Lighthouse Relief’s psychosocial support programmes are based at Ritsona Refugee Camp, a long-term accommodation centre in central Greece, where asylum seekers wait for several years for their asylum to progress.
The regular routine of sports programming has been hugely beneficial, creating a needed structure for participants, for whom daily life is often characterised by waiting for the next step in asylum proceedings.
Problem to be tackled
Ritsona is home to families and individuals – including unaccompanied minors – who experience intense levels of distress. Parents with small children, having made the difficult decision to migrate, and having experienced the extreme dangers of the journey, now live in overwhelmingly close quarters in shipping containers, or ISOboxes, in the remote town of Ritsona.
Many residents wait years for the interviews and paperwork that will decide their futures. They are prone to feelings of frustration and helplessness. These emotions can be passed on to their children, many of whom have already lived difficult and traumatic experiences in their home countries, during their journeys, and in Greece. These children lack the space and means to play and continue to feel unsafe – even for those who do not have a direct experience of conflict. The long-term effects of these challenges have the potential to impact an entire generation of young people.
Lighthouse Relief currently runs two main programmes in the camp, the Child Friendly Space (CFS) for children age 3 to 10 and the Youth Engagement Space (YES) for ages 15 and older.
The objective of Lighthouse Relief’s work and of this project is to offer continuous psychosocial support by providing a structured opportunity for social interaction, learning through play and creative self-expressions, to children and youth living in Ritsona camp. On a day-to-day basis, this means designing, planning and executing entertaining and inclusive activities in order to keep residents engaged and stimulated.
The Sports Programme runs alongside the existing structure and includes football with a UEFA certified local Greek coach, volleyball, tennis, basketball, yoga, dance, table tennis, foosball and badminton.
Beneficiaries of the programmes are children, youth and young adults, including vulnerable children, unaccompanied minors and youth, families and single parents, all of whom are refugees residing in the camp. Most attendees are originally from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, primarily from Syria, Syrian and Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Cameroon.
The population of Ritsona Camp is set to continue increasing to reach a capacity of 3’500 asylum seekers from various different countries, including up to 800 children under 18. All residents of the Ritsona camp aged 3 to 30 are eligible and encouraged to participate daily in the programmes.
With the support from The SOL Foundation, Lighthouse Relief will be able to continue what has been started quite successfully with a pilot programme in the last quarter of 2018 and continued for the year 2019, an organised and structured sport programme conducted at the Ritsona camp for the benefit of the refugees.
Lighthouse Relief was founded on the Greek island of Lesvos in September 2015, at a time when thousands of refugees were arriving every day. Lighthouse Relief mobilised quickly to provide structured emergency response to the area, and – when it became apparent that people were remaining stranded for longer periods in mainland Greece – expanded to support vulnerable groups such as children and youth.
Over four years later, Lighthouse Relief runs emergency response operations on the north shore of Lesvos and manage a Child Friendly Space and Youth Engagement Space in Ritsona Refugee Camp (Mainland Greece). Lighthouse Relief remains committed to advancing a dignified and empowering humanitarian response for as long as it is needed.