In Katsikas, North Greece, Mimi coordinates the Habibi.Works project, a maker space that aims at empowering refugees and locals in need. Its goal? To help them regaining self-confidence and dignity. A passionate and fascinating meeting.
A project based on respect, solidarity and equality
Late 2015, Mimi and a group of volunteers come to refugees’ aid for 10 days and offer them food and clothes. Even if she feels useful, she soon realizes that “this action doesn’t have a long lasting impact”. As a reaction, the same team arrives three months later in the freshly open refugee camp in Katsikas – where 1200 refugees leave in poor conditions – and decides to set up a community kitchen. Even if the military closes it after a few weeks, the kitchen makes the team aware that they “have to be empowering and sustainable in [their] actions, but also independent. [They] don’t want to depend on somebody’s good will”.
After another three months to raise funds, they found the Soup&Socks NGO and launch the project called Habibi.Works. This 700m² space now includes 11 working areas, including the community kitchen but also a media lab and wood, metal or sewing workshops. A library also stands outside, where the ONG Second Tree provides English classes.
Thanks to guided activities, but also free access to spaces and equipments, the 50 to 150 people who come every day can meet their basic needs by producing and fixing tables, bikes or any object or item of clothing. It’s a place of encounters where sharing is essential: talents and skills are both shared and acquired. As Mimi says, Habibi.Works promotes empowerment and thus “has an impact on people’s current living situation, on motivation but also on their well-being and mental health”.
Volunteering: a “rewarding and enriching” but not sustainable situation
Habibi.Works’ functioning is based on voluntary work and donations, what makes it independent but also unstable. Only 3 of the 12 to 14 team members can actually earn a little salary since September 2018. Looking after a sustainable model is therefore essential.
From empowerment to integration
“As incredible as it sounds, there are no program in place that would allow people who are part of the Greek and European labor market to get in touch with those searching an access to it”, Mimi regrets. That’s why the team has recently launched Net.Works, a project promoting integration.
Thanks to different “call for proposals”, Habibi.Works will welcome every month until September 2019 Greek and international experts teams. They will offer new workshops, according to the community’s interests and needs, such as in IT, web design or fashion design. The idea behind is to create a network of support and trust.
To go further
Go and discover Mimi and the whole Habibi.Works team on their website and Facebook page.