A Ray of Hope for Refugees in Northern Greece

A Ray of Hope for Refugees in Northern Greece

When Mahmood looks out of the window he can see Thessaloniki's seafront clearly, sometimes, when the sky is clear, even Mount Olympus is visible. "Here we finally have a room; we lived in a tent in the camp of Lagadikia," he tells DW while making a square shape with his hands to show the small size of his tent in the relocation center where he used to live.

Mahmood is one of the 140 people living in Elpida, a new refugee center situated near the industrial sector of Thessaloniki. He resides in a private room with his friends, Mohammed, Ahmed, and Ahmed's twin brother who sleeps without noticing the conversations around him.

Elpida - the Greek word for hope - is a new facility in northern Greece, a public and private partnership that has set itself the goal of becoming an example of how to deal with the refugee crisis efficiently and humanely. The creation of this alternative refugee center was the vision of Amed Khan, an investor, philanthropist and the founder of Elpida who partnered with the Canadian-based Radcliffe Foundation and the Greek General Secretariat of Migration Policy, which is part of the Μinistry of Interior and Administrative Construction.

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It’s Khan who has spent nearly a year working with the Greek government, the Orthodox Church, local charities and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to put together the project.

After the Greek government agreed to pay the rent and utilities, Zuckerman moved in to consult with the migrants before designing the space to work best for them. He then managed more than 120 volunteers from around the world who did the renovation work.

It’s that kind of consultation with the recipients of aid that Giustra says is missing from most humanitarian projects.

“We got a facility that is suited to their needs. But more importantly, we restored their dignity. We made them feel that they’re important again, that they have a life again. We gave them hope for the future.”

It’s why the factory is called Elpida Home – elpida is the Greek word for hope.