With a delegation led by Church President Volker Jung, we visited NAOMI in Thessaloniki and are on our way to Lesvossolidarity on the island of Lesvos. Both organizations are committed to refugees and have been project partners of EKHN since 2015.
Tailor’s workshop, training academy and the rooms of the social counseling are located in the middle of Thessaloniki in the former Jewish quarter. NAOMI began under the leadership of retired Pastor Dorothee Vakalis in 2015 with a kitchen in the then refugee camp Idomeni. At its peak, 4,000 hot meals were distributed there daily to refugees through the COLORS open kitchen project. Today NAOMI runs a tailoring and textile workshop, offers humanitarian aid and social counseling for refugees. Refugees with work permits are employed in the tailoring workshop, and the social counseling service repeatedly succeeds in placing refugees in other jobs. Over the years, NAOMI has developed its own fashion label. Special emphasis is placed on sustainable and certified organic products. The latest line are products made from old tire tubes.
On the Website NAOMI writes (https://naomi.gr):
„The holistic Academy Program alongside training on sewing skills provides career counseling, Greek language, soft skills, and environmental awareness and empowers so the attendants to participate in social and economic life. Women and single mothers, the most unprotected, are particularly considered. Professionals get trained and prepared for a new labor market boosting the Greek textile industry, in need of skilled workers. Non-professionals learn to be able to work for their own needs and in the best case generate an income by sewing for others. The Textile Academy, part of the NAOMI Ecumenical Workshop for Refugees, is closely connected with its Emergency Aid and the NAOMI Textile Production with refugee employees.“
NAOMI is supported by a large team of highly committed volunteers around Dorothee Vakalis and several full-time employees who ensure professionalism in management and consulting. Among the volunteers are employees from the textile and fashion industry, financial experts and doctors. The team is very well connected with many other refugee organizations in and around Thessaloniki and internationally and is in contact with refugees who are now working and living in different European countries.
NAOMI is driven by a vision:
„We Naomi associates want to contribute to peace among people. Refugees should be welcomed as human beings. We want to meet them at eye level and talk to women and men as well as children, exchange stories and spread our hopes. No human being should remain in a foreign land without provision and livelihood; no human being should remain without friends. We take note of the plight of others and stand by them so that they can master their lives and look to the future with confidence. Women are to be promoted and safe spaces are to be provided for them. Children are to be protected and encouraged; we want to develop their talents and give them room to develop. Our cultural differences are a richness and different religious imprints are an extension of our own world. We condemn wars as causes of flight and hunger.“ (https://naomi.gr)