The work of Caritas Hellas, as well as that of Caritas Athens, and in particular the Micro-Entrepreneurship Program implemented by it, is presented in an extensive tribute issue of Secours Catholique-Caritas France (https://www.secours-catholique.org/l-europe-des-solutions”) entitled “Europe of Solutions. Listing the inevitable and inspiring initiatives of solidarity activists”, along with that of the corresponding Catholic Church Organizations in Europe, such as in Austria, Germany and Spain.
The aim of the report is to present in depth the actions of Caritas in Greece, that intent to alleviate the phenomena of poverty caused by the economic crisis that has plagued the country for the last eleven years.
As mentioned in the preface of the tribute issue entitled “Greece. Mobilization to overcome the economic crisis and to welcome refugees”, eleven years after the severe economic crisis the country is slowly recovering. Multiple austerity programs have consequences for Greeks: 35% live below the poverty line and the country is the European champion in all unemployment categories! Jobseekers account for 19% of the workforce. This is much lower than in 2014, when the unemployment rate had reached 28%, an unprecedented level. However, the situation is still critical. At the end of 2018, Greece had a youth unemployment rate of 39.4%, the highest in the European Union. Greece continues to have the same sad record of long-term unemployment, reaching 72.8% and… rising!
In this context of great instability, the urgent reception of immigrants emerged. Greece is the main gateway for refugees from the Middle East and Central Asia, fleeing war zones to reach European shores. Since the rise of arrivals in 2015, the flow has declined, but the country continues to receive thousands of self-exiled people each year under difficult conditions”.
Regarding the Micro Entrepreneurship Program, implemented by Caritas Athens since May 2017, thanks to the donation of Caritas Andria, with the aim of providing financial and advisory assistance to young people who wish to start a small business, the tribute issue highlights:
“Elias, too, came to face unemployment. The 45-year-old jeweler lost his job and was hopeless about how he could work again: “The goldsmith industry has been hit hard since the start of the financial crisis”, he explains. “I had to close my shop and deal with crafts. I worked for a while in a small shop, but the last months there were very difficult as I was never getting paid… ”.
Being unemployed, Elias decided to devote his time as a volunteer to Caritas Athens, where he regularly came to assist in the distribution of clothes to refugees. “Conversing with volunteers and employees, aid was offered to me in order to set up a small Greek enterprise where I could use my skills and sell my creations”, he explains.
In a country where the banking sector almost reached the state of bankruptcy and is still fragile, getting a loan is almost impossible. “Small Businesses are a great way of helping young people to improve their living conditions, to get motivated, to prove that they deserve our trust and that we are not there to exploit them,” said Filippos Salimpas, Operations Director of Caritas Athens.
Without limiting itself to financial aid alone, the Organization advises Elias at all stages of the project implementation process: business plan, business search, communication and marketing …
Today Elias is no longer unemployed. In his shop, which also serves as a workshop, he designs, manufactures and repairs many items: watches, jewelry, wallets, decorations…
“The crisis remains. Greeks’ priority is to buy food and clothes. I have to work hard to become known in the market… I rely on the summer tourist season. Even if it’s difficult, this store hopes for a better future”.