated 90,000 Euros in our first year. They funded the Skipchen group to come to Lesvos last year and now support over 70 grassroots projects around Greece. They are a relatively new charity and were started when one woman asked for support to send a container of donations to Calais. They rely on private donations, using their connection to the music industry to raise funds.
- We also have a donate button on our Facebook page and have details here on our website
- A small Swiss charity, Giving For A Better Future, has money specifically for the employment of Greek teachers. They use our space for teaching but we are not involved with their organisation further than this or with the paying of the teachers.
- Kairos Stiftung, a small Swiss foundation
- Peace Club Zurich organised a weekend of club nights, donating all profits and wages.
- Smartpeace Foundation, a Swiss charity who supports projects that promote peaceful relationships between human beings, and groups of different origins, ethnicities and religions.
- Swiss Counselling Service for Women Suffering from Violence (BIF)
- We have received many donated materials, furniture, white boards, tools etc.
- We have done the construction work in the building ourselves and have also built or repurposed the majority of our own furniture from pallets, doors, glass and furniture found in the street.
- The majority of the labour comes from people donating their time. Though, through money fundraised by Thighs of Steel in 2017, 18 volunteers (from the refugee community and/or the local Greek community) are supported with some expenses paid (€300 part time / €600 full time) for a period of 4 months starting January 2018. These supported volunteer positions are in the following areas of the project: cultural mediation, education, cafe space, information desk, workshop & maintenance, Freeshop, accounting, volunteer coordination, Greek administration, media, kitchen.
Dentists 4 Refugees used our dental clinic until it closed down in 2017, we have continued to help fund their good work in a different location.
Team Sweden donated funds and equipment for the dentist clinic.
None of the groups that donate to us impose criteria on how we develop the project. We are autonomous in all the decisions we take regarding this space and would not accept money from groups who tried to impose any restrictions upon us.
Why the building is rented
We rent an 8 storey building, home to the community centre, as well as a small shop front for the Freeshop. Although we believe in the opening of free spaces for the use of the community, we felt that it would be inappropriate for us to run this project in a squatted building at this time.
The rent for the building is €3400 per month, and €300 a month for the Freeshop. The first 2 years of rent has been covered by the money from the cyclists. The main costs from this point on cover the food for the café, bills (electricity, water, gas, internet & phone, lift maintenance), building maintenance, plus the running of the free Dental clinic.
The information we provide
We are self-organised and want to work with any projects, groups or individuals that share our aims and values. We believe that small grassroots projects are more effective and responsive than big organisations. Who we work with is decided on a case by case basis. Our experience has made us critical of some NGOs and large organisations for the following reasons: misuse of funds; inability to provide quick and useful responses; signing of confidentiality agreements; relationships with governments, multinationals and the EU; working relationships that create a them-and-us atmosphere; hierarchical structure; charity rather than solidarity; supporting the state rather than creating an alternative. There are some NGO’s that don’t fit this description, and in these cases we may choose to work alongside each other, however, we ask that any group working within the building does not wear clothing labelled by their organisation and that any events being publicised are not branded.
We believe in offering as much information as possible to the refugee/migrant community and therefore will not withhold information about the services of NGOs, charities or government bodies. We provide a list of services and support networks available in Athens from all active groups to allow people to make their own choices about the type of help they want or need. We do this because we believe that people have the right to make educated decisions about the support they access. We don’t want our politics to get in the way of people accessing what they need.