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Passionist Life The Learning Refuge: Life re-blooms in Cyprus

The Learning Refuge: Life re-blooms in Cyprus

Passionists UK The Learning Refuge: Life re-blooms in Cyprus

Nov 10 2022, 02:22 PM

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From 2015-16 many Syrian refugees began migrating to escape war, persecution, loss of homes and employment. 

Seeking peace and a new start in Cyprus, families arrived here in large numbers by boat: from Syria, via Turkey, or from refugee camps in Greece. 

A small group of volunteers in Paphos, all women, decided to do something practical to help. Now, the Learning Refuge continues to expand at pace, taking on new initiatives and responsibilities in a bid to deal with the scale of need.

We continue our daily work of distributing freely clothes and household goods and furnitures to all families in need. 

We have formally agreed from September with Caritas International to distribute their food-bags to over 30 families monthly. With the Learning Refuge’s unique knowledge of the Syrian community in Paphos, we source food and distribute bags mainly to arabic speaking families. The number of new requests, however, is increasing in 2022—and does include other communities: African, Ukraine, Kurdish and others.

Summer activities developed in a new way with the arrival of a large group of teenagers, unaccompanied minors,  released on April from Pournara asylum-reception camp and relocated to a Paphos hotel: over 160 teens mainly from Africa: Somalia, Cameroon or Congo.

The teens arrive Tuesdays and Fridays for afternoon lessons at the Learning Refuge, taking part in creative classes including sewing machine tuition, embroidery, mosaic, jewellery making and music; also guitar and piano sessions for a very keen group of boys. 

Our aim is to engage the teenagers and volunteers in an art exhibition & music event, to encourage their participation and acceptance in the wider community.

We are in a collaboration with another Caritas project, Hope Farm, which aims to sustainably produce vegetables, and staples for better food-bags. We will be encouraging beneficiaries to become ‘green’ volunteers, and learn about sustainable farming methods.

Our close work with refugee and asylum seeker families often results in appeals for extra help from the community. 

This month we aim to raise funds for a Somali mother of two, who urgently needs a new leg orthosis (brace). Last month, the Learning Refuge helped two women who were threatened with eviction. Cases are diverse, and these types of urgent situations are an increasing part of our work.  

Over 25 volunteers now actively help at the Learning Refuge, and many other non active members who donate, raise awareness and help indirectly in valuable ways. 

We continue efforts to make good supportive relationships with businesses, local charities, councils and churches. Our registration process is now being handled by a local lawyer, at the stage of tailoring the articles of association for a volunteer non-profit group. 

Greek speaking volunteers provide homework help for children struggling with their studies: an after school workshop also including art and play. 

Due to a large rise in the number of single mothers in the community, we aim to start a mothers and babies group this October. Efforts are underway to recruit new volunteer helpers.

We continue to provide workshops twice weekly for a team of sewing mothers mainly Syrians who create fabric items for sale. The Learning Refuge offers these items for sale through fundraiser, fairs etc. Plans are underway for this year’s Christmas events. 

Lastly, we are host members of a new initiative, PAPHOS Social Outreach forum-—comprised of local churches and charities due to the increasing problem of homelessness in our city. Meetings begin this month to discuss new ways we can jointly deal with this dilemma. 

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