Members of various ecovillages helped refugees in Greece between December 2015 and August 2016. First on Lesbos, later in Northern Greece, upwards of a hundred people from all over Europe, organized accommodation, dry clothes and food for numerous people from areas afflicted by war and poverty; the volunteers also gave medical care, language lessons, looked after children and old people and listened to their stories. “RefuGEN 1” has come to an end. The preparation of “RefuGEN 2” has started: the new project phase is called HOME and is a project involving education and integration for and by refugees, with assistance from volunteers and locals from Greece, supported by the Global Ecovillage Network, and accompanied by coworkers from Tamera and the Blueprint Alliance.
“It is about more than refugee aid,” Nikiforos Pertsinidis states. “We all are affected by the global crisis; we are all refugees of the capitalistic system. We want to collaborate in creating home.” As co-founder of the Skala Ecovillage, he is one of the carriers of HOME, a planned educational project for the integration of refugees and for intercultural community building. During the Green Phoenix Thinktank meeting of communities in Switzerland, the rough guidelines of HOME were elaborated: a group of ten refugees, ten locals and ten members of ecovillages from all over Europe will learn together what it means to build community – beyond all language and cultural barriers. They will do this by building a regenerative settlement together: an ecovillage with sustainable technologies in water management, architecture, food production, and energy supply. The inhabitants of Skala Ecovillage near Thessaloniki have provided a piece of their property for this.
HOME will be an educational project. After three months, the participants will receive a certificate from the Global Ecovillage Network; on the one hand, they will have gathered experience in ecological technologies and skills that will become ever more important for the restoration of former war areas as well as overused and exploited landscapes in Europe. However, even more important is learning about social sustainability and intercultural cooperation. The participants will be teachers and students at the same time. And those who conclude the three months will be intercultural bridge-builders: a very important quality for the integration of refugees all over Europe.
Ten communities and ecovillages from Europe are supporting the project. In February, a group of six specialists will spend three weeks in Greece together with the Skala members to explore the legal, political, social and ecological details and conditions and elaborate on the details of the plan. The project will be accompanied and guided by the Blueprint Alliance: this is an initiative of specialists for social and ecological sustainability. Its members have worked as aid workers in many crisis areas. The Blueprint idea brings them together: they want to create a holistic model for a regenerative settlement. The first two prototypes will be built in Tamera and in Skala; under the name Blueprint 200, they will demonstrate what temporary or permanent emergency settlements can look like if they are built not in a destructive manner, but in a way that is healing for nature and people. The project is being supported by the Grace Foundation. The director of the foundation, Benjamin von Mendelssohn, states: “Blueprint 200 is one of three main projects for our foundation, because it connects the idea of creating a model strongly with direct help in one of the most serious humanitarian and political disasters of our time.“