In 2015, as tens of thousands of people moved through Greece in search of safety and shelter, a small team of Greek and international volunteers came together to support these individuals. We worked day and night, at the border village of Idomeni, to try and provide humanitarian basics such as socks, water, clothing, support and information to as many people as possible. The team adopted the name InterVolve.
When the borders closed in March 2016 and 16,000 people were stranded in this tiny village in northern Greece, we worked with hundreds of volunteers, in partnership with the civil society collective, NGOs and camp residents, to try and provide for the basic needs of people existing in this squalid and un-managed makeshift camp.
In January 2016, as the political and humanitarian situation worsened, InterVolve formalised as a Greek NGO, and began to establish roots and relationships to ensure we would be able to continue to flexibly respond, fill gaps, and support people. This, plus the seismic support of Help Refugees UK, helped us to act quickly when people were evacuated from Idomeni to government-run camps in May 2016. Far from “gap filling”, we found ourselves undertaking significant infrastructure and relief projects to try and make habitable some of the 23 “camps” in which people were now expected to live. One such camp was Softex, where, as the sole humanitarian actor for 1680 residents for some weeks, we made a commitment to stay.
InterVolve believes no-one should live in a camp, but while people do, we continue to support residents as best we are able. Currently we operate in two camps; Koutsechero Camp in Larissa, where we have a full time team, and Mozas Camp in Volos, where we are supporting with food supplements. In addition, as the situation in Greece evolves yet again, many newcomers have recently come to live in urban settings. InterVolve continually strives to meet the changing needs of families and individuals located in disparate and diverse settings, while also recognizing the needs within the host community.
As a Greek NGO with a long-term commitment to the local community, we are developing open-access urban projects and events designed to provide people living in Thessaloniki with resources, space and support to come together, develop as a community, and develop the skills, connections, and competencies to work toward addressing and advocating for their own needs.
When in summer 2017 people started moving to the urban setting, we also decided to eventually turn to long-term development and integration. Following up with cases of former residents of the Softex camp and looking at the gaps with regards to the existing services available for refugees and asylum seekers, we decided to open a women's centre in Thessaloniki. The Irida Women's Centre operates since January 2018, offering a safe space and psycho-social support activities to women of all backgrounds, helping them realise the power within them and build their own social networks within the local society.
InterVolve volunteers will continue to respond to the continually changing, and increasingly complex, needs of a population that sometimes moves, and endlessly waits. As increasing numbers of local volunteers, refugees, and international volunteers join together in collaboration, our capacity continues to grow.