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Our history

Mission & Geschichte

2015

Founder Andreas Müller-Hermann summarizes the genesis of the Meaalofa Foundation 

Mission with Sea Watch

In the summer of 2015, I was sailing with my old but seaworthy sailboat and the Sea-Watch 1 from the NGO Sea-Watch for a search and rescue mission off the Libyan coast. I had heard about the dramatic situation there and then sailed with friends from Greece to Lampedusa and from there on towards Libya. During this mission, two rubber dinghies were found, each with about 120 people. Furthermore, we came across four half-sunken, empty inflatable boats. One does not know exactly, but one suspects what may have happened to the people on these boats.​

This trip is unforgettable and certainly did something to all of us: for me, it triggered a whole cascade of further developments.

After returning from Greece, I had heard that some Sea-Watch activists I had just met had landed on Lesvos to help and resume rescue operations on the water. To meet them again and see if I could help there too, I traveled to the island of Lesvos in November 2015.

First visit to Lesbos

At that time, between 4,000 and 7,000 people arrived there every day. It was unbelievable. Support from official agencies was virtually nowhere to be seen. There was a lack of everything, especially clothing, shoes, blankets and food. Help was provided by NGOs and private individuals from all over the world. It is estimated that about a thousand helpers from about 30 countries were permanently working day and night. Everyone worked very well together, regardless of their origin. The atmosphere was unique: abandoned by all government agencies, civil society showed its real strength. The aid was very efficient: countless containers with relief goods arrived on Lesvos from all over Europe and were distributed professionally. There was a sense of optimism that is difficult to describe and that gave courage. It showed that self-empowerment is possible and that problems can be solved, as long as everyone works together, shows responsibility and leaves petty differences aside.

That made a strong impression on me and has influenced me to this day. It was clear to me that I had to remain active somehow.

2016

Deepened insight

After my return to Munich, I collected urgently needed things for the refugees together with friends. In January 2016, we then drove to Lesvos with a convoy of trucks and sprinters with trailers to deliver everything there. There was a lack of transport capacity on the island. We stayed for a while and distributed the goods on the island with our sprinters. In the process, I got to know many NGOs and gradually understood better how everything was connected.

Since then I have been on the island every year, with the exception of 2020 (due to Covid), and have supported various projects there and also repeatedly collected and sent material for Lesbos from Germany.

2017

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Low-tech with Refugees – 
Maker Space

In 2017, I got in touch with the NGO Low-tech Lab in France, whose goal is to find a technically simple and usable solution for many of today's pressing problems.

Low-tech Lab has been making trips with a floating lab (project "Nomade des Mers") since as early as 2016 and explores low-tech solutions all over the world, tests them, possibly improves them, and then creates documentation that is made available to the "whole" world. I had heard about this, and I was heavily impressed with this approach. So, I wrote to them and told them that an extensive part of the "whole" world was already on site on Lesvos. Why not start a laboratory and training center for low-tech applications here as well?

The Low-tech Lab was interested and sent their employee Marjolaine Bert. We prepared and conducted the first low-tech courses for refugees together. Marjolaine then stayed on the island for almost a year and built up the project "Low-tech with Refugees". This later developed into a French NGO of its own.

In the fall of 2019, the project had 27 volunteers from many different countries, and hundreds of refugees participated in the activities offered each month. For example, they were shown how to repair bicycles, how to work with wood, how pottery functions, how to repair electrical and electronic equipment, stoves were built for the shelters, and sleeping mats were welded together from the waste of the countless life jackets so that people who had to sleep on the floor in emergency shelters could survive the winter.

The website of today's organization:
www.makerspace-lesvos.org

 

A short film from fall 2019 that gives a good idea of what was and is going on there: 

Youtube: Low-Tech with Refugees, a unique maker space in Lesvos, Greece

2019

IDEA

The IDEA – Initiative for Digital Education for All project was launched at the end of 2019. This is about using PCs, laptops and pads to give people access to education.

 

There were and are many refugees living in refugee camps in Greece who often do not have access to schools for years. The idea is to provide computers and pads to children, youth and adults, which they can then use to access education. This can be done through the Internet or through preloaded educational content when the Internet is not available, as is often the case in the camps. We work with many other NGOs and also support them with computers for their own use or for educational purposes.

 

In Germany, the devices are collected, tested and equipped with the appropriate software and then delivered to Greece and meanwhile also to other countries. We work closely with the NGO Labdoo, which provides the content and the installation software.

Learn more about our project IDEA

2020

HoMER

During 2020, the situation in Greece deteriorated drastically for the refugees. Many people came from the camps on the islands to Athens and had to live on the streets without money and without any support. Among them were people we knew well from Lesbos and who had worked in our project "Low-tech with Refugees - Maker Space". Something had to happen! So, in the spring of 2020, the idea was born to directly support refugees in Athens.

 

Together with an energetic Greek friend of many years, this idea was put into practice and the project HoMER - Housing, Mediation and Education for Refugees was launched.

 

Thanks to the good network of this friend in the city, we were able to provide concrete help from the very first moment. Since then, we have been supporting refugees in Athens in various ways: We help with housing, with the enrollment of children in school, mediate medical, psychological and legal care, help with administrative procedures and refer those affected to other NGOs when we ourselves reach our limits.

Learn more about our project HoMER

2021

Foundation of the
Meaalofa Foundation gGmbH

Since the tasks have become more and more extensive in recent years and in order to better coordinate the individual projects and also to be able to accept donations as well as donations in kind on a larger scale, the NGO Meaalofa Foundation gGmbH was founded in Munich in April 2021. Here, all previous activities are now combined under one roof.

We have a small office in Munich and a place where we can store, process and ship computers. In Athens there is also a small warehouse where the pallets are accepted and from where the distribution of the equipment takes place.

2022/23

Further development of the Meaalofa Foundation gGmbH

Since March 2022, the Meaalofa Foundation has been supporting a project in Boitzenburg, Brandenburg/Uckermark. In February of the same year, a terrible war was instigated in Europe, which once again leads to many people having to leave their homes and become refugees. In order to help the refugees here as well, we are supporting a project of long-time friends who are transforming an office building in a short-term action into a place where about 20 people can find a refuge. In June 2022, the first family moved into the building.

The situation in Athens did not improve in 2021, 2022 and 2023 but continued to get worse and worse. We have therefore expanded our capacities and networked with more and more other NGOs. In the meantime, in addition to my friend, two Greek social workers, a part-time teacher who gives children language lessons and helps them with their homework, and a part-time interpreter are working in Athens as well as a part-time worker for the IDEA project.

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