Athens – Relieving the distress of the homeless, pensioners, Roma and refugees in Greece
Many Greeks and other population groups there have been living in very difficult conditions for a long time. State welfare systems fail to reach the poorest of these. They lead a life full of worry. In winter, some go without heating despite the severe cold. They do not use all the rooms in their houses. It may be that they have no electricity or are saving on food. This is everyday life for many people. For those who cannot make ends meet despite such attempts to save, help is offered by wortundtat’s partner in Greece: Hellenic Ministries (HM) cares for refugees in Greece and helps the homeless, pensioners and those excluded by society. wortundtat has been working with HM since around 1980.
Loving care, active support and creative solutions for refugees in Greece
The services offered by our partner are based on the approach that everyone in need should be given the chance to be accepted, with their own idiosyncrasies and needs. The helpers here therefore invest a great deal of time in building up relationships with the people who come to them for support. In these encounters, the helpers say, they would like to enable the people they are dealing with to feel that they are God’s precious and beloved creations, for example
- through the realisation that someone is devoting time to them,
- through small gestures, a loving word or a hug to encourage them, and
- by giving them a chance to talk about matters of understanding and faith.
„Many refugees in Greece are stranded in the city of five million people and have no idea where to go next.
Mercy Ministries Centre – Loving care for refugees in Greece
This centre provides refugees stranded in Greece, homeless people and poor Greeks with a range of services:
- During the day, visitors can shower or wash their clothes. For people living on the streets or without suitable washing facilities, this is an opportunity to live in dignity and protect themselves from illness.
- In the evenings, hot meals are served to a variety of groups. Many people in Athens depend on services of this type because they do not have enough money to buy food for themselves.
- A general practitioner and a dentist examine and treat patients who are unable to access the Greek health system for various reasons.
- Refugee women learn a range of manual skills – sewing, making soap, pokerwork and more. In this way, they have the opportunity – often for the first time – to be active outside their own household. Some of them later move into the first stages of the employment market, using the skills learnt and their participation in a working environment.
„Refugee women with children are largely left to cope alone.
Medical care, integration, food, clothing – many things are lacking.
Good Samaritan Centre – A place to go for refugee women with children
When life is difficult for refugees, women and their children bear the brunt of the suffering. Partly for this reason, this Centre and its services have provided vital support for many years.
- Mothers and children can see gynaecologists and paediatricians quickly and without bureaucratic obstacles. Interpreters help people to understand the problems of patients and children. Qualified staff treat minor ailments immediately. Medicines can be provided directly – otherwise, many women could not afford them. If illnesses are more severe, the doctors can refer patients on.
- Playing in groups, meeting other children, being creative – children do not have these opportunities in the cramped conditions in the refugee accommodation. There is plenty of time and space for all this in the Good Samaritan Centre. And generous meals are also provided.
- Nowhere near all the women who come to Athens from the Middle East have had the opportunity in their home country to learn to read and write. In the Good Samaritan Centre, literacy courses open up a new world for them.
- To be able to find their way around a new world, being able to speak the right language is more or less essential. In courses, young women learn enough English to enable them to talk confidently.
- Many refugees do not have enough money for appropriate clothing. At the clothing bank, they can choose a few items of clothing from a large range at regular intervals.
- Having to wash clothes by hand is very laborious. The washing machines are therefore much sought-after.
Refugee mothers and their sick children are given an appointment with the paediatrician quickly and without bureaucratic obstacles.
We help families with things that they never would have thought possible: reading, writing, learning.
Families from the Roma community visit the “Butterfly” education centre
The integration of Roma people into Greek society is not well advanced in many places. The Centre therefore ensures, firstly, that, in a community in Athens, children, young people and adults realise how welcome they are. Secondly, educational and employment services help with integration.
- In pre-school courses, children learn the basic skills they will need to attend school. Primary school children and teenagers are given help with homework and with learning difficulties. Interested adults can attend literacy courses.
- Team members support parents who have problems with bureaucracy or meet resistance there. They act as go-betweens, provide support, help with filling in forms or with keeping appointments.
- In every encounter, they are also anxious to show respect, patience and love, to the people they are dealing with, to fill them with confidence or to demonstrate the rules and limits of interaction.
Impressions from the “Butterfly” education centre
Playing happily together is hugely important if children are to develop healthily. It brings a smile to their faces.
How do I hold a pencil, how do I use it properly and carefully – these are things that the children in the Butterfly Centre can learn.
Pre-school children from the Roma community learn basic skills. This means that they are able to keep up with their colleagues when they start school.
Learning is not easy for many children from the Roma community. But with comprehensive support, they can cope with school.
Exit is an initiative in which young people can live out their faith in Athens. The young people address the Christian faith together and turn what they learn into practical activities. For this, they go out onto the street and meet people begging for money, food and accommodation. They provide these with small meals, hot drinks, other gifts and – not least – love and respect.
Latest news from our project in Greece
With the Skills Training Centre, our Greek partner Hellenic Ministries has been supporting refugee women, mainly from Iran, Afghanistan and Ukraine, since 2019. They receive help on their way to a more independent life.
Saade, a 35-year-old Afghan, learns to read and write for the first time in her life with our partner in Greece. This opens up a whole new world for her.
Thanks to training as seamstresses, Sama and Mahnaz got a job in Athens – a first step towards integration.