The Irida Protection Project

"This is really a proud moment for myself and the entire team. We are incredibly grateful to have been selected as one of four of the Ockenden 2022 prize winners through which we gain inspiration and support in order to continue and improve our work."
Chloe E. Kousoula
CEO & Founder
What the judges said

The Irida Protection Project hit all the right Prize buttons: “It is a comprehensive project staffed and run by women who had been or were refugees themselves”.

The project in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, provides basic protection and legal aid for displaced women from 35 countries “driven by the needs of the women themselves.” The judges noted the project’s flexible, adaptive and egalitarian administration, its organic development in a challenging environment “and successful outcomes that demonstrate how the lived experience can debunk myths about helpless women.”

What the beneficiaries think . . .

“Irida Center makes me feel like I’m not alone and forgotten. I feel like I have been forgotten as a woman with sadness inside me. And there is Irida, so there is hope. There is humanity. There is love. Thanks, Irida Center.” – Shahrbanoo R.

“The truth is that Irida means everything to me. Do you know why? Because when I came to Greece, the world became black in front of me. I found myself alone. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have anyone here apart from my husband. I spent the whole first week crying, I was crying every day. I was depressed. And then I found Irida! I registered for all the activities, I didn’t miss even one, because of how much I was defeated… English, Greek, cooking, drawing, handcrafts, yoga, everything everything. From that day, I started going every day, and thanks to God that from then my mental state changed 100%. I met a lot of people who are really nice, from Syria, Iraq, and Kuwait. I started laughing again. I returned to my old self, active, getting up in the morning. I started getting ready to go to school happy in the morning. When my family calls me they always find me at school, or I am going to or coming back from school. I benefited a lot from the cooking class, and the drawing class and English helped me a lot. The truth is that the whole team is so nice.” –  Khadija A.

“I came to Irida when I was in a difficult time in my life. Once you enter Irida, you feel hope and support!” – Blerina T.

Ockenden International’s four cash prizes recognise and reward innovative projects that deliver evidential self-reliance to refugees and/or displaced people, the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951. The four annual prizes are open to projects or programmes focused on Internally Displaced People (IDP)/refugee self-reliance anywhere in the world. The other nine 2022 finalists (with the other three winners italicised) are: