My Lockdown Experience

Things I did when the lockdown started

I was a bad sleeper, I used to go to bed around 5am in the morning and wake up during the day. I changed my sleep schedule because I was Idle at home and not doing much. Βefore the lockdown I used to go to African Clubs and get fun but when the lockdown came in effect everything was closed I was not staying up late at night. Having a change in my sleep schedule has been beneficial to me, I feel healthy, energized all day long now. I go to bed now at 12am and wake up at 8am/9am most days.

Activities I did to kill time in the Lockdown

I started doing some exercises, running in the park, listening to podcasts, check out this podcast I listened to. This podcast is about the controversies around the Covid-19 vaccines.

I also try to do some painting during this time. It was a fun thing to do with my flat mates.

This blog was written by a young person attending the Creative Bloggers and Blog Workshops ran in Velos Youth, as part of the Young People’s Blog.

Things are moving for the “Creative Bloggers”

On Wednesday 21st of October the group began a new circle of discussions.

“What does Education mean to us?”

We started to explore the different views, ideas and notions that each of us can give to “Education”.

A lot of different aspects of the term were given and the things that we discussed ranged from practical education to more theoretical approaches and from formal education to life experiences from our upbringing. All of the young people, underlined the importance of  showing respect to everyone regardless of their educational level. 

Discussions continued this week. The Velos Youth team and the group will be ready for more heated discussions, always keeping all necessary pre-cautions.

“Creative Bloggers” keep creating…!

During the last two “Creative Bloggers” workshops, we discussed about the positive and negative aspects of living in Athens. Because Athens is a metropolis and still has no super-hero, the young people participating in the workshop started creating one who will protect the city and its population.

If you want to see what the super-hero will look like, watch this space or even be a part of the process. We meet every Wednesday at 12.00!! Get in touch to book an appointment.

Read the blogs published by the Creative Bloggers group here.

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.

Receiving support at Velos

As a safe space for young people, Velos Youth aims to support those who visit us holistically. For many, we are a “home away from home” and a place to escape. However, we recognise how important support and guidance on material and procedural matters is too!

Our Youth Work team aims to provide the support each individual needs! Through our referral system and by utilising our collaborations and recognising the diversity of services provided across Athens, we connect every young person to the service he/she needs and support their progress and communication after they have been referred.

Some of the most common needs involve finding education and employment opportunities, legal and medical support, and access to basic needs such as clothes and shoes.

When it comes to education, we support young people in setting learning goals and guide them to find available courses, communicate with educators, use learning resources, and more. Similar support is provided for young adults who are seeking employment. We direct them to our partners who can give them advice on finding available work opportunities, writing a CV, preparing for an interview and obtaining the necessary legal documentation to be eligible to work in Greece.

Additionally, here young people can get easy access to legal information and guidance on where to get more specialised legal support. They can also be assisted in booking medical appointments and in finding appropriate locations to meet their medical needs. We have also welcomed individuals with legal and medical expertise in our space!

Our team aims to stay knowledgable and up to date to accurately support each young person, and as we have grown these past few months we hope to do an even better job for whoever comes to this ‘home’.

Conversation of two young people visiting Velos Youth:

First young person: “These people they are just so great, they help me. I have so many problems outside of here, but I come here and they help me so much.” 

Second young person: “I was exactly like this two years ago, and they helped me too! Now I have a job, I’m in school and I stay in an apartment.” 

16 year old from Afghanistan

“[Youth worker] is the reason that my family reunification was successful, because he made sure I had a lawyer and social worker. He guided me every step of the way.”