Ancient Olive Mill Transformed Into ‘Solidarity Kitchen’ on Lesbos

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.

Photo courtesy of Sant’Egidio.
Sep. 8, 2020
By Ylenia Granitto
Photo courtesy of Sant’Egidio.

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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.

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