Who is working with us?
Our local mindset also translates into the workplace as we hire local Samians to work in the team. Not only is it important for providing income to the local populations, this also brings many advantages of Greek language, strong pre-existing relationships with suppliers and a deep understanding of local networks. The integration of locals into the nonprofit sector also allows us to reduce tensions between all communities. By also working with locals beyond the shop, they’ll develop an understanding as to what we do, see who their items are helping and hopefully help to bridge divides. We must not forget that before the international community arrived in Samos, a huge level of care and assistance was given to people of the refugee community, yet many felt sidelined and unheard, causing tension and cracks to occur between the local and international community. We aim to provide them with the space to be involved again.
We also hire people from the refugee community to work in the Free Shop and have a team of volunteers to run the waste management initiative around the camp. Not only do the refugee community bring a sound understanding of the needs, they also bring vital translation skills and provide cultural knowledge, essential for decisions regarding food preferences, distribution logistics and day-to-day operations. Their input and voice within decision making processes is invaluable, we try our best to co-develop the organisation with the refugee community.
Our stance on having international volunteers in the team is built upon whether or not they can provide a skill that is not already available on the island and a long-term time commitment. We also consider if someone has already been on the island for a long time, has a good understanding of the situation and can fit in with the existing team well. International volunteers are important to act as faces of solidarity from all over Europe, and provide resources or skills that Samos may be lacking, but we must avoid reinforcing the notion that the international community is superior by focussing on the skillset that already exists here. We are consciously trying to focus on ‘contextual expertise’ (local/refugee) rather than ‘technical expertise’ (international).