A Letter from Amed Khan, Founder of Elpida Home

A Letter from Amed Khan, Founder of Elpida Home

Elpida Home is an NGO we established in Thessaloniki Greece to protect vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugee families. The International Community has failed to provide the necessary protections for these innocent victims of war so we sought to build and operate our own residence based on the guiding principles of humanity and dignity. We created private studio apartments with communal kitchens and restrooms and many activities to get these innocent people who have been through many horrors back on their feet and feeling human again.

A Refuge for Hope

Amed Khan’s first trip to the Greek island of Lesbos wasn’t planned.

He was traveling by train to Milan, Italy, from the French Riviera in July 2015 after attending a fundraiser for actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s charitable foundation. Along the way, he noticed refugees camped out at railway stations. Khan ’91 decided to get off the train and follow their route backward.

When he got to Lesbos, thousands of people were landing on the country’s shores, wearing fake life jackets and crowded in rubber boats like cattle in a stockyard. Many arrived without their families or belongings, and others didn’t even make it that far. A number of boats sank midway through the journey across the Aegean Sea, and hundreds lost their lives in their quest to flee war and terrorism in their homelands.

“It was the startling contrast between the hedonism and extravagance of the people in Saint-Tropez and the awful conditions of these war refugees — who had lost all through no fault of their own — that compelled me to do whatever I could do to advocate for them and try to help,” Khan says.

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Amed Khan receives award for work at Elpida Home

“The refugees we’ve housed at our facilities once again feel human. From the moment they arrive, they get their own room with a door and a key.” This is the secret to the success of Elpida Home, according to Amed Khan, the founder of the operation.

“We award you for your philanthropy and especially for the humanity and active solidarity you’ve shown,” said the president of Solidarity Now’s board of directors, Stelios Zavvos, as he presented the 45-year-old American with the Civil Society Award in Athens on Monday.

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In an Uncertain Immigration Climate, a Refugee Camp Struggles Onward

It was November 2015—months before the election, months before now-President Donald Trump would issue a ban on refugee immigration into the United States—when Amed Khan, Frank Giustra, and Sandra Hakim decided to take an impromptu trip to Greece. Khan, a financier and philanthropist, Giustra, the president of the Radcliffe Foundation, and Hakim, a chocolatier, had set off in an ad hoc effort to see the refugee crisis up close. Now it seems naive, maybe, or even foolish, given what we know of the disaster. But Khan, Giustra, and Hakim hadn't come to gawk.

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How Elpida Home Became A P3 Success Story And Refugee Safe Haven In Greece

In partnership with the Greek Ministry of Migration, Amed Khan worked with local partners to materialize a home for refugees in northern Greece. Funded initially by American philanthropist Amed Khan, along with support from Frank Giustra, Canadian businessman and philanthropist, Elpida Home was successfully launched in July 2016. The home itself currently provides shelter to 200 Syrian and Iraqi refugees and will soon house 600 people. In stark contrast to military camps, where canvas tents serve as makeshift refugee shelters and where safety is more of a concept than reality, Elpida Home provides every family with a room with a lockable door for privacy, fully functioning kitchens for making home-cooked meals, and programs for adults and children.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Sandra Hakim, Chief Community Liaison at Elpida Home, who engages with stakeholders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to ensure that the home’s development and operations can be conducted smoothly. In our interview, she spoke about Elpida’s success story, bumps and all.

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Ένας τόπος με το όνομα «Ελπίδα»!

Έλαμπε ο τόπος το πρωί της προηγούμενης Παρασκευής. Ένα όψιμο καλοκαιράκι έκαιγε με το δυνατό του φως το φιλμ της μίζερης καθημερινότητας. Με το πόδι πατημένο στο γκάζι άφηνα πίσω μου τοξικές ιστορίες και ειδήσεις που μυρίζουν σαπίλα. Οδηγούσα με πυξίδα τα θηριώδη φουγάρα της τσιμεντοβιομηχανίας που ορθώνονται στις παρυφές της Θεσσαλονίκης και προορισμό ένα μέρος με το όνομα “Ελπίδα”.

«Θα βγεις στο δρόμο για Καβάλα και, αμέσως μετά, θα κόψεις δεξιά», μου είπε ο Βαγγέλης απ’ το τηλέφωνο. «Εκεί θα μας βρεις.»

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Η ελπίδα βρήκε στέγη

Οταν τα σύνορα στην Ειδομένη κλείνουν οριστικά, η ελπίδα χιλιάδων προσφύγων για μια καλύτερη ζωή στη Δυτική Ευρώπη εξανεμίζεται. Την ίδια εποχή, ο Αμερικανός Amed Khan, επενδυτής και φιλάνθρωπος, ανακοινώνει στον στενό του φίλο Frank Giustra, επικεφαλής του Ιδρύματος Radcliffe στον Καναδά, μια φιλόδοξη ιδέα. Οι δύο τους, άλλωστε, έχουν στο «βιογραφικό» τους μια σειρά επιτυχημένων προγραμμάτων για πρόσφυγες σε όλο τον κόσμο. «Στη Μυτιλήνη είχαμε συμβάλει στην κατασκευή κέντρου υποδοχής από το International Rescue Committee και είχαμε υποστηρίξει το ERCI (Emergency Response Centre International) στην αγορά σωστικών λέμβων», διηγείται στην «Κ» από τη Νέα Υόρκη ο κ. Kahn.

Φαίνεται, όμως, ότι αυτό δεν του αρκεί. «Τότε πρότεινα στον Frank να υλοποιήσουμε από κοινού ένα στεγαστικό πρότζεκτ, το Elpida Project, αξιοποιώντας τις επιχειρηματικές μας δεξιότητες». Ενα εγκαταλελειμμένο εργοστάσιο στη βιομηχανική ζώνη της Θεσσαλονίκης αποδεικνύεται το κατάλληλο μέρος για να στεγάσουν και πάλι την ελπίδα.

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Abandoned Factory Turned Into Home For Up To 700 Refugees In Greece

With refugee camps in Greece in dire conditions, advocates are looking to alternative and unconventional housing options. 

An abandoned 6,000-square-foot textile factory has recently been repurposed to serve as a housing and medical facility for refugees in Thessaloniki, Greece.

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AYS SPECIAL: Elpida — Humanity, Dignity, and Community

Two philanthropists invested their own money to establish Elpida, a place in Thessaloniki where refugees can find a safe place and, at least for the moment, rest and be calm. The model they offer is easy to follow, it is simple, and yet it gives a lot to those in need.

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Here's What "Direct-Impact Philanthropy" Looks Like for Refugees in Greece

Earlier this year, the Greek government closed the Idomeni refugee camp. The clearing out of Idomeni, considered one of the country’s largest informal camps, meant that over 8,000 refugees—most of them Syrians and Iraqis—would have to relocate. The Greek government’s plan was to move those who were willing to more formal, state-run encampments near Thessaloniki.

In theory, this appeared to be a sound strategy. Camps were set up in former industrial areas with large abandoned factories in warehouses, which could house a number of refugees. In practice, however, the move has prompted calls for action from human rights organizations, humanitarian groups and aid agencies due to conditions that have been described as abysmal, atrocious and “not fit for animals.”

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