Life in Elliniko: From Olympic stadiums to refugee camp

Photo story
November 4, 2016

The Elliniko camp, a few miles outside of Athens, sprawls across a complex of old airport buildings and abandoned stadiums built for the 2004 Olympic Games. Venues that once hosted baseball and hockey matches now accommodate almost 3,000 migrants from Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. According to the latest official estimates, 2849 to be precise.

Doctors of the World has been working in the stadiums since last year. Our team is composed of a doctor, a paediatrician, two psychologists, and five interpreters, who provide primary healthcare, psychological support, and paediatric care. The Doctors of the World clinic is located on a stretch of land that used to be a parking lot, in between the two main camps. The Clinic runs daily from 10am until 4pm, Monday to Friday. In the evening, a group of volunteers takes over.

Recently our team expanded their services with a mobile dental unit. One dentist and her assistant provide refugees free dental care on a daily base since July. After the summer, the dental medibus will embark on a tour visiting several refugee camps in Northern and Central Greece.

Dentist Sofia Kouva and her assistant Ippolyti Karvouni run the dental mobile unit and offer free dental care to refugees in the camp. Every morning, rows of patients are queuing up in front of the medibus. Depending on each case, Sofia can take care of about 15 patients a day. Most patients get teeth removed and have never been to a dentist before.

Before she started working in  Elliniko, Martha provided psychosocial support as a DotW volunteer on a ferry that transported refugees from Greek islands and the mainland. Currently, she offers psychological support in one-on-one sessions in the clinic and started the first group sessions just a few weeks ago, in a more 'private' tent with comfortable pillows where people can meet and discuss their concerns.  Martha: ‘Our aim is to help normalize feelings of anxiety, sadness and frustration to help people find a way to cope with daily life within the community.'

 Yalda had always dreamed of obtaining a university degree in English literature and become a teacher, a feat that would be nearly impossible in Afghanistan. Since her brother started working with the US army in Pakistan, the family of four received death threats from Taliban and decided to leave for Europe.  'When we arrived here six months ago, I thought I could be somebody for these people. I set up a school with other volunteers. I leave my family alone all day to teach and support refugees or organisations working in the camp. Women trust me and come to me when they have a complaint or want to discuss private issues. So you can say I am like an 'unofficial' women leader in Hockey camp.' 


Azimi – camp artist from Herat (Afghanistan)

When Azimi first set up his painting stand at the entrance of the Hockey stadium, the camp management was at first reluctant to allow him the space. ‘Now they provide me with paint and other material for the painting workshop I organize weekly for about 50 students.’ In the beginning of august, Azimi had his first exhibition in a makeshift school at Hockey, one of the three sites. In close collaboration with a school initiative run by refugees and volunteers and the camp management, his own work was shown with compilations, drawings, craftwork and paintings made by his students. 

 *Part of the program is funded by the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid Department.

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