Views from the Ground: KHORA
It’s been a whirlwind two months for Khora, so the Campfire Innovation team was super excited to explore the team’s new centre last week… While travelling through Khora Community Centre’s seven floors of creative and collaborative space, it was phenomenal to see how far the project has come in such a short span of time. The centre has only been open for two months, but the floors are full of life and activity.
Khora is a humanitarian co-operative, founded by volunteers that had previously worked in the crisis hotspots of Calais, France (with Skipchen) and Moria, Lesvos (Together for Better Days), as well as Serbia and mainland Greece.
This team has since founded and developed a base in Athens, where it combines volunteer skills and resources to create a centre of available information, comfort and community for the city’s refugees and friends.
The result is a patchwork building of classes, kitchens and workshops, populated by refugees, locals and volunteers: but don’t let the cheerful, laid-back atmosphere fool you. Our tour revealed a serious organisation, whose vision for developing a sustainable resource point is as structured and resilient as the seven floors that house it.
A Tour of Khora
Starting from the basement workshop, we saw some innovative projects in progress, including a bed for a disabled refugee in the community and a new kitchen table. The workshop has allowed Khora to keep costs down by building what is needed, and is open to the community. To book time in the workshop, you are encouraged to “drop in and chat” about arranging a good day and time.
Passing through the ground floor, the child care area was quietly running, and on the first floor the kitchen smelled amazing, as the kitchen crew prepared its daily open lunch. The open lunch, as the title suggests, is open to everyone in the community. Its hopes are that it encourages refugees and local Greek families to meet and eat together, and is prepared with locally sourced fresh ingredients.
Refugees are involved in running Khora throughout many of its activities, but it is in the food preparation and serving that you can see the extent of community pride in action. Delicious food is prepared in the morning, there are no queues to wait in to be served, and when the food is ready, the volunteers serve Khora’s visitors, restaurant style.
We sailed through to the second floor that houses the social cafe and open space. There we saw some locals preparing tea and admired the tables and benches that were all made in house from recycled materials. We heard about some of the self-defence and soap making classes that had recently been held there, as well as the interest from the community about the potential for many new workshops and classes. On the third floor, we peeked in on one of the three (three!) classrooms in session, as well as the new computer lab that is undergoing final stages.
On the fourth floor we marvelled at the cosy Women’s Space and swiftly developing dentistry room. The iconic dental chair was ready to go, and as soon as the cabinets are installed and final licensing completed, the services will be ready to roll out to the community. We chatted with Liska and Panagiotis on the fifth floor about Khora’s burst to success and rapid growth in a short time and the future plans for this warm and welcoming space.
Looking for Smart Aid Solutions
The Khora collective encapsulates collaborative grassroots working. It encourages new ideas from volunteers and visitors, and produces the sense that you are watching ideas evolve in front of you as you observe the centre’s separate spaces.
This sense of autonomy and spontaneity is supported by real, intelligent Smart Aid. Co-founder Liska Bernet stresses that we are still in the formative stages of a long-term refugee crisis, and that the resources Khora is developing reflect long-term requirements. As the global refugee crisis increasingly spills out into the streets of Europe, organisations like Khora will continue to play a significant role in shaping urban communities.
The remaining floors of the centre are in the process of being developed into legal offices, while the group continues to work with HelpRefugees, RefuComm and Holes in the Borders to deliver a reliable information point that empowers the city’s refugees. Khora’s accommodation of these more complex resolutions to essential refugee needs reveals the steely determination beneath the relaxed, safe space it has created.
We’re looking forward to following Khora on its continued development of smart aid resources for Europe’s refugees.
For more on Khora, and how you can support them, visit Khora's page.