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A cup of coffee with friends is waiting for you

31 October 2013 / 21:10:17  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

In times of severe economic crisis, even the smallest act of attention and support can change one’s day and mood. Something that is small and simple like a cup of coffee.

For several months many cafés in the centre of Athens have had on their facades the logo of the programme "A cup of coffee is waiting for you", organized by street paper "Shedia" ("raft" – author’s note), which is sold by the homeless and the money from the sales goes for their support.

"A cup of coffee is waiting for you" is suspended coffee, which is associated with the contact between people. As far as we know, the initiative began about a century ago in workers' cafés in Southern Italy and in particular, in Naples.

The procedure is very simple. Each customer of the cafés involved in the network may prepay a cup of coffee for a fellow citizen who cannot afford it. This is just an act of love and solidarity from a stranger to another unknown friend," Christos Alefantis, chief editor of the paper, told GRReporter.

He pointed out that the main objective of the programme is to attract the residents of the neighbourhoods to the initiative. "Throughout Greece there are flats that seem uninhabited. However, people without a job and on the brink of depression are living in them. Our goal is to get them out of their houses and to drive them to go to the neighbourhood café to have a cup of suspended coffee, to greet the other customers and chat with them; in short, to feel better."
Some neighbourhoods have already achieved this. "We have cases of women from the neighbourhood who make sweets and cakes and bring them to the cafés to offer them to the people who are having a cup of suspended coffee."

The paper had learnt from the international network of street papers at the beginning of the year how the network operates. For several months, it sought information from countries such as Australia and the UK where the initiative has already been applied. "We have found out that it works and the initiative "A cup of coffee is waiting for you" has started working in Athens at the beginning of July."

Four cafés in the centre of Athens laid the foundations and four months later, the number of cafés, which are scattered throughout the country, is ten times higher.

Following the initiative related to the suspended coffee "Shedia" is working on the creation of such a network for free lunches in restaurants for people who cannot afford it. "The principle will be the same. The customers of a restaurant can leave in a money box an amount they want, thus paying for the lunch of a fellow-citizen who has no money for food."

The driving idea of the people from the paper is for those people who are experiencing financial difficulties, have no job, money and home, to regain their dignity. "We are trying to support them and to make them look and try to solve their problems in a positive way. We do not want campaigns with a temporary effect."
According to Christos, the programme also supports small cafés located in poorer neighbourhoods. "A café which sells an extra 30-50 cups of coffee per month can be saved from bankruptcy; it can give work to other people. That is why we are focused more on areas where the situation is harder. And the fact is that, just because they are more familiar with the problem, the people in these areas are much more willing to respond in comparison with those living in other regions," he stressed.
"Vrisaki" is one of the places that offers suspended coffee. The café at the centre for culture and art has been involved in the network since September and has so far served about 100 cups of suspended coffee.

"Our customers pay 30% less for a cup of suspended coffee. We put the receipt in a glass container on the bar and the people who come to have a cup of suspended coffee order it and drink it," said Christina Zafirouli, who is in charge of public relations in "Vrisaki".

According to the organizers and participants in the network, it is developing very dynamically and the interest of people who want to give even this little joy to those in need of support is great.

Tags: SocietySuspended coffeeSupportHomelessShedia
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