NEWS

Greek volunteer groups get kudos for their staffers’ work in assisting needy youngsters and ailing animals

Social Support is one of the volunteer groups that has recently received an award from the Citizens’ Movement for their program to help disabled orphans living in institutions. The first group of volunteers was set up about 10 years ago by the organization’s founder, social worker Anastasia Tsiakalou. Tsiakalou had also done voluntary work for some 25 years and decided to focus her energies on institutionalized children by setting up the Right to Life program in an attempt to improve the children’s quality of life. «What we do is essentially attempt to deinstitutionalize them and help their socialization. We take them on cultural outings [to art galleries, theaters, cinemas] so that they can find out more about the world. They really do enjoy it. We work with about 500 children,» Tsiakalou told Kathimerini. The organization is now developing a second program called Next Door, supporting low-income families caring for a relative with a serious health problem. «We provide them with things they need as well as financial assistance. We have helped at least 100 families in Attica and are training new volunteers,» she said. Social Support has some 250 volunteers around the country, works with the Red Cross, and receives subsidies from major firms, as well as its members’ yearly contributions of 30 euros. It has twice been honored by the president of the Republic and has also received an award from the Health Ministry. Wildlife care The environmental organization Alkyoni, based on the island of Paros, cares for wild animals. Marios Fournaris, a gymnast by profession, decided to start up the group some years ago when, as a student, he had to treat an injured eagle. That led to a first-aid center for wild animals and birds in Komotini, northern Greece. Since 1995, Alkyoni has been collecting and treating injured or ill animals and releasing them again into the wild. It has helped about 900 wild creatures that have fallen victim to hunters, disease or accidents. Its volunteers work at 30 points around the country, helped by veterinary surgeons, pathologists and other experts, all of whom offer their services for free. Its president is Efrosyni Doxiadi. Funds come from private donors, but mostly from international environmental groups and Greek firms.