In 2015 the world watched as tens of thousands of people moved through Greece in search of safety and shelter, in the largest act of human migration in Europe since WWII. Unable to stand idly by, a small team of Greek and international volunteers left their various professions to show-up in support, working day and night at the border village of Idomeni. We started by responding to basic human needs: water, food, clothing, information, and moral support. The team adopted the name InterVolve.
When European borders closed in March 2016, and 16,000 people were stranded in the tiny village of Idomeni, we worked with hundreds of volunteers, solidarity networks, NGOs and camp residents, to respond to the increasing needs of people stuck in this squalid makeshift encampment. We amplified the voices of those we sought to assist, and advocated for the rights and dignity of refugees to be respected.
In January 2016, as the political and humanitarian situation worsened, InterVolve was formalized as a Greek NGO, and began to establish roots. This, plus the seismic support of Help Refugees UK, helped us 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 in some of the 23 “warehouse camps”. One such camp was Softex, where for some weeks we found ourselves to be the sole humanitarian actor for 1680 residents, and we made a commitment to stay.
In summer 2017 the notorious Softex camp was finally dissolved, and we saw an opportunity to work on what refugees and new residents deserve: sustainable support and integration. By request of former residents of Softex camp, and looking at gaps within existing services available for refugees and asylum seekers, we decided to open a women's community center in Thessaloniki. Irida Women's Center has been operating since January 2018, offering a safe space and community-building activities to women of all backgrounds, through empowerment and supportbuild their own social networks within the local society.
The InterVolve team 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.