An NGO in Chios with a Free Shop that provides Non-Food Items to refugees.

The Forgotten Refugee Crisis

Just 6 km from Turkey’s coast, Chios, Greece’s 5th largest island, is a favoured crossing point for smugglers ferrying refugees from war and drought-stricken countries to the EU. Boat Landings are no longer in the news, but they continue to occur regularly. And the people land on Chios cold and wet, with just what they’ve carried with them. The government maintains the Vial Refugee camp and provides for basic needs. Any other needs are met by NGOs, several of which closed during Covid. There is an ongoing need for support of the hundreds of refugees in Vial camp on Chios, those that live locally, and the increasing number of unaccompanied minors.

Offene Arme (Formerly CESRT)

Offene Arme is the only remaining NGO on Chios with a Free Shop that provides Non-Food Items to refugees and asylum seekers. NFI items include essentials like diapers, blankets, clothes, shower gel, shoes, razors, toothpaste. We distribute these through:

  • Landing Packs of essentials that can be distributed to the refugees when they first arrive;
  • A Free Shop where refugees can choose their own clothes and hygiene items, returning a small sense of normality;
  • A Pop-up Shop that is set up just outside the refugee camp for Unaccompanied Minors (UAMs) and those that can’t walk to the Free Shop;
  • A Hospital Project that transfers people from Vial Camp to any healthcare service they might need, therefore saving lives;
  • And many, many other projects and activities – like transporting people from the camp to medical appointments, supplying skin infection packs to those afflicted with scabies, creating baby packs for babies born in the camp, etc.

You can read more about our projects in the tab “What we do”.

A Constantly Changing Environment

The work involved is complex and ever-changing. “It Takes a Village” is a basic tenet, as diverse groups are brought together in a constantly changing environment, but with a single goal of meeting the basic needs of refugees.

  • Suppliers. Generous suppliers send donated used and new items, and new suppliers are approached with requests. Missing items must be sourced and purchased.
  • Warehouse. The items arrive in the warehouse and need to be assessed, sometimes cleaned, sorted and stored. Seasonal goods need to be replaced as the seasons changed. Missing items assessed, sourced and purchased.
  • Stocking and Distribution. Items are picked from the warehouse to create landing packs, skin infection packs, baby packs, and to restock the Free Store.
  • Alliances and Communication. We have strong cooperations with the Organisations in the field such as Praxis, Metadrasis, SMH, among others and we can reach everyone that is coming in Chios through the Organisations.
  • Volunteers. People of all ages and nationalities come to Chios to help. Over 2000 short-term volunteers have donated their time. Their work is essential to our success.

How you Can Help

While the number of refugees is increasing, Brexit and Russia’s invasion on Ukraine have strained resources. Monthly donations have decreased. We lost half of our suppliers due to increased custom tariffs after Brexit. As a result, we’ve decreased the number of items each refugee is allotted, whilst purchasing missing items, further impacting our finances. The number of volunteers has decreased. We need your help.

  • Volunteer. Please consider coming to Chios and spending some time volunteering with us.
  • Funds. Please consider a financial donation and know that your donation will have a direct impact on the refugees. For example, we recently purchased socks and winter coats when our supplies were low.
  • Supplies. If you are in the position to supply cases or pallets of used or new goods, please reach out to see our current needs.