This week, thanks to our cooperation with IOM and the Reception & Identification Service (RIS), we were able to open our free shop, The OA Distribution Warehouse, for all of the unaccompanied minors (UAMs) residing in Vial camp.

We gave tickets to the managers of both IOM and RIS who alloted times and days for the UAMs under their respective protection to come to The OA to shop.

Following COVID-19 restrictions outlined by the Greek authorities, as the minors entered our space, we checked their temperature and provided them with antibacterial gel, gloves and a face mask.  Within our shop space, given the size of the space, we are restricted to having a maximum of 10 people at any one time inside.

Everyone can choose either 5, 6 or 8 ‘big’ pieces of clothing (i.e. T-shirts, dresses, jeans, shorts, long sleeve tops, abayas and hijabs) depending on age and gender.  In addition to this, everyone got 4 pieces of underwear, a towel, a pair of socks, a pair of sunglasses, a summer hat, a hygiene pack, 2 bin bags and a pair of brand new footwear.

We are able to have a wide selection of clothes in many different sizes, nicely spaced out so shoppers had the space, as well as time, to choose what they wanted.

The atmosphere was really calm and good-hearted, with people sitting outside on chairs, chatting and joking amongst themselves as they waited for their turn to shop.

Inside the shop there were so many sweet and very warm interactions, as people looked through what they might like to take, asking the opinions of our volunteers if this shirt goes with these shorts, or helping their friends choose the ‘coolest’ hat and sunglasses combination.

Comments from our OA volunteers :

Toula: ”I saw faces happy 😃 waiting to enter and others that were so excited going out after their free shopping! But what mostly touched my heart when I saw a girl that was wearing a winter abayas and she was so happy that she had the chance finally to find summer beautiful abayas inside our place and with her friend were so excited ❤️!! Both her and her girl friend were surprised by the quality and the beautiful designs❤️.”

Nele: ”I saw many happy faces. What I enjoyed most was seeing our customers joking about, picking out clothes for themselves and their friends and critiquing each other’s fashion senses! Having a wide variety of clothes means that customers can find items that they like and that speak to their style. Distributing in this way means greater choice and dignity and makes a big difference.”❤️

Rebeka: ”I was outside the centre while the distribution was ongoing. It was nice to see the excitement once the beneficiaries had received their items, and everyone was in good spirits and patient while waiting to get in and do their shopping.”❤️

Nicole: ”Working on the checkout really exemplified how important this project is with seeing beneficiaries being able to take the basic clothing that they need. Having people chose the clothes they want and like and making this choice for themselves really created a more dignified feeling.

The boys were so excited by the variety in the shop that they put on a small runway show for eacho ther. They were also pleased that they could take clothes for different activities such as swimming and sleeping. A lot of the children have grown since buying or receiving their last pair of shoes it was really nice to see them in flip flops that fit them correctly.”❤️

Ben: ”The atmosphere outside in our waiting area was really nice, as the people sitting around on chairs at the tables, were chatting and joking around. As their friends would come out from the shop, they would be showing off their new things, particularly the sunglasses and the summer hats, to their friends who were waiting.  It is nice to be able to distribute like this, it feels more natural, being able to have such a choice to take what you really want / need. It makes such a difference. It is something we Europeans often take for granted.”❤️

Kirsty: “At registration and check-in, the process went really smoothly. Just like any community, there are all kinds of interactions and responses but it all felt very positive. Every person who walked through the door was desperate to get inside and excited to see the supplies. Sometimes I had to work hard just to get them to wait at the check in desk as I registered them!! At check-out, people were delighted by the quality and selection of the clothes, shoes and accessories that we had – most were surprised that they could take so much. After our first 3 days, I feel we have made the right project decision that will get supplies to people in a dignified way !”

Also The feedback from the shoppers was really positive, with so many delighted faces looking at and comparing their haul with their friends outside, taking photos together and trying on each other’s hats!

We would like to say a huge thank you to the team for putting in such a great effort, to get The OA up and running so smoothly! ❤️

None of this would be possible without all of our donors and supporters. On behalf of Offene Arme e.V. we wish to thank everyone associated with us.

We will, as ever, continue support asylum seekers in Chios in whatever capacity we can, whilst strictly adhering to the government’s COVID-19 regulations.

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