Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

Dealing with uncertainty: the story of a young refugee in Greece

Bouba basketball

Bouba (name withheld for protection reasons) was alone since he was ten years old and he faced tremendous dangers in his home country. So he fled Cameroon and tried to make it to Paris, where his only support network was.

After several dangerous months, Bouba made it as far as Greece, where he became a resident of The HOME Project. Even in the caring environment of The HOME Project, it has not always been easy for the now 16-year-old. Bouba has had to process the traumas he has experienced and acclimate to a new life. However, he performed so well in an education and social-inclusion programme at his high school that he was offered a full scholarship for the 2019-2020 academic year.

These days, when not busy with schoolwork or learning Greek, Bouba loves to play basketball. He became a permanent member of a top basketball club team and dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.

“Sports are essential to Bouba since they empower him both physically and psychologically through good sportsmanship, the support of the academy and the surrounding of his fellow team,” says Vassilis Michailidis, The HOME Project’s Chief of Staff.

The trauma of uncertainty

But just when Bouba’s years of uncertainty seemed to be behind him and he had visions of a hopeful future, he faces more major uncertainty. He does not know if he can remain in Greece, let alone pursue professional athletics.

“The decision of the asylum service to turn down his application and not grant him with a state of international protection revives the feeling of insecurity and toughens the effort he has been making until today,” says Maria Kaldani, The HOME Project’s Head of Human Development in the Child Protection Unit.

“Bouba’s performance in academic and athletic activities is enormously affected by his legal status, exposing him constantly to the risk of developing further this feeling of insecurity and putting in jeopardy his psychological state.”

The HOME Project’s legal department has applied for an appeal. If his application is rejected, Bouba faces the danger of being arrested, detained and ultimately deported. Bouba and The HOME Project are still waiting for the decision.

A safe place to call home

The IKEA Foundation is the main funder of The HOME Project, which was established in December 2016 to help the many children who have been forced to flee their home countries and have ended up in Greece without adults to look after their safety.

Nearly 30,000 unaccompanied refugee children arrived in Greece between January 2016 and December 2019. Spread all over the country, more than 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children live on the streets, in detention centres and in camps. They lack access to basic care, services and information about their rights. The HOME Project moves these children into the safety of its HOMES, where they receive holistic child-protection services with the ultimate aim of social inclusion.

In its three years of operation, The HOME Project has been able to steadily accommodate 220 children. So far, over 520 children have received care within its holistic network of child-protection services, including mental health, educational, social, pedagogical and legal support. Over 140 jobs have been created for the Greek and the refugee communities.

The word “home” refers to a place to live in but also stands for “help, overcome, motivate, empower,” says Sofia Kouvelaki, The HOME Project’s CEO, “which is what we want to do with everyone we work with.”

Find out more about The HOME Project.