RefuGEN 1 concludes - and gives space for RefuGEN 2, a new phase of volunteer work for refugees
During the GEN Europe Conference in Arterra/Spain, the RefuGEN team took some decisions of how to continue the project and the help of ecovillages for refugees.
The RefuGEN initiative was launched at the Green Phoenix meeting in Switzerland in November 2015. It came about as an urgent response to the humanitarian crisis that was and still is unfolding along the migratory routes that many displaced people follow to escape from war and other hardships. Almost immediately, a RefuGEN base was set up on the Greek island Lesvos where volunteers spent many months providing essential services at the refugee camps on the island. A few months later, in March, the authorities started to close these camps and RefuGEN moved to the Skala ecovillage in northern Greece. There, volunteers continued their work at camps such as Idomeni and now more recently, at Lagadikia.
However, and despite the incredible commitment that so many volunteers from ecovillages have shown during their time volunteering on the RefuGEN project, we always knew that at some point we would have to reflect again on how we as a network of ecovillages, could best assist in intervening in the crisis. We took such time to come together and to reflect deeply during GEN Europe Conference held in northern Spain. We considered several aspects of our 6-month old project including the immense volunteer work done up to now, the impact it had so far, the invaluable lessons learnt, future scenarios for the crisis itself, camp conditions and the needs of its inhabitants as well as the collective know-how and skills that we as ecovillagers can offer to develop sustainable living spaces and practices. It is in this context that we took 2 key decisions regarding RefuGEN:
a. That the first phase of RefuGEN will come to an end on the 31st of August 2016. This means that we will not accept new registrations of volunteers, but will continue to host volunteers who are already at Skala Ecovillage only up to this date. For any new volunteers who are still interested to work as volunteers in Greece (from September 2016 onwards), we can only recommend that they contact any one of the volunteer organisations who still actively recruit and place volunteers at refugee camps in the region. (Please check on the Internet for such possibilities)
b. That the second phase of RefuGEN will focus on education, training, integration and the creation of model settlements. We have some proposals from collectives such Blueprint and other possible cooperation partners. The exact nature of this focal point – in terms of content and form and duration and the resources needed – will be decided at the next Green Phoenix meeting to be held at the Schweibenalp Ecovillage in September 2016.
We would like to extend our heart-felt gratitude to all those who have participated in RefuGEN – the volunteers, the ecovillage communities, especially the Skala ecovillage, donors and fundraisers and everybody else who contributed in some way or the other.
We are excited about the new form that RefuGEN will take and know that the impulse that its first six months has been given – thanks to you - will see it continue to strive for better livelihoods for those people who find themselves displaced by adversity.
Please stay in touch and look out for our announcement on the new RefuGEN in October.
DONATIONS: If you can, please contribute to the refuGEN fund. It is for paying common costs of the mission that we cannot ask individual volunteers to pay for. If we collect enough money we would like to help volunteers in financial need to help pay food, accommodation and possibly travel to the location. It is possible to donate via GEN Europe PayPal account or GEN Europe bank account. Please mark all donations with "refuGEN".
Postbank Berlin, bank code 10010010, Account no: 7681105
IBAN: DE 11100100100007681105, BIC: PBNKDEFF100
GEN-Europe e.V. is a charity association - Donations to us are tax deductible depending on your country.
MATERIALS: We ask you to consider gathering needed materials to give to needy refugees. Men's clothes, sleeping bags, tents, and perhaps blankets will be needed. Sorting clothes by size and type is helpful. We want you to wait with sending any materials before refuGEN is on location and can confirm what is needed.
Please spread this request in your community and to trusted individuals connected to your community that you think could help with the refuGEN mission.