Sisters in peril need our assertive action in Greece.
Jennifer, a writer for Eindhoven News, spent a month volunteering at the Athena Centre for Women (a project by Action for Women) on the Greek Island of Chios. She is reaching out to get help for the project.
“I was in the centre in July 2018. The centre serves women living in Vial Refugee Camp, a severely overcrowded and underserved camp where more than 2000 refugees reside in broken metal containers, tents, and in many cases, with no shelter at all, completely open to the elements.
Athena Centre for Women provides a vital service to the women living in Vial who are able to travel to the centre. Here women find a clean, quiet, safe and welcoming space to rest and relax for a few precious hours a day – something that hasn’t been available to them since leaving their war-torn countries, on the precarious road they’ve traveled to get here, or at home in Vial Camp. In the centre women also have access to legal and medical appointments, bras and undergarments, sanitary supplies, a wholesome meal, and, depending on the skills and talents of volunteers who come, may have access to language, wellness, and art classes.
I taught yoga and wellness classes at the centre, and generally supported administrative and coordination functions of the centre as needed. I also engaged in many hours of socializing, snuggling babies, listening, giving and receiving shoulder massages, and sharing meals. Together we experienced many funny and tender moments. We anointed ourselves with essential oils, engaged in a photography project, and talked about dreams for the future. When words failed us – because in a room full of five women there could be five different languages spoken – we communicated through art, body language, smiles, expressions of anguish and frustration, watery eyes, firm nods, and with hugs. As volunteers, we would often cringe and ache internally when a request for a basic human need was made and we said “no” due to lack of resources or better solutions.
Women from around the world come here to serve our sisters who have been in harm’s way for too long. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the degree of suffering we witness, but also the courage and resilience; and the beauty of women in whose eyes we can also see ourselves. In this place we bear witness to the tenderness and strength of each woman’s heart, as well as the grave consequences of war, forced migration, and poverty.
For me the Athena Centre for Women represents a space where women gather to lift each other up, promote self-care, share wisdom and stories of joy and tragedy, and to develop self-confidence and friendship. Here we learn about what it means to be brave, and how to engage in heartfelt, respectful conversations with women of diverse backgrounds, interests, and cultures.
Women who come here from Vial camp are struggling to survive; the women who volunteer here strive tirelessly to elevate and inspire; we all endeavor to keep hope alive. Volunteers arrive as advocates and activists. We leave with a more accurate perspective on serious world issues and crises; with images etched in our hearts that will never be forgotten, and with new friendships that poke holes in the walls between our cultures and nations.
Volunteers and donations are needed for ‘Action for Women’.
Watch a video about the Athena Women’s Center.”
For Eindhoven News: Jennifer
Jennifer Moiles is a licensed acupuncturist and long-time practitioner of natural healing arts. She leads women’s circles and is a devoted advocate for women’s health and empowerment. She has been a regularly-returning volunteer in Greece, on the mainland and Chios Island, for two years. And of course an Eindhoven News volunteer writer.