Irida is a nonprofit organization that empowers economically and socially vulnerable women to become active members of society and fulfill their goals and aspirations. In women-led community center, women can find the support they need to address challenges, find solutions and achieve positive change.
Through casework, protection, legal, psychosocial support and employability services, women find a space to share and learn. To make responsible decisions for their lives and pursue opportunities for personal and professional development.
I went to Irida for a week, and I’ve been shocked by the harmony of this place, so I decided to interview the shelter’s manager.
When was Irida established? What’s the story behind?
“We started as a group of volunteers in 2016, when thousands of people found themselves trapped in a small village in North Macedonia due to the closure of the borders in 2015. In fact, these people who were trying to cross the borders were trapped there.”
“In 2017 we started to explore the idea of a house, that could give a better support as refuge to Greek women, who were about to be transferred to the urban area of Thessaloniki.”
“We are open since 2018 and since then, we’re the only safe community centre for women in Northern Greece. We’re also open to Greek women that reside in the area of Thessaloniki.”
What’s the purpose of Irida?
“Our mission is to ensure every woman regardless their background. We want to help them become confident and empowered, to pursue their personal and professional growth. To be able to help determine the course of their own life.”
“We work with women above 18 years old, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality and background, also with individuals to help them find themselves as women.”
“Mostly, we help women who do not have a good general lifestyle background. They face many challenges, but also with people who face social and economic issues, live in poverty, social exclusion, are single mothers, are long term unemployed adults, adults who have lower qualifications…etc.”
What kind of help do you give to these women?
“Irida has two major programs: the protection program, through which we provide casework, legal assistance, protection, psychological and psychosocial support and livelihood program, that provide language courses, skill build activities, vocational training and employing ability services.”
“Provided is as well a child’s place, for children from 1 to 6 years old, to give mothers the time to focus on their healing and growth and to gain skills for their future lives.”
“We also offer a psychological help with psychologist. She does 1 to 1 sitting with the women, and also facilitate psychosocial support groups through which she aims to tackle indirectly some challenging topics but also empower women to overcome specific situation.”
Why is this organisation named “Irida”?
“Irida” is a Greek word meaning the coloured part of the eyeball but “irida” is also the palette of colours created by the reflection of the light. We chose this name because it represents the various different women that we work with.”
How has Irida changed women’s life?
“We provide to women with critical situations in order to ensure them a decent life, while they are here in Thessaloniki. We give them the access to their basic social rights, and support these women in order to make them feel empowered.”
Is it difficult for women to realize that they need this kind of support?
“Generally, women come to us. They are able to recognize that they need this kind of support by themselves. It can be support with the social work, support with the law…etc.
Presented are different options to women about what we can do to help them. Our attitude focuses on being available when they decide what kind of support they need. It’s up to them to decide how and when they will say “stop” to their difficult situations.
We’re here to help them start this awareness process, to realize that they are involved in these difficult situations.”
Read about personal experience from a volunteer point of view.