Welcome to the Elpida refugee camp in Thessaloniki! Elpida means hope in Greek. It is hope for a better future that brought Better Days here, and it is the hope that we can create ‘the change we want to see in the world’ that brought this project to life. Better Days co-founded the Elpida Project and as creative partners we designed Elpida to be an example of what a refugee camp can and should be.
We set out to prove that it is possible to house refugees while not only meeting minimum humanitarian standards, but also exceeding them. However accommodation isn’t our only focus. We also coordinate volunteers, redesign systems, create educational programs and activities, and design activity spaces. We consider physical, mental and spiritual well-being to be essential in any home and any life. Underlying everything we do is the simple belief that everyone, everywhere, deserves to be treated with dignity and humanity.
For two months before the residents arrived more than 100 Better Days volunteers from over 20 countries worked tirelessly to transform an old jeans factory into a warm, welcoming home where refugees can live with dignity and respect. We cleaned, gardened, set up rooms, built furniture, compiled information boards and created a multitude of social and activity spaces. We painted the walls and filled the space with love and humanity.
Once the residents arrived, volunteers and residents worked together to create activities and systems centered around community and dignity. Together we have created activities like English and German classes, yoga, aerobics, cosmetics and hair workshops, design and technical workshops, sewing, photography, and sports competitions – many of which are either co-hosted or led by residents. We designed and implemented systems for volunteer coordination, information point, distribution, communal kitchen facilities, education, waste management and ecology.
In the beginning there were only a few actors onsite. However as the number of residents and Elpida’s reputation grew, so did the number of actors eager to contribute. It has been wonderful to see many incredible organizations and individuals bring their skills and ideas to Elpida. This has allowed Better Days to hand-over operations and transition out to prepare for future projects. Perhaps most importantly, residents themselves have taken on ownership and responsibility of many daily operations and activities within their temporary home. It has been amazing to see how quickly Elpida has become a successful and collaborative community of different volunteers, organizations and residents.