“Is Mobile School doing something for refugees?” is a question we consequently hear very often these days. In short: “yes, we are”. We just visited Greece, where all our (future) partner organisations face this new reality and are trying to meet the new needs that are arising.

Arsis, one of our partner organisations, is already actively working with the refugees in Athens. During our follow-up visit, we saw firsthand that the situation on the streets there changes weekly, as a consequence of decisions (not) taken at European or national level. We accompanied Arsis’ mobile school team during a session on Victoria Square. It was relatively calm on the square, because the border with Macedonia had been closed for four days, so the ‘influx’ of refugees was put to a temporary stop . There were no children around to play, but all the refugees hanging out on the square came up to the mobile school. At first they were a little hesitant, but after a couple of minutes everyone was enthousiastically playing games. We noticed the mobile school is not only a great tool to work with kids. It’s a tool that can be used to work with very diverse target groups. The games served  as a fun introduction and it was a perfect way of creating a relaxed atmosphere, so the refugees felt safe enough to tell their stories.

Mobile school session with partner organisation ARSIS on Victoria Square in Athens.

One week after we left, the situation at Victoria Square had changed drastically: there were so many refugees that there was no space to work with the mobile school.

The week after that, all refugees were moved to a camp and they were no longer allowed to hang out on the square. Arsis’ team of street workers faces a new reality during every mobile school session.

Another Greek organisation facing this constantly changing reality is PRAKSIS in Patras. When borders are closed, refugees find other ways to get to Northern Europa. A lot of them end up in Patras, a port city, to try and get to Italy from there. Out of fear of being registered, they spend their time in a dilapidated factory near the port, waiting for an opportunity to continue their journey. PRAKSIS supports the refugees (mostly unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan and Pakistan) by offering them everything to cover their basic needs, but they want to do more, which is why they applied for a mobile school.

The factory in Patras, where unaccompanied minors on the move stay until they can continue their journey.

Currently, the borders are closed or being closed everywhere, which has a lot of consequences for the situation in Greece. In Idomeni alone, 13 000 people on the move have to be relocated. For that reason, new hot spots are being created on a daily basis. Communication about these hot spots is very vague. Local communities often don’t know when refugees will arrive at their hot spot, how many will arrive and how long they are supposed to stay there. In Thessaloniki, our local partner organisations ARSIS and PRAKSIS are currently planning on doing interventions in the local hot spot or in one of the refugee camps.

The work with the mobile school with children and youth on the move is now being tested by these partner organisations. They will monitor the impact of their mobile school sessions and we will closely follow up, so we can give them the support they need and so we can learn from this changing context.

Mobile School collaborates with structural partner organisations that can guarantee continuous work with the mobile school. Emergency aid is important, but it is not what we do. We keep investing in long term partnerships instead of projects set up to meet temporary needs, so we can have a sustainable impact on children and youth worldwide.