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Charity in times of crisis

06 December 2013 / 19:12:02  GRReporter
2286 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

The contribution of volunteering in modern society is something undeniable but, in times of crisis, it is even more crucial to people's lives. In Greece, where the range of social services rendered by the state decreases every day, the need for help and support from people to people, in many cases, is the only alternative to improve their daily lives.

In the country, there is a large number of voluntary organisations. Some of the most distinguished in recent years were awarded during the celebration of the International Day of Volunteering at the general secretariat for media in Athens.

One of the most important things that everyone should know is how to provide first aid to people who are drowning, fainting or are victims of natural disasters. This is also the aim of the project "Protect Yourself and Others" of the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation, which is training people aged over 18 how to act against, and deal with, the consequences of floods, fires, accidents at sea and how to protect the marine environment. The Foundation's director, Panagiotis Manouris, states that the programme involves over 200 municipalities, the largest number of them being those that suffer the most damage due to bad weather. From its launching in 2001 up to today, the programme has trained 200,000 people who are now registered as volunteers and are ready to provide their assistance free of charge.

The non-profit organisation "Doctors without Borders", founded in 1971 by a group of French doctors and journalists, has been active in Greece for 23 years already. "Until recently, Greece had been only a donating country, but now we have programmes here too. They are intended for members of vulnerable groups in Athens and the countryside, especially for people who have no access to healthcare and medicines," states Christos Christou, chairman of the board. Globally, the organisation's activities involve as volunteers 450 Greeks who are doctors, medical and administrative staff.

"Over the past year the child protection foundation "The Smile of the Child" has helped nearly 42,000 children and families. In the first half of 2013 alone our volunteers helped 30,000 children and families across the country," states social worker Catherine Bourha. The help of the volunteers of the Foundation also includes psychological support to sick children and their families. She talked about the dedication of the volunteers who are aged between 16 and 76. "At Christmas last year, one of our volunteers was on duty and had to spend a few hours together with a sick child. The woman had brought with her the clothes that she would wear while celebrating with her friends. Shortly before the end of her shift, she called our centre coordinating the volunteers to say that she would stay with the child throughout the night. This is the face of the people who come to the foundation and dedicate their time and services in favour of the needy."

The name of the charitable organisation of the Greek Archdiocese is "Apostoli" ("Mission") and the year of its establishment coincides with the beginning of the crisis in Greece. As stated by its representative, the activity of "Apostoli" is not limited to the organisation of free soup-kitchens and to the provision of medicines to the needy; it is also looking for different ways to create new opportunities for them both in Greece and abroad.

Forest fires are one of the most serious problems in Greece, so the volunteer groups guarding the mountain areas and the green areas in the suburbs are carrying out one of the most important activities in favour of the public. The municipality of Papagou-Holargos' volunteer group for forest protection has undertaken to protect Mount Hymettus since 2011. This year alone it has been able to prevent eight fires from breaking out. "Our only loss in 2013 was three acres of dry grass. This is a record of zero destruction of a forest area in the region," states Konstantinos Filipakopoulous, a representative of the municipality.

In the Municipality of Kallithea, which is one of the most densely built-up in Athens, the volunteers are tackling people’s issues more and more every day. Professionals in different fields such as doctors in 18 disciplines, lawyers, accountants, private training centres and diagnostic centres are providing free services to the unemployed, low-income people and families and to the disabled. So far 700 residents of the neighbourhood have received, and are still receiving, support from the volunteer professionals.



Tags: SocietyVolunteeringCharityNon-profit organisations
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