Athens’s Christmas ‘milk tree’ feeds thousands of people in need

Athens’s Christmas ‘milk tree’ feeds thousands of people in need

For the eight consecutive year a different Christmas tree made up with milk tins and other food products was erected in the center of Athens on Friday.

The Christmas tree of the local NGO "Doctors of the World" has a short life span – adorns the yard of the historic building of the Athens University for just one day each year – but a major mission.

The tins of milk and packages of rice, beans, sugar, olive oil and other canned food products Athenians donated throughout the day will be distributed to thousands of households in need across Greece during the holiday season.

The initiative was launched after a young patient in one of the clinics run by the NGO made a simple question to doctors treating her which revealed the pain and agony of children living in poverty.

"Eight years ago a little girl who was a patient at the clinics run by the "Doctors of the World" asked us whether Santa Claus brings milk as a present. I do not know whether he does, but all these years there are several people who do," Nikitas Kanakis, the NGO's President told Xinhua on Friday.

"This is a Christmas celebration and it is also a way to recall and remind the beauty of solidarity and teach it to our children," he said.

The first year the "milk tree" was set up, the NGO counted 5,000 cans. In coming years, as more and more people heard about the initiative, the "Doctors of the World" collected on average more than 55,000 cans of milk and more than four tons of other food products.

With the support of thousands of citizens who stopped by the university's yard on Friday, as well as central squares in other three cities, the "Doctors of the World" hope to break a new record this year sending a loud message of solidarity and hope.

Vassilis A. was among Athenians who donated a bag with milk tins and canned food. "I came here today to join the "Doctors of the World", because I believe that in particular in harsh times we must remain human beings," he told Xinhua.

"The festive season has started and we know that each year the Doctors of the World are organizing this charity event so we came here to support this work," Dimitra G. added.

The debt crisis which has hit hard Greece since 2009 has fuelled poverty rates and NGOs support state efforts to offer a helping hand to people in need.

The goal is that nobody will be left without a basic meal in particular during the Christmas and New Year holidays.