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Forge for Humanity

$515 of $5,000 goal

Raised by 8 people in 3 months
As some of you may know, I've been working on a documentary about the refugee crisis in Greece with an organization called Forge for Humanity.

Some Background:
After the EU/Turkey deal in March of 2016, the EU borders were closed off to refugees.  Any remaining refugees in Greece were to be processed, and, if deemed safe to do so, would be sent back to Turkey. In return for preventing any more asylum seekers from crossing EU land or sea borders, Turkey was given 3 billion euro and "safe third party" status as to avoid any refoulment by the EU with another 3 billion to come later. Essentially, the deal was a way of shoving the remaining refugees out of the EU and locking them out. However, in the process, 50-65 thousand asylum seekers have confined within Greek borders almost entirely neglected by the aslym system with more coming in every day. 

Waiting times for asylum interviews in Greece range from 6 months to 2 years. Some have shown up to interviews to be told that their caseworkers aren't in that day and have had their interviews postponed another year. Many are bound to un-winterized camps or live on the streets. Greece's unemployment rate is around 20%, so for those asylum seekers looking for independence, finding work is scarce, desperately so, no matter their skill set or how many languages they speak.  Refugees in Greece are being held in what is effectively a national detainment centre without information, resources, support, or, for many, what feels like a future. They are without agency or opportunity, and they weather it in the hopes that one day their wait might lead to a better life. 

Being "safe" is not enough. Many humanitarian organizations are calling what is happening in Greece a mental health emergency. These people are trapped. Stuck between violence or persecution and a never-ending wall of mismanaged bureaucracy. Their choices are to continue to endure a horrific quality of life or go back and face persecution, forced military or militia service or death based on sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliation. In the meantime, they live in fear in Greece, a quiet fear borne out of a period of inhumane waiting and a condition of living that is unacceptable to any person. These teachers, students, photographers, developers, engineers, cooks, carpenters, plasterers are living in squalor. Told they're just a number. Not a human being. 

As you can tell, I feel quite passionately about this, which is why I'm asking for your help. FORGE for Humanity provides occupational and psychosocial support (and really, so much more) to single male refugees, a forgotten demographic within the already struggling asylum system in Greece. A study by the International Rescue Committee at the height of the refugee crisis in 2016 in Lebanon, for example, found that 9 out of 10 single male refugees had not received aid in the last 30 days, nearly a third believed they were ineligible to register with UN because they were not married or with children. Even Justin Trudeau's refugee policies exclude single men from applying for asylum in Canada. There are many assumptions about why single men are more resilient and thus less deserving, and while many may be justifiable, if you imagine your brother, your father, or your son ever being in this situation, it becomes harder expect their resilience simply based on their gender.  This is where Forge steps in. Many major charities and the asylum system as a whole do not prioritize single men, but these men are still in need of help. They are in need of legal guidance. They are in need of emotional and occupational support. They are in need of sleeping bags and new shoes. They are in need. 

In support of and repayment for the kindness, generosity, and openness the people at Forge and the men they work with have shown me, I would like to ask you to donate to their work. Forge is run by two incredible young women, and, to be honest with you, I don't know how they breathe, eat, sleep - They don't stop. They're the ability to find joy, their compassion, and determination to support these young men is endless and inspiring. They are bright lights in a pretty dark situation. They started this charity after working at another camp in Greece in 2016 where they recognized the under-served needs of men within asylum services, and since then, Forge is all they have done - 10 hour days, 6 day weeks, and those are just their office hours.  On personal hours they can be found taking beneficiaries to hospitals, house viewings, job interviews, legal appointments. These girls are committed to seeing this crisis through and helping these men and the refugee community, at large, achieve a better quality of life. They are a community centre. They are a guidance centre. They are a place to forget or alleviate troubles. The charity strictly runs off donations - the office, internet, supplies. These girls are the service, and they're not even paying themselves. 

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting information and stories about the organization and some of the men they're working with. I would ask you to donate to help support their work, support these men or to research and find a charity in Greece that speaks to you.

The crisis isn't over; It's just changed. There's still so much more we can and should do.


http://www.forgeforhumanity.org/
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This is Ale and Jess. They founded Forge in February of this year, and in six short months, they have become the first point of contact for single male asylum seekers in Athens, as well as families and even unaccompanied minors. In the week that I was there, there wasn't a single individual I spoke to - in the parks, in the squats or camps - who didn't know Ale and Jess and didn't have some sort of personal story about how the girls had helped them directly.

Ale and Jess arrived in Greece in 2016, at the height of the refugee crisis, volunteering as coordinators in the camps. When the Greek government shut down these NGO's and put the camps under state control, Ale and Jess moved to Athens to open Forge. Every morning they arrive at 8 AM to set up the computers for asylum registration via Skype. They help these guys with their CV's, connect them with housing and medical services, help navigate cash card registration, tax number registration, UNHCR applications and more. When they finish around 6 PM they'll make hospital visits, go to house viewings or job interviews with these guys.

In August, these two 28-year-old girls saw 650 people.

They make sure that everyone is being directly connected with the right information and has access to the services and support they need while they wait an agonizingly long period to be processed.

But Ale and Jess are running out of funds. When Forge opened in February they were given a lump sum donation that would keep them open six months... July has come on gone; They're on their last legs. Please help me let the girls focus on the work by donating $20 and keep the office open one more day. The refugee community in Athens cannot lose the compassion, dedication, and humour these girls give. I can not explain to you how devastating it would be if this charity closed. Help me keep it alive.
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The Thanksgiving long weekend upon us, and I, personally, am preparing for a lot of drinks, dinners and catch ups. It's inevitable - money will be spent.

Before I left Greece I had a little chat with Ale, one of the founders of Forge, about the charity's costs and spending, and should you decide to abstain from the extra bottle of wine, here's where a donation would go if you were able to send your pre-thanksgiving take-out dinner funds this way.

Rent: $450/month $15/day (Bottle of wine)
Bills: $150/month $5/day (Latte)
(Internet, heat, electricity, phones)
Food: $150/month $5/day (less than round-trip TTC)
(Tea, bottled water, fresh fruit, and snacks are served up every morning for the guys who trek in from the beaches and ports and, generally, for anyone who stops in)
2 Coordinators: $520/month $17/day (Take-out Dinner)
(Coordinators ARE Forge. Absolutely no service could be provided without them.)
Translators: $700/month $23/day (Movie Theatre Tickets)
(Pass on your stories and let these guys tell theirs. Translators are crucial to the running of Forge. Many asylum seekers speak more languages than you and I ever will, but not always English or Greek. Translators are the bridge for Jess and Ale to understand and meet the needs of the individuals who walk through their doors.)

I've seen how these donations are put into action, the change they effect, the lives they change. While I work to put together the footage, stills and stories that will show you, as well, I ask that you donate to help these guys get through another month. Pass a slice of that festive spirit. Say thanks with a donation, and this year I'll be thankful for you :D (Aww!) Don't act like that didn't make you smile... or cringe... Thanks, guys.
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