We are a non-profit NGO based in Athens, Greece, dedicated to helping refugees. We informally began as volunteers in December 2015 and officially founded Yalla Help in September 2016 with three members. Since then, we have worked on a wide range of projects: from food distributions and building shelters, to responding to day-to-day needs such as fixing bicycles. One of our core functions is also managing and supporting other volunteers; we help them in finding the best bargains for local supplies, accommodation, and transportation. Our ultimate aim is to match volunteers’ abilities and eagerness to help with the needs of refugees, allowing everyone to put their best efforts and abilities to good use in helping those in need.
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We began as independent volunteers in December, 2015, on the Greek island of Lesvos. Even though we had no clue at first how we would be of service to the wider landscape of the refugee crisis, it was clear that our bond was strong over our shared disgust towards white saviour volunteers. At first, our work included aiding new boat arrivals, camp construction, beach clean-up, clothing distribution, dreaming up unique band names, translation, and coordinating a kitchen team. When the borders closed in March 2016, we shifted our efforts to northern Greece to help with the thousands of refugees that got stranded. During the daytime, we would prioritize finding local supplies in bulk and helping connect volunteers. By nighttime, we were spinning the idea of starting our own NGO because in Deena's words: "We thought we looked so photogenic in group selfies that we should create an NGO together". The agony over choosing a representative name had just begun, but we were off to a good start with 'Wetsuits & Ladles'. When independent camps got shut down in June, our focus was to collaborate in the 20+ military camps that refugees were now moved into. By then, we had settled on Yalla Help as the number one pick. We then proceeded to alleviate camp conditions through a variety of ways; by helping set up recreational activities, repairing roofs and floors, installing facilities, distributing nutritional items, and eradicating bedbugs. In February 2017, after volunteering in northern Greece for 11 months, we briefly headed over to Serbia to help execute an aid distribution with some other teams. We expanded to helping people in disadvantaged communities and not just asylum seekers. Upon returning to Greece, we relocated our base from the northern borders to Athens, where we aid refugee families in the new urban housing projects. Tasks range from: going out on field trips to explore Greece and its rich history, to finding the perfect institute for learning a specific language or skill, getting dates for Ramadan, and helping with general house maintenance. We do whatever we can to help.