‘Main benefit is inclusion of socially excluded’

Maria, a graphic artist, Stella, a retired civil servant, Irene, a salesperson at a record store, and Nikos, a car mechanic, would not be expected to have much in common. They have never met, but in the future, one of them might find themselves cooking for one of the others, teaching them a foreign language or helping their children with their homework. All four are members of the first Time Bank in Greece, set up by the extremely active Greek branch of the European Women’s Network, a non-governmental volunteer organization based in Dafni. The Greek Time Bank is to become fully operational in the near future and is governed by the same rules as its counterparts in other countries. «Our members will give and receive time,» explained Niki Roubani, the president of the network. Registration has already begun and, according to all indications, the venture has been well received. «Already 100 men and women of all ages have signed up, from various parts of Athens. They are people who need to come into contact with and are not afraid of other people. Most, in fact, want to give rather than receive.» The services offered are mainly foreign language teaching, computer training and household help, particularly for the elderly, but there are also art and music lessons and family crisis management. According to Roubani, time credits have to be used within three months. «We do that so we won’t be suddenly faced with a large demand for time that cannot be filled.» She said the system has many advantages. «The main benefit is the inclusion of the socially excluded, the unemployed, immigrants, single-parent families, pensioners and others who are isolated. Systems such as these build bridges within entire neighborhoods. People who have become cut off from the labor market once again have an opportunity to use their skills,» she explained. Niki Karahaliou, for example, has retired from her job at the National Bank but still wants to keep active. In recent years, she has been a volunteer with the European Women’s Network hotline for victims of family violence and human trafficking (800.00.88881) and has just joined up with the Time Bank where she believes she has a lot to offer, particularly in helping children with their homework. But she hasn’t yet thought of what she could ask of the Time Bank herself. «When the time comes, I’ll find something. There’s always something I’ll need. Both I and my son see it as a very positive thing. My son is an electrical engineer and he wants to help anyone who needs anything.» To register, call Registration is free.

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