Event honors Greece’s socially-conscious NGOs

Ten initiatives aimed at helping a variety of social groups were honored on November 20 at the Nisides Piotitas awards, an institution launched by the NGO Citizens’ Movement and the Greek Guiding Association.

The awards, which were presented by Greek President Karolos Papoulias, have been held every two years since 2001.

A rather romantic discussion about the crisis between five friends gave rise to Desmos, “a bridge between those who want to give and those who are in need,” according to Niki Kerameos, who heads the group. Since its founding in January 2012, Desmos, whose aim is to help people who have been hit by the crisis, has created a network of 600 volunteers, 200 organizations and 50,000 beneficiaries.

The reintegration of the homeless and disenfranchised is the purpose of Diogenis, a nongovernmental organization that also helps publish the Schedia street magazine, whose proceeds are split between the sellers and the organization.

“In 2006, when most people were watching the World Cup in Germany, we established the Greek national team to compete in the Homeless World Cup,” said group head and Schedia’s editor-in-chief Christos Alefantis. “Today, between 35 and 65 people come to practice every Sunday, as well as the 120 Schedia vendors.”

Schedia is sold at key points around Athens by people who are homeless. They keep half the proceeds from the sales and give the rest to Diogenis so that it can continue the publication.

“We were inspired to publish the magazine by similar initiatives in other countries and we are delighted to say that people in Greece have embraced it,” said Alefantis.

The Pakistan-Hellenic Society is aimed at boosting relations between the Pakistani community in Greece and the local population.

“We began our campaign with cultural activities, which unite people, in contrast to politics and religion,” said Syed Mohammad Jamil, who heads the society. “There are organizations with which we work very well; this is how we managed to organize group prayers [for Muslims] at immigrant holding centers and donations of medicines for my compatriots there,” Jamil said.

The Pavlos Kalligas Square Residents Association sees Greeks and foreigners working in close partnership in order to improve the quality of life in the 5th and 6th municipal quarters of Athens that include neighborhoods like Patissia, Kypseli, Sepolia, Ilion and Kamatero, which have large immigrant populations.

Another group that was awarded is the Hellenic Rescue Team of the Northern Dodecanese-Kos, which provides assistance to victims of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

Back in Athens, in the central suburb of Kolonos, the Center for the Support of Children and Families has been providing private tutoring to Roma children since 1997.

Another awarded organization, Very Special Arts Hellas, offers art, dance and theater seminars to people with special needs, providing them with the means to express themselves and a place where they can hang out with other people with similar interests.

The group SciFy – Science for You believes that technology should be available to all and has developed free information and communications technology (ICT) products.

Peliti also puts forward its expertise, organizing the free distribution of seeds of endemic species all over Greece since 1995.

Young people who are just spreading their wings can seek help from the Study with a Scholarship program, run by Equal Society. “We approach public and private institutions in Greece and abroad on behalf of students who cannot continue their studies because they can’t afford to,” said Spyros Frementitis. “We have managed to secure 49 scholarships so far, worth 600,000 euros.”

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