By Molly Welch
Through stories like Atallah’s and Shirin’s, we’ve seen firsthand how critical Wi-Fi can be in refugees’ lives. So much of the work our teams do to bring connectivity to refugees wouldn’t be possible without the support of the local communities in which we work, exemplified by partners like Ilias Papadopoulos and Nikolas Konstantinou.
Ilias has configured networks in camps throughout the region, both individually and, over the past several months, in conjunction with NetHope. In September 2015, a desire to help alleviate the crisis led him to Idomeni on the Macedonian border, where refugees told him they were desperate for Internet and places to charge their phones. An electrical engineer by training, he knew he could help – and over the next few months, he established and maintained the network in the sprawling camp, which at points hosted thousands of refugees.
“I could be in their position,” he said. “We could all be refugees.”
Several months ago, Ilias was introduced to NetHope’s David Tagliani through UNHCR, and he’s been volunteering with us since, helping install networks throughout the region. “Wi-Fi is critical to refugees,” he says. “It was difficult to scale our operations as volunteers, so I’ve been excited to help support NetHope’s work.”
We met Nikolas through Ilias. He supports our teams interchangeably as translator, operations coordinator, relationship manager, and more (and in addition to all of these things, he was formerly a professional football player!). “Being a part of NetHope’s work has made me feel like I’m contributing to creating a solution to the crisis here in Greece,” Nikolas says.
This story is part of an ongoing series commemorating World Refugee Day.