ECHO’s work began with our flagship project: setting up a library in Vasilika camp. The Vasilika Library is a space reserved for teenagers and adults to access language learning resources, tutoring, and online learning; it is a space for learning and for creativity.
On June 13th, 2016, roughly 1200 people were evicted from EKO station, an informal refugee camp set up around a gas station along a highway, where they had been living since March. They were moved to abandoned hangars near the town of Vasilika, inside which they have endured the heat of Greek summer and will soon be facing the winter.
In July, we began offering intermediate and advanced English classes to residents of the camp. With very little infrastructure to start with, our first classroom was out under a tarp in front of the hangars. Even in sweltering 35C heat, our students were dedicated to their learning, demonstrating an indomitable strength of spirit in the face of grim circumstances that never ceases to amaze us.
A month later we began our project of setting up a library space for adults and teenagers of the camp. Thanks to the collaboration of other volunteers on the ground and an incredible out-pour of support from afar, we were soon teaching in a real classroom, and stacking dictionaries, novels, and textbooks onto proper bookshelves.
We now operate the Vasilika library alongside a mobile library which services multiple camps in the Thessaloniki area. The library space is constantly evolving, and its doors are always open to those who are looking to pursue an education, learn a new language, or even just pick up a good book.