Gaining self-knowledge as well as developing skills

It’s midday in Paremvasi’s garden in Rafina. A five-on-five soccer field, a radio station, a workshop for making folk music instruments, an organic garden and a small theater offer creative outlets for 60 young people. Dimitris and Giorgos are learning to produce radio programs. They already broadcast every Wednesday evening on Paiania’s municipal station, 107.3 FM. «I look on it as therapy,» said one. «It’s helped me to loosen up and express my feelings. I like it so much that I can feel my adrenaline rise. I really want to go on with it.» Meanwhile, eight people carry in two large wooden crates, a bench, hammer, pliers and cutters, and get to work in the shade of a pine tree. You can see the musical instruments they make at the Foundation of the Hellenic World in Tavros and the Museum of Greek Folk Instruments in Plaka, and you can hear them: Popular singer Lavrentis Mahairitsas uses a percussion instrument made by the group. «We use goat or sheep hide,» explained one member of the group, while others were cutting leather into shapes for different instruments. «We leave it in lime for three days to burn off the hair, then stretch it onto a frame.» Participants stay at Paremvasi for nine to 12 months, while they free themselves of physical and psychological dependence. They learn to know themselves and develop their skills. «We pick up the thread from the point where they started using drugs,» said program director Eleni Anagnostou. Next to where the instrument makers are working is the organic garden, where the Elpida group grows lavender, dill, oregano and mint. The first seeds were sown in 1993, when the vegetable garden was also planted, and the group began making compost and collecting paper and glass for recycling. Since April, the group has been receiving training on environmental issues from the ecological recycling association and WWF Hellas. They also learn about the care of wild animals and birds from the wildlife refuge on Aegina and the Hellenic Ornithological Society. Recently, the group published a guide to recycling and making compost.