Alexandra: Everything went smoothly, almost smoothly, until one day we heard this tongue twister: a coronavirus, that emerged in Wuhan. At first there were a lot of jokes about the virus, but none of us understood the importance of the situation. Despite the cancellation of the carnival events in Patras, many people took the risk and paraded. Some of them were dressed up as coronavirus. But a few days later, we came down to earth. The prefecture of Ilia soon became the focus of discussions, not for Ancient Olympia, but for the confirmed COVID-19 cases that emerged. We suddenly realized the urgency of the situation. Vassiliki, a friend and colleague of mine, was terrified. However, she soon overcame the first shock and with the right help and support by the SolidarityNow team, she was able to cope and overcome her fears.
Vassiliki: The fact that me and Alexandra were both assigned as security personnel was something that initially brought us mixed feelings. At first, we were scared, as the situation was still unknown. We were worried that we might get the virus. On the other hand, we saw it as a challenge to gain experience as professionals working in the field, always with the support of SolidarityNow and our team, who were by our side and supported us. We quickly realized that we were “the lucky ones”, because being at work – which we love so much – we were not in quarantine at home, something that helped a lot to our psychology.
Alexandra: The time at Andravida Open Accommodation Center was passing slowly, so I decided to organize a sewing workshop applying all the relevant safety measures. Along with two refugee women and with the… support of two sewing machines and materials that already existed at the women’s space, we made health masks to protect against the virus! It is an activity that we organized due to the lack of masks in pharmacies, at that time, and because of the inability of our beneficiaries, who do not have the financial means, to deal with an extra expense. The women-beneficiaries responded very positively. All this was a challenge for me. However, together we managed to face the difficult and unprecedented situation we experienced in a creative way. Our goal now is to give the masks to the most vulnerable people living in the camp.
Vassiliki: On the contrary, it was very hard for me to deal with the whole situation, since part of my job is to accompany minors to hospitals and medical services outside the camp. During the pandemic, I had to go to the “Children’s” hospital in Patras several times. It was a difficult situation for me, as I had to deal with my personal anxieties and fears. Many times, I had ambivalent feelings, but the faces of the children when they looked at me and when they felt safe with my presence next to them, won. I think that I reached my limits and questioned my abilities but now I feel satisfied and I believe that I am doing my job very well.
Alexandra: We both try to stay creative. Another initiative we took during this time was to create a weekly magazine for the people of the community. With the help of our interpreters, we were able to make a news magazine, consisting of recipes and advices on good physical and mental health, as well as sections dedicated to women and children. The purpose of the magazine is to strengthen our presence in the camp and to remind of our supportive role to all the families living here. Our goal is to continue publishing it after the end of the pandemic.
- Vassiliki: We look forward to the moment when we can hug everyone again! I am Vasiliki Spiliotopoulou and I am a Social Scientist, working at the Andravida Refugee Open Accommodation Center for Refugees.
- I am Alexandra Tzavella and I am a Social Worker, working at the Andravida Open Accommodation Center for Refugees.
- We both work at the Child & Family Support Hubs project, which is implemented by SolidarityNow with the support of UNICEF and IOM Greece and funded by the European Commission.