Maria, an innovator who delivers dignity, one cup of tea at a time

At Ellinikon International Airport, there are no outbound or inbound flights. The abandoned airport near Athens, Greece has become a makeshift shelter for thousands of refugees from war zones in the Middle East.

Volunteers from the nonprofit Emfasis Foundation go from tent to tent at the airport.

“What would make the difference for you today?” they ask refugees. “What would make you feel like a normal human?”

“We are there to devise solutions that derive out of their needs and priorities and to totally forget what we have in mind. Ultimately, depending on the time and circumstance, they may need something totally different than we expected: human contact, the feeling that they are not alone, a simple conversation,” said Maria, an Emfasis co-founder and native of Greece.

Maria and her foundation are now determined to deliver more culturally-appropriate services to refugees, and they need help as Greece plunges into winter. At overcrowded refugee camps, Maria’s nonprofit has already distributed tea during Ramadan, secured a bathroom for women only, and set up a playroom for children. Learn more about her latest project here.

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