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Cooked meal for hungry children and pensioners

31 December 2012 / 19:12:40  GRReporter
2833 reads

Victoria Mindova 

On the last day of 2012, volunteers from the "Solidarity" club in the metropolitan district of Neos Kosmos gave the needy in the area the last cooked meals for the year. GRReporter was there to meet the people who initiated the club about a year ago without the help of governmental or non-governmental organisations.

"At first, we contacted the educational institutions in the neighbourhood. The idea was born after we knew that there were several cases of children fainting in the classroom because they lacked nutritious food. Then, a few friends decided to create a small soup kitchen with joint efforts," said Christos Prodezis, who is an engineer by profession and a resident of the Neos Kosmos neighbourhood. A small building near the underground station in the neighbourhood houses the club. Initially, the portions were just 20 and were given mainly to children of single mothers who were unemployed during the past year and for whom the social assistance was not enough to cover even the basic needs of their households.

The response of the community in the neighbourhood was great from the very beginning. "We told some friends what we were going to do and they told their friends," says Christos. When shopping in the supermarket for their families, each of them spends a euro or two for a package of macaroni, rice or meat to support the initiative. Mr. Tassos, as they call him in the club, is a retired professional chef who takes care of the menu of the "Solidarity" club. "We do what we can. I am glad that I can help and that I am useful at my age," says Mr. Tassos with a bewildered smile, without specifying how old he is.

Subsequently, the owners of the neighbourhood grocery embraced the idea and started putting aside goods for the soup kitchen. Christos Prodezis says that the cooked meal programme of the church was terminated last August and then, the role of the citizen initiative started growing. Volunteers began handing out leaflets to citizens in front of supermarkets in order to activate a stronger aid campaign. Old people without families, foreigners living in poverty and homeless people resort to their services as well.

"We want to do more, but we do not have enough power at present. The problem of the homeless is not to find a cooked meal but to find a shelter when it is raining outside," he explains. So far, a shelter for two homeless people has been found in the lodgings of some of the participants in the club, but there is not yet a permanent shelter for these people within the social initiative. At present, the portions are between 40 and 50 a day and the aim is to increase them. "Not a day goes by without finding in front of the club bags of purchases from the people in the area."

In addition to cooked meals, volunteers give private lessons to children who cannot afford paid extracurricular training or private lessons. There are volunteer theatre groups for interested children at the two regional secondary schools, in which professional actors help the children conduct theatre performances after the school classes. "There are several theatres in Neos Kosmos and they have also supported us. They give free tickets to the people who use our services."

"Our goal is to strengthen the sense of solidarity and mutual aid without hurting the dignity of the people in need. In the times in which we live, each of us can get into trouble. It is important to rely on the humanity and culture we have in order to be able to overcome the difficulties," says Christos in conclusion.

On New Year’s Eve, some of the children in the neighbourhood sang for the volunteers from the "Solidarity" club the traditional songs for health called Kalanda and all wished for a better new year 2013. The statistics show that 23% of children in Greece live in families with incomes close to the poverty line. Over 50% of young people under the age of 25 years are unemployed and the people aged over 45 years, who have lost their jobs and have debts to banks, are the most seriously threatened by extreme poverty. The message of the volunteers from Neos Kosmos is that when the central government is unable to take care of the people in need, then civil society must take the matters into its own hands.

 

Tags: SocietySocial aidSolidarityNeos KosmosGreeceCrisis
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