“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In August of 2016, the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal began renting the building that is now Welcommon Hostel in the heart of Athens. Nikos Chrysogelos and Polina Gkioka had a goal: to host refugees and provide a place for them to not only sleep and eat, but to begin to reintegrate into society. They understood that children of war and vulnerable populations do not simply need food and basic accommodations-- they need empowerment and mobilisation.
So, the organization Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal (a social cooperative) took the initiative, using their funding from the Development Agency of the Municipality of Athens and the UNHCR, and created a comprehensive center to house and feed refugees but also to build community, provide therapy through art, hold movie nights, offer community volunteer opportunities, and so much more. The center became a hub where over 600 refugees of 22 nationalities stayed during a one and a half year period and rehabilitated through cooperation while challenging the stereotypes placed before them. The center has provided health screenings and ongoing health services, such as vaccinations and obstetric check-ups. Through professional psychiatric care, these refugees found community support that carried them through trauma to be able to successfully integrate into society. The most innovative part of the program was the empowerment of the refugees through their participation in non-formal education, art, games, cinema, theater, excursions,neighborhood clean ups, tutoring courses of various languages and school subjects.
Through volunteerism, the center was able to accommodate all people and their needs, caring for each person that came through its doors and the 41 babies born in the 1.5 years that it was open. However, in January of 2018, the UN gave the center a 40 day notice that they would be pulling all funding from the project. The UNHCR had a new initiative, to house refugees in individual housing rather than in community centers. While this may have been well intended, the initiative has fragmented communities and left individuals isolated with their mental health suffering.
The center moved quickly, as refugees left and the building was converted into a hostel in order to find the money to keep the doors open and the lights on. Though, many migrants were affected by this immediate decision, the program did not turn their backs on the refugees. The hostel held spaces for educational purposes and programs for kids to provide avenues for social integration. The hostel employed fellow greeks and refugees within the community.
However, the hostel’s low traffic level combined with the extensive expenses required to manage their programs have left them in a financial crisis. Right now, without paying three months’ worth of their loan in a single month- loans received by supportive friends of the hostel when the banks refused to-- the facility will face total closure. If Welcommon Hostel were to close, the lives of many that have benefitted from having a community would be severely impacted, as many have already felt the pain of abandonment.
Welcommon Hostel has an urgent need. We have a loan that must be repaid to keep our doors open and in order to do this, we need help. There is currently a team of students from Northern Arizona University working to advertise and publicize the hostel to build business for the long term, but if Welcommon hostel cannot survive the month, then they will not survive at all. This is more than just a hostel, this is a safe place seeking to revitalize refugee populations through social services and integrate them into society with confidence and integrity. The donations received will cover the cost of the three months of rent. However, awareness and an increase in visitors will provide profit that can make them financially independent and ensure that they can continue to provide social inclusion services and move towards an environmentally sustainable model.
Any kind of donation that you are able to make is helpful to the vulnerable populations who are benefitting from the life changing work done here. Even if you are unable to donate, spreading awareness about this hostel’s presence can help it become a more financially stable social business with a steady customer base. Please share this page on social media and consider donating and booking your stay at Welcommon Hostel or the next time you are in Athens.
Thank you very much.
Visit the hostel’s website: https://welcommonhostel.gr/
To visit the hostel’s Instagram: Welcommonhostel
To visit the hostel’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/welcommonhostel/
For more information on the former refugee center*: http://welcommon.gr/en/*Please note that this link does not have a place for current funding and all funds must be donated only through the GoGetFunding page!!!!