An update from ECHO
The start of November was hopeful; lots of new books on the shelves, high loans and new library users with exciting chats about how to work flexibly in the contested spaces of the camps whilst being socially distanced. By the end of the week, a new three-week lockdown had been announced.
All was not in vain though. We have been continuing the work on the new van, wiring, insulating, building benches and lining the walls ready for the most important feature: the bookshelves. We are lucky to have a dedicated team of volunteers working on this: a massive thank you to Hannah-Lily, Jono, Kosta, Aurianne and Becca. We could not do it without you, certainly judging by these authors’ utter inability to measure anything accurately. We’ve continued to use the library van to do the shopping for a local social kitchen called Khora. Read more below about this ever growing friendship.
Grassroots in Greece: A Khora-ECHO Love story
This month our friends at Khora have been making a huge effort to fundraise for their survival into the next year. Khora Association was born out of volunteers coming together in the momentous months of late 2015 and 2016, firstly in Lesvos , then Piraeus and now Athens. What started as a response to a refugee “crisis” has evolved into an incredible shared effort of hundreds of different volunteers supporting each other and their local community, including refugee/migrants as well as local Greeks. They provide hot nutritious food, asylum support, clothes and, most importantly, a solid communit.
ECHO first met Khora when we moved to Athens in 2017 and began scouting out local community centres. At the time Khora was based all out of one multi-story building in our local neighbourhood of Exarcheia. For a long time we ran weekly library sessions there, with all sorts of books being borrowed by members of the community visiting and volunteering in the space, grabbing a book on their way to an English lesson, a hot meal or even the community dentist on the fifth floor. Sadly we parted ways when the centre had to close its doors in the summer of 2018 due to some tricky bureaucratic issues, but we hoped to see our friends again.
And we did! Fast to act, Khora was soon calling us up to ask for help less than a year later for help transporting furniture and other equipment into its new kitchen space, and it all blossomed from there. Our faithful van has been doing bi-weekly market runs for their social kitchen, not to mention becoming an almost full-time delivery van during the first lockdown. We share skills and work, from community contact tracing to where to get the cheapest van insurance in Athens.
It’s easy for us to work together because we have solid organisational structures that have been laboriously grafted over the years. Khora uses a consensus organising structure divided into working groups; each working group is responsible for making decisions about their relevant areas (such as rota issues in the kitchen) and feed-back in bigger assemblies where community-wide decisions (such as what to do through lockdown). ECHO librarians who want to join Khora for the purpose of collaborating on, for example, market runs, can do that by slotting right into the relevant working group structure. Good democratic processes make for strong communities. And ECHO has learnt a lot from this model and incorporated many of its elements into how we work.
But perhaps what’s most important is our shared commitment to the same ideals. We are diverse individuals coming together to support each other and our local communities. We find our comradeship not in a language or cultural background, but in recognition of our mutual need to work together and to overcome the violence of global apartheid. We side with those who are struggling and oppose those creating the circumstances of struggle and suffering. We resist those who seek to divide us on the basis of nationality, religion or the colour of our skin. We know that united we stand and divided we fall. This is what solidarity means.
By Becka Wolfe and Keira Dignan