OCC Greece is located in Polykastro, a small town in the North of Greece, close to the Greek-Macedonian border. 4 km away from Polykastro there is the largest refugee camp of Northern Greece, called Nea Kavala. The numbers of asylum seekers living there fluctuate seasonally, with peaks of 600 people during 2022.
The OCCCycling project has been designed to address the isolation of residents of the Nea Kavala refugee camp. The camp contains over 800 displaced people, and is 4 km from the nearest town, Polykastro. The absence of suitable public transport means that residents struggle to access supermarkets, pharmacies and the local health centre. Having access to bicycles free of charge means that camp residents can access the amenities mentioned, as well as the community and social events beyond the camp.
Building a friendly community among the volunteers and the students, as well as the community of Polykastro is vital for OCC. OCC has a meeting space that serves this purpose. The Cafeteria is the centre of all our activities in Greece and the space where community members can register for courses and activities. The Cafeteria is also the meeting space for OCC members and volunteers. The Cafeteria is open to everyone and it offers free tea, coffee, board games, books and internet connection.
Classes for refugee children
Each afternoon from Tuesday to Friday OCC holds classes for refugee children in the Polykastro area. The classes are organised into three groups: Falafels (6-8), Eagles (9-12), and Pirates (13-17). Classes are three hours, with one half dedicated to language education and one half dedicated to an activity (sports, children’s workshops, crafts, cooperative games, etc.). Each class is led by a resident and an international volunteer. Child students receive both English and Greek language education on alternating days.
Both in Spain and Greece, we use language to connect locals, volunteers and newcomers through our free classes. The classes in Barcelona are given by both locals and newcomers, and students are also a mixture of the two. Classes are free for our members and it’s a great opportunity to get to know new people. In Greece, students are mainly refugees from the Nevala Neu refugee camp, learning Greek, English and/or other languages (cost-free).
Growing up inside a refugee camp is not a safe environment for children. They are in constant distress, and don’t have many opportunities to escape the hardships of the life in the camp. This is why OCC offers a free kindergarten service in their center in Greece, allowing families to leave their children with OCC for a day, giving them a safe place to play and learn, while the families have the possibility to work or do other things they wouldn’t be able to do if they had to care for their children all day.