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‘Ceramics gave meaning to my life’

Nikos is into ceramics. The part he likes best is making the molds, and decorating the clay with other materials, such as the bronze butterfly he’s making as we speak. «I like the way it opens it wings, the symbolism of it,» he told Kathimerini. Nikos has been attended Diavassi’s open program (information on tel 210.862.6761, Family Support 210.861.2604) where participants can learn a craft as a trade, not a hobby. The program operates from a high-ceilinged neoclassical building on the corner of 29 Stavropoulou and Karpathou streets, near Amerikis Square. Some years ago, members of the program renovated the building, which is now a gem in one of the city’s most densely populated quarters. Diavassi, which is directed at drug users aged over 21, has been in operation since October 1990. The morning course caters to those who require vocational training, and the evening course to those who already work, as well as casual drug users who work or study and their families. «Before I got into ceramics, everything seemed more prosaic to me. Now I see things differently. It has really changed my life. I make something beautiful and other people see it,» said Vangelis. Another Nikos attends the evening course. He’s learning traditional dances and he and the rest of the group are working on a book about Greek folk dances. «I’m researching the northeastern Aegean, the Cyclades and mainland Greece,» he explained. He loves island dances, especially those from Naxos. In addition to equipping participants with knowledge and skills, Diavassi’s vocational training programs, now in their 10th year, also aim to familiarize participants with the work environment. «The work is done by professional trainers and the level is equivalent to the first semester at a private vocational training college,» said Elli Kyprioti, head of the educational department. Part of the process is for community members to learn to work together. «You get into the process of collaboration. I’d always found that hard; I preferred to be alone. But I felt a need; I wanted to be with other people and not work alone,» said one participant. They learn to do that in creative ways. A graphic arts group designs KETHEA’s leaflets, which are then printed by a group on the center’s computers; its talented members take on assignments from state organizations. The photography group will contribute work to the book that is in preparation. Other courses teach dance, visual arts, theater and music.