Who we are
We are a team of committed volunteers that first met in November 2016 whilst working for another organization on a large winterization project for refugee camps in Northern Greece. During the cold winter of 2016/17 we built and installed wooden floors under tents and did much-needed general repairs to heating systems or electricity supplies. Hence, over the months we slowly developed into a team and in March 2017 decided to found our own humanitarian organisation. Almost at the same time, the dire need of refugees sleeping rough in abandoned warehouses in the city centre of Belgrade made our team move to Serbia. We first worked until the eviction in April 2017 in the so-called “barracks” in the centre of Belgrade and later undertook WASH projects in different reception and transit centres throughout Serbia. During our time in Serbia we were able to further develop as a team, learn valuable lessons under the guidance of the local branch of Medicens sans frontiers and to specialize even more into water and sanitation. Since the situation in Serbia changed in the summer of 2017, the number of new arriving refugees decreased and the situation in governmental reception centres improved, our team started to slowly look for for places where our help was needed more. Therefore, we moved back to Greece and since then are working in Moria on Lesvos.
We are a team of dedicated engineers and builders who believe that nobody in Europe should be living under the conditions that we have seen in the past years. Our team consists of agricultural, mechanical and civil engineers, plasterers, plumbers, carpenters and cabinetmakers but also anthropologists and business administrators. We are from different parts of Europe and every walk of life. Some of us just started their vocational career others have yearlong professional experience. Yet, we are all united in our commitment to help those in need.
Clean water in sufficient quantity is a vital requirement not only for hydration but also for many essential household activities that prevent infectious diseases. In the European context the challenge is not to provide clean water, as highly regulated municipal waterworks generally provide safe drinking water in sufficient quantity, but the challenge lies in the transport and distribution systems. Whilst we have installed water points in squats in Belgrade and Thessaloniki that previously had none and we are adding new taps in reception centres to ensure water gets to where it is needed, our main task is to ensure that the existing infrastructure is maintained and functioning. We are constantly repairing or replacing broken taps, improving the water supply system by replacing or adding distribution pipes or we connect new facilities. Similarly, municipalities usually have centralized treatment plants for wastewater disposal and the challenge is the maintenance of the transport system. Therefore, we unblock or replace sewage pipes, connect new facilities and repair sewage pumps to ensure that thr wastewater system is working.
Our organisation does not directly provide housing but we try to ensure that the existing accommodations are warm, have electricity and provide safety from the elements. We replace door handles and install locks on residential containers, repair broken electricity supplies and install new cables and connections to tents. Furthermore, we have repaired and installed countless windows and doors. We have installed safer infrastructure for cooking and heating by providing wood stoves. We service and repair space heaters. We have sealed numerous leaking residential containers and we are repairing ripped or broken tents. In essence we are repairing everything we can to make the daily lives of refugees a little bit more liveable in the often dire environment of reception centres.
Clean and working sanitation facilities are vital for hygiene, vital for health and vital for a dignified existence. In reception centres all over Europe there are plainly not enough working facilities for the number of residents. For example when we arrived, one of the reception centres had one working toilette per 130 residents and one working shower per 184 residents. This was not because there were not enough but because a lack of maintenance in combination with the large number of users per facility had resulted in unusable and broken toilettes and showers. The situation is even more challenging for those who are sleeping rough on the streets of Europe. The abandoned warehouses in the centre of Belgrade that we worked in did not have a single toilette or shower for roughly 1,000 residents. In both places these circumstances led to rampant open defecation and resulted in a severe lack of personal hygiene. Unhygienic toilettes or open defecation enables pathogens to spread easily amongst a population resulting in high numbers of diarrheal diseases and not being able to practice proper hygiene leads to high numbers of skin diseases. Making sure that humans do not get in contact with faeces and are able to practice adequate personal hygiene are therefore of paramount importance for health. We therefore continuously work to ensure that there are an acceptable number of hygienic showers and toilettes available in the places we work. We deep clean as well as repair toilette and shower containers, renovate existing bathrooms, connect and construct new containers and have provided portable toilettes in places where everything else was not possible.