human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

We stand by people in need

Caritas Hellas' Social Centres keep working in difficult times

Behind a young unemployed man who found a job during the COVID-19 period, a Syrian woman who improved her Greek, a family who finally managed to find a house, are the efforts of the employees of Caritas Hellas.  The humanitarian workers of our Social Centre of Neos Kosmos, despite the difficulties that they have been facing during that period, continued to serve the people in need with respect and self-giving.

During the ‘lockdown’, all the services of the Neos Kosmos Social Centre were provided remotely, due to the necessary measures imposed by the Greek government in order to stop the Coronavirus pandemic. New means of communication have been established in order to facilitate continued contact with the served population. The quick response of the team to readjust its services in order to be able to support the vulnerable population, led to fruitful results and was a self-evident indication of the great need of the people regarding the active presence of Caritas Hellas on their side.

Caritas Hellas has been one of the first organisations that proceeded with the provision of assistance to the people who were entitled to receive the emergency financial aid, according to the relevant announcements of the government. The centre answered to the needs of 800 individual cases. 314 people were encouraged and were assisted to apply for the financial aid of 800 euros, the extra benefit provided by the government for the employees working in sectors of the economy affected the lockdown, as well as the extra benefit of 400 euros provided to long term unemployed. The support for accessing the unemployment benefit continued alongside assistance on employability issues through one-to-one job counselling and information sharing.  Moreover, as the tax declaration period started in mid-April, a financial advisor started answering  relevant requests of the population though on-line appointments.

The Job Counsellor of the Centre, Vivi Menti, mentions:

During the lock down a lot of changes suddenly occurred in the way and manner we work; suspension of work, extraordinary allowances, changes in the operation of public services.. We all felt vulnerable and exposed to the multitude of new information. My pace of work changed, and I needed to be constantly updated on any changes in order to be able to convey this information to people who did not have easy access to it, so that they would know their rights. The stress and the tiring pace of work would disappear once the goal was achieved. My most fulfilling moments were every time a person would contact me for another matter and would learn that they are entitled to an extraordinary allowance; then we would race against time to make all necessary arrangements for them, so that they would receive this economic aid. Their gratitude and thanks were our reward and a reminder that ‘you must never stop fighting for what’s right, because this is what makes you human’.

The social centre mapped all available services currently operating and the way they have been operating. Then, a social worker, through one-to-one sessions, handled general information requests sent by individuals, on where they could find food, showers, clothing or other non-food items, and which services of the public sector are open or even how they could be assisted by the asylum services during these days.

Our social worker Mercina Balakakis who has been working at Caritas Hellas since 2016, tells us about how COVID-19 has changed her professional life:

As a social worker at the Social Centre of Neos Kosmos I experience the daily battle of people dealing with the huge and unsolved problem of housing. Women alone, pregnant women, women with children, families, victims of torture, people with many psychological problems dealing with homelessness or miserable conditions of living.

The feeling of satisfaction is huge when we get a positive answer on a housing application, even more in the period of the coronavirus. Four housing applications got positive answer and ten people were placed in apartments. A drop of light in the darkness of our times…

Furthermore the legal and employment experts of both social centres in Neos Kosmos and Kipseli, proceeded with the development of Q&A guides on issues concerning the asylum processes as well as employment, in order to inform the public on changes that have occurred in those sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic period. (in five languages) Moreover, the Greek language classes continued online through the whole period. Participation has been high and on-going.

Nowadays the Social Spot of Caritas Hellas in Neos Kosmos follows the measures to prevent further spread of the pandemic, with respect to the recommendations of the Greek Government and the Ministry of Health. The facilities are set up in accordance with all safety measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 virus, so that the assisted population and the staff can be safe.

Our goal during this critical period was to help as much as we can in this unprecedented situation. The team worked quickly and efficiently, always aiming for the right, impartial and uninterrupted service of the people in need. We all feel stronger and we will do our best in the next challenging period. At the end of our workday, despite the fact that covid19 has permanently changed our everyday life, we had a feeling of satisfaction and relief because we were trying as much as we could to help our fellow human beings.

Panagiota Fotopoulou, Coordinator of the Social Centre.

Caritas Hellas’ staff is going to continue to be on the side of the people in need. We are all in this together.

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author

Christy Tsantioti

Digital Marketing and Fundraising Officer
Caritas Hellas

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