The local Caritas Voula is active in the parish of Agioi Apostoloi, in southern Athens, which used to be a summer vacation settlement, by the sea. The area, like the rest of Greece, has been hit particularly hard by the economic crisis and unemployment. Apart from the Greek citizens, our parishioners are of international origin.
The work that the Organization performs with its 60 volunteers is great. It has been providing a weekly soup kitchen for ten years, to serve the needs of our poorer fellow citizens, initially with a smaller number of beneficiaries.
During the last three years, with the help and support of the priest of our parish, Fr. Cristian, the parochial Caritas has been providing food to more and more impoverished Greek people receiving low pensions and especially this year it has served an incredible number of unemployed and uninsured middle-aged people, who are not covered by the welfare system.
For the time being, it regularly provides one hundred (100) hot meals and packages with food items. Every Wednesday morning the volunteers arrive and prepare pasta or rice in the kitchen of our parish. The food is separated in portions, it is packed, while cans, dried food, milk, fruit, vegetables, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs are added, depending on the people of the family to be offered. The beneficiaries are served by priority number, separated into groups of seven people. Afterwards, they go out in the yard to have coffee, tea, or beverages, some dessert and to chat about the issues that concern them (health, economic, family problems etc.). Then, they take the packages with the food, clothing, shoes, and anything else they may need from the existing offers that are provided to us from the wider region of Voula and are constantly increasing: during the last one and a half year, bakeries and super markets started to provide us with food withdrawn from the shelves or with early expiry date. Our volunteers receive them and bring them to the church, where they are separated and stored in the fridge by type. In this way, we support twenty (20) more families with food every Sunday.
Another group of volunteers separates the offered items (clothes, shoes, books, toys etc.) to sell them at the monthly bazaar of our parochial Caritas. The sum of money collected is used to fund the parochial charity for families with children, the elderly, the homeless and for anyone else that our priest considers dependent on help; our priest determines and prioritizes the needs and priorities at our monthly meeting. The items than cannot be used by us or are asked by others (e.g. baby clothes) are sent to the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Kolonos, where they are delivered at their discretion. We have recently accepted the offer of a volunteer hairdresser. In addition, we refer cases to volunteers of medical services or to any place they could work out the personal problem of a fellow human being who is in need.
A rather special activity is the repatriation of our parishioners! In other words, of those who wish to return to their homeland and cannot afford it. For the non-EU citizens, the expenses are covered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), while for the rest of them, Caritas Voula covers the expenses. More specifically, we are in contact with the Polish Embassy, who undertakes to reunite the long-term separated families by providing the necessary travel documents.
Supporting our parishioners is our priority! There is no greater satisfaction than witnessing that the acts of humanity set an example, since our activities are a source of inspiration motivating some of our volunteers from our local Municipality to establish their own soup kitchen in Varkiza, based on our standards!