True to its vision and mission, Caritas Hellas focuses in social work and invests greatly in promoting social inclusion of all those in need, regardless of origin or faith. Different programs service different geographical areas and target groups, aiming at promoting psychosocial well-being, social independency and the enrichment of the daily lives of beneficiaries.
During the last three years, Caritas Hellas has focused on strengthening its key component of psycho-social support services, building upon its experiences and lessons learned from previous programs. Individual support services have been reorganized and the internal and external referral system updated and further systematized. Currently one to one case management, individual and group information sessions are conducted. In 2017, legal counselling has also been introduced. Services include: one to one counselling, group information sessions on asylum issues, as well as support and advising on every day issues (e. g house rental processes, taxation number etc.). Very recently, financial counselling has also been launched (advising on household budgeting, tax declarations and other). Social Services are provided in all Caritas Hellas Social Spots and in some Refugee Accommodation Sites.
Social Spot at Rene Pio, Athens
In July 2017, to further strengthen its Neos Kosmos “neighbourhood”, Caritas Hellas opened officially the doors to a new Social Spot operating in the context of Metavasis Project “Participation, Empowerment and Social Inclusion of Refugees and Migrants in Greece” funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Caritas Germany.
The Social Spot is composed of two ground floor buildings, which are easily accessible by people with physical disabilities and it is located near the Metro station and the Tram stop of Neos Kosmos, only 5 minutes walking distance!
One area operates as a Social Support Centre and the other as a Day Centre. The Services in the Social Service Centre are focused in adult population and include Greek language courses, social and legal support, Internet access and Skype for communication with Asylum Service, job counselling, financial counselling and tax assistance and business plan development.
At the Day Centre, vocational training programs, entrepreneurship trainings and various educational and informative trainings and workshops, are carried out, open to any person concerned. Adults but also families can relax and socialize, play board games, enjoy hot beverages, watch movies and sports, access the library, as well as use the available computers and sewing machines. In addition, the Day Centre offers a wide range of organized activities for men and women, that take place in a warm and welcoming environment (handcrafts, photography seminars, theatre group, painting lessons, movie projections etc). A big yard surrounds the space, where numerous cultural outdoor activities are hosted during the summer months.
In total, more than 10.000 people have visited the Social Spot in Neos Kosmos, Athens since July 2017 while it is considered to be a reference point not only in the neighbourhood of Neos Kosmos but generally at the area of Athens and the nearby areas.
Social Spot at Kypseli, Athens
In October 2018, Caritas Hellas opened officially the doors to a new Center for Social Integration and Employability in Kypseli, in the local Municipal Market. The Center is part of the Program “Social and Economic Integration of Refugees and Immigrants in Athens” concerning the support and integration of refugees and immigrants in Greek society. The Program is implemented by Caritas Hellas and is funded by Caritas Switzerland.
The Center is open to all those in need and focusing to adult refugees, migrants and Greeks. A large number of people have visited the Social Center and have accessed the Social Service to receive information and referrals on basic needs. At the same time, work counseling services are provided through individual and group sessions, as well as training courses in various professional fields with collaborators, in order to enhance the interconnection with the labor market. Other provided services include Greek language classes, psychological counselling and Intercultural activities.
Social Spot at Tarella, Athens
With the support of Caritas Switzerland, Caritas Hellas operated the Social Spot in the center of Athens, open to all those in need and focused to adult and children refugees and migrants who were residing in the urban area. A neoclassical building with a very big yard -ideal for outdoor activities-, was renovated and decorated with vivid colors and equipped properly to host the provided services. Since the beginning of its operation in 2016, hundreds of beneficiaries have visited the Social Spot and accessed the Social Services to get information and referrals to cover basic needs, advice and guidance on their legal rights. Since 2017, a well-equipped space with PCs and Skype connection operates for the asylum seekers giving them access to contact the Asylum Service. Other provided services include psychological counselling, a Child Friendly Space (CFS), Greek language classes and Intercultural activities to both adults and children. Furthermore, families were also helped to enroll their children to pre-school or primary school classes. Since September 2017, daily tutoring support was also offered. September was also the launching time of the Job Counselling Service. The Social Center operated until August of 2018-With total number of visitors 4.735.
Social Spot at Polytechneiou, Thessaloniki
The Social Spot in Thessaloniki, supported by the “Metavasis Project”, started its operation in July 2017. It was located in the city center, easily reachable from all parts of the city and its outskirts. The Social Spot in Thessaloniki operated both as a Social Services Provider and as a Community Centre. It offered a cozy environment where people could speak with Caritas staff and volunteers, exchange ideas and information, develop bonds and relationships and spent their free time in a nice and relaxing atmosphere. A plethora of social, educational and cultural activities constituted the daily life of the Social Spot: Women’s and men’s activities, group cultural meetings, thematic group sessions and one-off events were carried out on weekly basis. In addition, there was offered, job counselling, social support services, Greek lessons, access to skype and computer sessions are offered daily. In 2017, 536 people have visited the Social Spot in Thessaloniki, used the provided services and participated in regular and occasional activities. Social Work in the Official Refugee Accommodation Sites.
Psychological Support in the Official Refugee Accommodation Sites
In the context of its Emergency Response Plan and recognising the gap in provision of activities for male refugees, Caritas Hellas was one of the first organisations to operate a “Space for Men” (community centre targeting male population) inside the official refugee accommodation sites. The first one has been established in Kara Tepe, Lesvos and has been characterized as a best practice by Caritas Internationalis. Soon after, other camps in Northern Greece followed (Vassilika, Derveni). Parallelly and targeting this time the women refugees, Women’ Safe Spaces have also started their operation, first in Kara Tepe and soon after at Vassilika and Derveni.
With more than 3.500 visitors and 36.000 recorded visits since 2017, Caritas Hellas expanded its activities within its men and women spaces in Lesvos to include educational activities information sessions, focus group discussions and recreational activities such as knitting, sewing, arts and crafts, film projections, games, excursions etc.
In parallel, the Psychosocial Support Centre in Kara Tepe has been supporting the growing number of refugees who continue to experience extreme traumatic experiences and services have expanded to also providing psychiatric support, Caritas Hellas being the only NGO offering this service in the camp.
Finally, the overgrowing demand for unofficial education for adults led to the opening of Caritas Hellas Language Centre in Kara Tepe Accommodation Site, where professional educators offer Greek and English lessons. The goal is to acquire basic communication skills in Greek and English. Since 2018 more than 1.100 students have been regularly following classes and achieved basic communication skills in Greek and/or English language.
Facilitation of Access to Healthcare
In 2017, observing a persistent gap in the timely provision of interpreting services in the hospitals, Caritas Hellas has implemented an innovative approach by creating a cultural mediators’ shift system in centrally located public hospitals on duty in coordination with the social services and management of the hospitals and with referrals from the Caritas Social Spots and other NGOs. In this pilot phase, Caritas Hellas operates in 6 hospitals, Alexandra, Paidon Agia Sophia, Evangelismos, Evangelismos Polyclinic, Gennimatas and Dafni. It also covers the Ippokrateio Hospital in Thessaloniki.
The service started out in May 2017 in Chios where given the different context, Caritas Hellas operates a transport, cultural mediation and escort service from VIAL Reception and Identification Center to the Chios General Hospital.
The service has showed impressive quantitative and qualitative results for the beneficiaries and strengthened the trust between involved stakeholders. This is reflected also in the fact that three more hospitals have contacted Caritas Hellas and requested officially to be included.
In February 2018, CH conducted an extensive Satisfaction Survey based in 78 beneficiaries’ questionnaires and 43 stakeholders’ questionnaires. According to the results, the Service lives up to its “best practice” aspiration. The vast majority of suggestions for improvement from both the beneficiaries and the stakeholders are related to the Pilot’s scale up to cover afternoon shifts and weekends, other hospitals, or other working languages. Most of the testimonials of stakeholders are strongly in favour of the continuation of the Service and stress its necessity.