Situated above the massive Moria refugee camp on the eastern Greek isle, volunteers have turned an old oil mill into an impromptu community kitchen and are helping to provide 1,000 meals each day.
Overlooking the sea from the Greek island of Lesbos, an ancient olive mill hosted a communal kitchen for refugees during August.
The ‘solidarity kitchen’ was set up by Sant’Egidio, a Catholic social service association, to offer food and relief to the population living in the Moria refugee camp, the biggest in Europe.See Also: Cooperative in Calabria Offers Much More Than Good Olive Oil
“It is the second year that we organize the ‘solidarity holidays’ in Lesbos,” Simona Lanzellotto, a volunteer at Sant’Egidio and a human rights lawyer, told Olive Oil Times. “The schedule usually includes a series of activities with the people who stay in the camp.”
The Moria reception center was built to host 3,100 people, but currently houses more than 15,000 migrants and asylum seekers – more than 20,000 were housed in the camp last winter – mostly from Afghanistan, but also from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Burkina Faso and other sub-Saharan African countries.
“We went to bring food, but also friendship and solidarity,” Lanzellotto said. “However, this time was very particular, due to the Covid-19 safety restrictions.”
The refugees continue to be under lockdown and, while previously they were allowed to leave the camp to find food, they are now restricted to its confines.
“Arriving on the island, we discovered this structure, which is very fascinating with the ancient millstones and wide spaces in front of the sea,” Lanzellotto said. “It was the ideal place to arrange the meals while respecting social distancing and all the other safety measures.”
The owner rented the mill to the volunteers for a small fee and the volunteers sanitized and reorganized the space.
One of the rooms of the building has been transformed into a pantry, while the old storeroom was converted to a classroom for English lessons for both children, who usually cannot go to school in the camp, and adults.
“The meals were prepared in the laboratory of another association operating in the camp, the Hope Project,” Lanzellotto said. “Then, the food was delivered to the mill and served in the main room, where in the past the olives were pressed and that today has become a place of solidarity.”
The Sant’Egidio volunteers serve up to 1,000 meals a day in the mill and in the rest of the camp.