There are approximately 15,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers from a wide range of countries, plus an estimated 10,000 still unregistered. This comes as a surprise to many but Cyprus has the highest number of Refugees as a percentage of population in Europe.
Just 2 months after arriving in Cyprus in April 2019, we opened a pioneering new service for the many refugees who struggling to break out of a poverty trap:
Video by Josephine Salisbury Mills
Why create a Dignity Centre?
Our approach was to work closely with other organisations, fill the gaps, put dignity at the heart of what we do and enable refugees to rebuild their lives.
Many refugees in Nicosia are homeless or in poor quality housing. Money is tight. Boredom and inactivity is undermining their mental health. They have limited employment opportunities. Other support services cannot cope.
So we created the Dignity Centre to offer:
– A practical and emotional lifeline
– A space they can call their own and feel safe
– Showers and washing machines to keep clean
– A creche and fun activities for the kids
– Games, entertainment and a place to share time and get support from friends
– Skills development, learning and resources to help them get jobs and an income
It’s much more than a drop-in centre. It’s a place of hope. Somewhere they can start thinking about forging a new life far from home. And perhaps most important of all, reminding them that they are not forgotten and that people do care.
Dignity Centre Nicosia
We completely renovated a 3-story building in the centre of Nicosia, close to other essential services, with new plumbing, electricity, internet, air conditioning, redecoration, furniture and fittings.
All refugees and asylum seekers are welcome and free to use the Centre. We have a timetable of events that we publish on a facebook page.
Greek and English are critical for employment. Thanks to amazing local teachers who give up their time to help, every week we run classes in English and Greek for adults and in Arabic to children.
We have a varying programme of other classes that are skills based (sewing classes and computer literacy) and fun (chess club and Greek dance).
Using donated sewing machines and material that we buy locally, our 30+ co-operative members are carefully hand-making unique and desirable items. Once they pass our rigorous quality control, we buy everything the members produce at about 80% of the sale price. You can buy what they produce from our dedicated online shop.
Check out the story of the sewing cooperative here:
We run 3 sewing classes a week in order to improve people’s skills and ensure our products are the best quality.
Experienced tailor Ba, a refugee from Guinea Bissau, manages the co-operative and advises members on their technique.
Bicycle repair and distribution
Bicycles are not only fun to ride but also essential transport for people. It enables them to work further away from home – something that would be impossible with public transport.
And many of those bikes also go to kids.We bring over donated bikes from the UK in a container and distribute them to members who repair them with resources that we provide.
Children’s space and creche
The children’s space and creche is not only a place where parents can play with their children in a safe space but they can also leave them there to be entertained and stimulated while they use the other services in the building.
Kitchen and cookery
Our completely new and well equipped kitchen has been built thanks to support from LDS Charities to prepare food for celebrations but also to offer cookery and nutrition training to the unaccompanied young refugees (18-21 year olds).
Most people are living locally in crowded and poorly equipped apartments. Some are homeless. So we have washing machines to help with their laundry. And two showers so they can freshen up.
We serve breakfast 3 days a week at the Caritas Intake Center in partnership with Caritas. They provide legal support and we supply the breakfast. It’s a friendly, healthy service that says people are valued.
Let’s Eat! events
We host monthly, recurring meals for local refugees using a shared community space on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. We want to bring people together with food and have some fun! These events are always a hit and we serve about 250 meals in cooperation with the British Army’s 4th Regiment Royal Artillery who are there as part of the peace-keeping force
UNHCR Teen Transition Kits
When unaccompanied minors turn 18 they are no longer eligible for supported housing and need to live independently. In partnership with UNHCR we give the leavers our Teen Transition Kits. The Kits contain basic household items that are essential to a young person starting out on their own.
The Centre is all about the people. Manager Paula Tamarit has done a fantastic job of uniting local residents, hard-working volunteers from around the work and Centre Members with a common purpose to help others with dignity.
Together with generous donors and fantastic local suppliers, the Centre is a thriving and valuable service for the whole of Nicosia.
We need you
We need volunteers to continue developing and managing the Centre. It is hard work and it is very rewarding. You can help.