ROLE: founder of school & Cinema

City Plaza Refugee Accomodation – Athens


Ellen Downes founded the City Plaza School for children in an accommodation space for refugees for over 400 students in Athens, Greece.


Ellen also set up a community cinema for refugees across Athens to provide a safe space for children and adults to come together and enjoy cinema.


In December 2016 she created the Keep City Plaza Movement and crowd funding campaign through Go Fund Me. Ellen produced a short film which was directed by film maker Matthew Cassel and raised over £21,000 for to keep the project alive.

School founder Ellen Downes with Iya, age 9, Syria, student and resident at City Plaza

Ellen teaching an English class at City Plaza School for refugee children in Athens


City Plaza – Athens?

When the EU closed the borders from Greece, over 65,000 refugees were trapped in the country. The Greek government created more than 49 detention centres and camps. City Plaza was started to offer refugees a safe, clean and dignified alternative to these places.


City Plaza is supported exclusively through political solidarity and individual donations. 400 people live together at City Plaza in 126 rooms on 7 floors. There are over 100 families and almost 200 children. Refugees at City Plaza have fled Syria, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan and Gambia.


“Ellen was a singular presence in the joyous, chaotic, sensitive, and complicated world that was City Plaza. From helping with access, to organizing interviews and scheduling – just about everything I needed went through her. Suffice to say, my reporting wouldn’t have been possible without Ellen’s help. It seems to me that, especially considering the women’s group and education programs she organised, many of City Plaza’s best successes relied on Ellen’s experience, dedication and heart.”

Greg Donahue, Journalist and author of Hotel of Hope article in Marie Claire Australia, June 2017


“Ellen with her perfect engagment in what she does and her kindness makes her one of few people who can’t be easily forgotten.” 

Mohammed Tamim, Student and Syrian Refugee who lived at City Plaza and worked with Ellen to translate between English and Arabic. Mohammed now lives with his family in Stuttgart, Germany.


I look forward to hearing from you.


I look forward to hearing from you.