Boat Refugee Foundation provides humanitarian aid. We endorse the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. We provide care to those who need it, and focus on vulnerable refugees.

The work of BRF on Lesvos is constantly changing. In 2015 our work mainly consisted of boat landings, a Search And Rescue mission and providing medical care. Now, we seek to offer more specified humanitarian aid (such as education and social support) for the inhabitants of the biggest refugee camp on the island. This means a change from acute to more structural support, with stricter boundaries and with a high level of professionalism.

Current missions on Lesvos

We currently run the Psychosocial Support mission on Lesbos. The team consists of eight people on average. Usually there is also a media volunteer present.

Our medical mission has ended as per 1 January 2018. Because of changed policies in the camp it became harder for us to continue our work in a responsible and safe way. The medical mission is costly as well. We realize to the fullest that the necessity and call for good care is still unchanged. For this reason, the medical coordinator will stay on the island to research whether we can provide good medical care in 2018 in different and responsible way.

The Psychosocial Support team is supported by the PSS coordinator, the logistic administrative coordinator and the medical coordinator.

Before you go to Lesbos, it is good to know that you will encounter severe and inhumane circumstances in the refugee camp. The situation in Moria is critical. As an organization we cannot help everyone with everything, and especially during the first few days you might feel frustrated or despair. It is good to prepare yourself mentally before you go, but also talk about it with others during your stay. The coordinators are always there for you to answer any questions you might have and help you to deal with the first impressions.

Refugee camp Moria

Moria is the biggest refugee camp on Lesbos. It is run by the army and the police. It is a registration and identification center, also called a hotspot. This means that all refugees that arrive on the island by boat will be transferred to Moria for registration and asylum application. After the registration the most vulnerable refugees and their families will be transferred to other camps or accommodation. If you are interested in the asylum procedure, please visit www.refugee.info/greece > Asylum in Greece.

At this moment there are around 5.500 people living in the camp, whereas it was originally planned as short stay accommodation for 2.000 people. Since the EU-Turkey the flow of people is stagnating and the camp is overflowing, since there are more people coming than going. This has a big impact on the living circumstances: sanitary facilities are scarce, which causes hygiene problems, and the accommodation for sleeping is provisional.

Moria is a closed refugee camp that feels like a prison. The camp is organized in different sectors, with different nationalities living in each sector. There is a prison in the camp as well. There are few facilities for the refugees. Fights or riots happen every once in a while, often fueled by the bad state of the camp and the desperate situation that people live in.

Please keep in mind that the countries where different nationalities come from might have a different standard health care system or vaccination program than where you come from yourself. Please ask your doctor for advice on vaccinations before you leave.

PSS-activities

Our PSS mission aims to empower people. This means that our activities are run by refugees themselves, as much as possible: men and women who are a teacher in their home countries, teach the lessons in our school. Refugees that speak more than one language fluently help with translation during workshops. The interior of our community center has been constructed by carpenters from different countries. Boat Refugee Foundation facilitates, supports and supervise the activities where necessary. We do not offer one-on-one consultations or psychotherapy.

The PSS team consists of teachers, social workers, psychologists and other relevant psychosocial professionals. We offer a varied activity program. The first shifts start around 09:00 and the last shifts end around 22:00. Outside of your shifts you will have time to organize and prepare all the activities.

Multiple days per week there are meetings for all the volunteers in the volunteer house. During these meetings the schedules will be discussed, you are able to ask questions, we evaluate the activities and we will discuss your experiences. Furthermore, there are several trainings throughout the week. Apart from trainings and meetings we have dinner altogether every evening.

Activities in camp Moria:

1. School of Hope

Since October 2018 we run the Moria School of Hope in the camp. We provide lessons to both children (age 6 – 10) and adults.

The children have school five mornings every week, in their mother tongue (Farsi and Arabic), English and mathematics. The lessons are taught by teachers who are all refugees and live in Moria camp. The PSS team supports those teachers by helping them prepare the lessons, offering lesson material, recruiting new pupils and teachers and organizing the lessons where needed. At this moment around 80 children are registered at the School of Hope.

Three times a week English classes for adults are run at the School of Hope. These classes are also taught by teachers living in Moria. The PSS team supports them with organizing and preparing the lessons. English is taught at three different levels. The aim of the lessons is to teach people English language skills for daily use.

2. Social shift

The PSS team goes on social shift five days per week. During this shift a small team of volunteers will walk through the camp, mainly to start conversations with the refugees living in Moria. For this shift we look for volunteers with a background as a psychologist, psychotherapist or social worker. There are multiple aims for this shift. First, we offer listening to someone’s story if they feel like talking. Many refugees feel like getting stories off their chest. Moreover, the social shift is a good way to get to know the camp and the people and when necessary inform people about our activities. During social shift we can inform parents and their children about how to register for the Moria School of Hope, and distribute flyers when we start a new activity.

The shift also has a preventive aim. There are many refugees in the camp who deal with depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders or who are prone to psychoses. Our volunteers unfortunately cannot offer individual consultations, but they can signal when something is off and refer them where necessary and possible. It requires quite some insight and experience to take note of those (often subtle) signals. Not all people show obvious signs of their problems and how serious their problems are. We would like to have experienced people on this shift, who are able to recognize symptoms and are able to handle in an integer and ethical way.

3. Men’s day and women’s day

Our community center in Moria is welcoming all adult women (Saturday) and all adult men (on Sunday) between 10:00 and 14:00. People are welcome to come inside for a cup of coffee or tea, some small talk, playing a game, doing crafts (knitting, crochet) or participate in another activity prepared by the facilitators.

The PSS team has a facilitating role on these days. Relaxing and offering some diversion are the main goals of this activity.

4. Mental health workshop

Multiple days per week we run a mental health workshop, available for men and women over 18 years old. This workshop offers psycho-education on different topics, all related to mental health, that refugees might deal with. Examples are stress, coping mechanisms, panic attacks and anxiety, addiction problems and suicidal tendencies. We encourage sharing experiences and tips with each other. The workshop is taught by a volunteer from the PSS team, always in collaboration with a translator.

5. Stress relief class

Multiple days per week BRF organizes a stress relief class for men and women over 18 years old. The stress relief class includes a practical training aimed on reducing psychological and psychosomatic complaints. We rely on basic techniques of mindfulness and relaxation. The training is given by a volunteer from the PSS team, always in collaboration with a translator.

6. Library

Our community center hosts a library. During fixed hours throughout the week, the library is open to whoever is interested in reading. There are multiple librarians, all inhabitants of Moria, who host and run the library, make an inventory of the books and manage the system for lending out books. Everyone is welcome to visit the library and read or borrow books.

Accommodation Volunteers

The volunteer house of Boat Refugee Foundation, also known as ‘The Mansion’, is located relatively close to the airport and offers accommodation to all volunteers. This is the location where we organize meetings and have dinner together, where you can relax and socialize with other volunteers. It’s also our starting point for the shifts in the camp. The house has a small kitchen, a living/dining room, two bathrooms, and a couple of mixed bedrooms. It offers the facilities of a hostel. You will share your room with a maximum of 3 other volunteers (male or female). It can happen that your roommates have a different working schedule than you.

To live in the volunteer house, you pay the following:

  • The first month: € 10 per night
  • From the second month: free

It is not mandatory to stay in the house, you can also choose to find alternative accommodation.

Meals
Meals are organized in the mansion by the volunteers themselves, without interference of (the coordinators of) Boat Refugee Foundation. You can prepare your own meals, but usually dinner is prepared by the ‘mansion shift’ of that particular day. The volunteers go grocery shopping together and share the costs. Usually we ask the following contribution for food: €2 for breakfast, €2 for lunch and €4 for dinner. You pay the ‘food jar’, located in the kitchen. It is your own responsibility to keep track of the meals you join and paying the right amount to the food jar. Cooking, grocery shopping, taking out the trash and doing laundry are tasks split between volunteers in ‘mansion shifts’. BRF hires a cleaning lady once a week, but you are expected to clean up your own things and keep the house nice and tidy.

Car rental
Boat Refugee Foundation has a couple of team cars available for all volunteers. The cars can be used to travel between the camp and the volunteer house. To use them you’ll need a driver’s license that is valid in Greece, and you need to be able to drive a manual car. Please bring your driver’s license and take it with you when you are driving.

Work-related use of the cars and petrol are covered by BRF. In case of damage, your own risk is €100. Communicate as quickly as possible with the logistic administrative coordinator in case of damage or an accident.

Do you have a day off, would you like to use a car and is one of them free as well? You’ll pay €15 for the day, besides from filling up the petrol till the level it was when you left from home. The cars are to be used for going to shifts and doing groceries for the volunteer house. If you’d like to use one of the cars for private reasons or leisure, please discuss with your colleagues first.

Vaccinations and hygiene

When you come and volunteer with us, it is your own responsibility to obtain the right vaccinations. For traveling to and within Greece you usually do not need any specific vaccinations – working in a refugee camp, however, is another story. Different nationalities live together in the camp in an unhygienic situation. The refugees’ countries of origin might have other standards regarding national health care, or a different vaccination program. There are known cases of tuberculosis, measles, scabies and chicken pox in the camp.

Most people currently living in the camp are coming from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Congo. We strongly advise you to contact your GP or local travel clinic to see which vaccinations you need. In general, it is advised to have vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, and DTP, or to repeat if necessary.

Because of the hygienic situation in the camp, it is important to wash your hands often. We advise you to bring a small bottle of hand alcohol or disinfectant with you and use it regularly. Always wash your hands when you come back from a shift.

Working in the camp can be exhausting and challenging, both mentally and physically. It is important that you are physically and mentally healthy. If there are any medical challenges regarding your health, we advise against participating.

Insurance

You are travelling at your own responsibility. Please check with your health insurance if you are covered for health care abroad (not-basic/emergency care). As an addition to your own insurance, the foundation has taken out a collective insurance policy for all volunteers. This insurance covers material damages that you might encounter during your stay.

Boat Refugee Foundation is not responsible for any additional costs occurring when you must for example rebook your plane ticket due to medical or social reasons. Costs made after an accident or due to a shorter or longer stay cannot be covered by Boat Refugee Foundation either.

Liability insurance
Through this insurance the liability of Boat Refugee Foundation is insured. This also includes your liability during the time that you are working or volunteering for the Foundation. The policy covers cases in which damage is caused to another (person or organization) and this person or organization wants to impose an order for restitution.

Travel insurance
The travel insurance covers the costs that you or Boat Refugee Foundation need to make in order of an accident or necessary medical care for yourself. Besides, loss or theft of your luggage is covered, as well as medical care as far as your own health insurance does not cover the costs and if these are not included in your own risk. Finally, this insurance includes a coverage for accidents that grants a sum in case of permanent disability or in case of death.