A safe space for young people

Covid-19 and all its implications put Velos Youth in a pathway of heightened flexibility and innovation. After many changes (virtual work, a continued appointment system, etc) the Velos team has continued working hard to bring back one of the most crucial elements of our work: providing a safe space for young people. In a month like August, during the crisis of the current pandemic and the situation refugees and migrants are facing in Athens, most of the young people visiting us are experiencing extremely vulnerable circumstances.

With up to 12 young people in the space at each time, our youth centre has returned to being a hub of energy and empowerment. Additionally, the continuous use of masks, frequently sanitising our hands, keeping necessary physical distance when possible, and other precautions make the Velos Youth centre as safe as right now possible. The feelings that come with dancing and singing together, taking part in a ping pong tournament, watching videos on Youtube, hanging around in a space where you know you will be heard and respected, and with talking with a professional who can listen to you and support you; these feelings are irreplaceable, and we hope every young person who visits our space can feel safe.

Although the future is unknown, we are proud and happy to be remaining adaptable and active in order to take advantage of all opportunities that come our way. For now, we are able to provide a safe environment for those visiting us, and an environment filled with opportunity, interaction and energy.

To keep up with our activities, check out our Facebook & Instagram accounts!

Preparations for Covid-19 with MSF

Two weeks ago the Velos Youth team engaged in a discussion facilitated by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Covid-19 where we learnt useful information about the virus and had multiple of our questions and concerns answered.

Additionally, a detailed discussions and consultation with the MSF team around personalised recommendations have helped us make our space and activities safer for us and the young people visiting us. 

This collaboration was part of MSF’s efforts to collate important information shared by the World Health Organisation and other credible sources around protection from Covid-19 and share it with organisations around Athens like Velos Youth.

We would like to thank MSF for this initiative and collaboration as their support has given us the confidence we needed to continue expanding our operations, slowly return to our “normality”, and safely support the young people who seek us.

We are open!

The team at Velos Youth are happy to inform you that after two months of closure, we reopened our space on an appointment basis!

From the 18th of May, we opened our space to young people aged 16-21 to use our shower, do their laundry, and/or have a 1-1 with our social workers. These services are three of our most needed services and already in these two weeks we have been visited 52 times.

We hope to continue expanding our activities as we receive confirmation from credible sources that it is safe to do so.

If you know young people aged 16-21 who are homeless/ in need of any of these services, please contact our social workers via phone to book an appointment for the young person.

Velos Youth goes online

After a ministry announcement, Velos was forced to close the youth center on the 12th of March due to the threat of Covid-19. Despite the fact that this decision disrupted the daily activities, schedule and routine of both Velos Youth and the young people coming to Velos, it was a necessary measure to ensure the safety, health and well-being of all involved. Despite our closure, we are committed in continuing to provide support to all young people who seek it.

On the last day prior to this closure, we informed the young people about the circumstances, gave out maps of organisations giving food on a daily basis, and shared four different channels through which they could get in touch with us if they wanted support – Phone, WhatsApp, Facebook & Instagram.

Since then, our team has continued working online from the beginning of the lockdown until the 6th of April, when we decided to put half the team on furlough due to the decrease in workload. This way we were also able to use the support offered by government’s {Greece/UK}, saving money that can be used for future and emerging needs.

For the remainder of our closure, the other half of the team remains virtually active! Our social worker and cultural mediator have been contacting the young people via WhatsApp and having 1-1 conversations, as the need to support the young people who are between the ages of 16-21 still remains. A number of them do not have a stable and secure place to stay and are struggling to meet their basic needs, such as food and showers. We are able to direct them to these services by remaining up to date on what is open and what has closed or changed service delivery.

We also remain active on our social media, answering the young people who contact us and collaborating with the social worker to schedule a 1-1 with each young person when needed. Further, after communicating with the young people we became aware of the boredom and lack of motivation many of them are experiencing. We therefore created a private Facebook group (aka #VelosCity) for the young people to connect with each other and share their ideas and thoughts. In this group, we share fun activities and information about learning languages (Greek and English) and games around arts, music, geography, and more. Although it is a difficult period for all of us, we continue to encourage young people to use this time productively where possible.

Finally, the “Transitioning to Adulthood” project continues through our continued communication and collaboration with our partners, Human Rights 360 and Babel DC. Via virtual meetings we continue discussing certain parameters of the project and seeing how we can sustain working together to support the young people in this situation and through this project. Apart from these meetings, our social worker is in frequent contact with professionals in HR360 and Babel DC, regarding the well-being of the young people who have been included in the project so far.

Blog post by our former volunteer

After her three-week volunteering experience at Velos Youth, Alex, a member of our partners Omprakash, has written a strong blog post titled “Re-imagining Our Communities During the Covid-19 Pandemic”. Drawing from her experience at our day centre, she explores how community borders are strengthened during this period of uncertainty, but also how spaces like Velos are key drivers in breaking down there “imagined divisions”.

“Driven in part by my own search for community while on the move, I have spent a good deal of time in various community centers over the past decade, and I think of them as some of the most important spaces we have for fostering inclusion and tolerance, and for helping us to challenge divisions and exclusions, both at the micro-level of human interactions, and at the macro-level of national and international politics — and, of course, each begets the other.”

Alex Knott, Omprakash, in the article “Re-imagining Our Communities During the Covid-19 Pandemic”

During her time with Velos, amongst other things Alex facilitated theatre workshops and community mapping workshops. Both were aimed at increasing the interactions between young people and reducing some of the imagined barriers which may arise even within the safest of spaces.

“I have previously written and discussed the importance of ‘challenging borders’ when working with refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers — through advocacy efforts, but also, crucially, through our words and interactions. Velos Youth embodies this ideal; the team […] create opportunities for these boys and young men — from many different backgrounds — to come together through learning, art, games, music and dance[…]. The team itself, which is composed of refugees, Greek citizens, and non-refugee immigrants to Greece, embodies what it means to work and collaborate across various differences, themselves challenging imagined barriers. And the tone that the Velos team sets pervades the space and the boys’ interactions with one another.”

Alex Knott, Omprakash, in the article “Re-imagining Our Communities During the Covid-19 Pandemic”

We thank Alex for her valuable time in Athens and for sharing her observations and experience.

You can read the full blog post here.