‘Powerful’ fact-finding mission meets inspirational refugee women


ORT leaders have seen first-hand the impact of our global aid work during a visit to a refugee center in Greece.

The project is part of a World ORT program which supports women from Syria, Afghanistan and other countries affected by violence and conflict.

The fact-finding mission was run by our International Co-operation (IC) department, which responds to global needs and challenges with a range of development programs, community training initiatives and humanitarian aid missions.

At the Irida Center in Thessaloniki the ORT group saw – on International Women’s Day – how female refugees are taking part in group activities including cooking, sewing and psycho-social support to provide them with new skills and counselling as they rebuild their lives.

Susan Goldman, a member of ORT America’s Board of Directors and IC committee member, said: “This was a remarkable and powerful experience. Nearly 500 women are members of the center – all are refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cameroon and other locations. These women are highly traumatized, both by their past and their persisting limbo in the local refugee camp. Life is unsafe in this environment and the women, and their children, are vulnerable to assault.

“It was an honor and great privilege to be in the company of all these courageous women. Their optimism and resilience are impressive. The Irida Center staff and programs help give them skills to feel safe and empowered.”

Beneficiaries of the Irida women’s center

One woman told the visitors that when she is at the support group she is able to let go of her fear and anxiety and to be in a moment of complete security and safety.

The trip also included time in the Greek capital of Athens visiting the country’s Holocaust memorial and museum, as well as a tour with Greece’s Chief Rabbi, Gabriel Negrin.

The IC team then moved to Sofia in Bulgaria and attended the Ceremony of the Anniversary of the Salvation of Bulgarian Jews. Yoram Elron, Israel’s Ambassador to Bulgaria, met the delegates and described his support for Sofia’s ORT No. 134 “Dimcho Debelianov” Jewish School.

A tour of the school followed, with delegates meeting students and teachers and observing STEM, Hebrew and English classes. School staff and teachers also took part in a Shabbat dinner with the group.

A week-long Symposium trip to the same centers and projects is planned for October 19-26, 2022. Contact World ORT for more details or to register.