How two charity organisations are successfully changing lives, child by child.
On a hot July afternoon, representing Greek City Times and accompanied by GCT’s Head of Photography and Video Department Nick Bill Bourdaniotis and his entire family, I had the honour of participating in an event at the Ano Ilissia open-air farmer’s market or “laiki”. We filmed and assisted Anna Camporopoulou from Boroume and Christina Economou from an affiliated organisation called The HOME Project (THP).
The Name of the Game
Sponsored by dynamic The Hellenic Initiative Australia, Boroume’s (set up in 2012) prime mission is to raise awareness about and reduce food waste in the country and fight hunger and malnutrition among the poor and needy. As the farmers’ markets (which take place weekly in every neighbourhood around Greece) are a place where food waste regularly occurs, it made perfect sense for Boroume to think up intelligent ways of gathering fresh produce and putting it to immediate good use. The “Boroume at the Farmers’ Market” programme was launched at the end of 2015 with initially 3 collaborating Farmers’ Markets; since then, they have managed to expand their collaborations and now visit 20 farmers’ markets (15 in Athens and five in Thessaloniki). Their next goal is to also work with markets in other cities. In the first semester of 2018, they managed to collect more than 64 tons of produce that were offered to recipient charities, one of which is the non-profit organisation THP.
Founded 20 months ago, THP addresses the desperate needs of unaccompanied minor refugees and migrant children in Greece, offering them housing, food, education, and mental health care, as many of the children are deeply scarred psychologically. Thousands of children and minors (at present, more than 3,280, of which more than 2,240 are homeless living in the streets, camps, detention centers) are travelling alone, amidst the biggest demographic change since the Second World War. These unaccompanied minors are daily exposed to all sorts of dangers from child abuse to organ trafficking and sexual exploitation.
I caught up with Boroume’s Camporopoulou and THP’s Economou recently to find out how that particular event at the Ano Ilissia farmer’s market went for them (our video proudly presents the fruits of their labours, excuse the pun) and to gain a more in-depth understanding of their impressive and vital commitment. “On that particular day, we broke our “record” of collected produce,” says Camporopoulou, “gathering 589 kilos that we offered to The Home Project shelters!” Economou added that “the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables, which were very substantial, were equally distributed to our 11 shelters, much to our children’s delight and always in line with our standards of healthy nutrition”.
From the Heart
The work of both women and the organizations they represent is ongoing and multifaceted, often bringing them to the fore of some of life’s harshest truths but also the most moving experiences. When I ask them what has inspired them most during the years and months of working on their worthy projects, Camporopoulou says: “Every time Boroume visits the markets we are inspired by the great generosity and support shown to us by the sellers. Then we experience the joy of the representatives of the charities who receive on-site the surplus of produce that our volunteers collect. And another highly inspiring point has to do with our wonderful volunteers, who come from every walk of life; without them nothing of what we do would have been possible.”
Working directly with unprotected refugee children, Economou says “there are many deeply touching and inspiring stories to share. One of them is S.Z’s story: ‘Hi!! My name is S.Z. I am 17 years old and from Iraq but currently, live in Greece. I do not have my family here with me and for six months. I was living in Skaramagas refugee camp with my uncle who now left to go to Germany. I stayed behind alone in the camp. My mother and little sister are in Germany, while my father and the rest of my brothers and sisters are still in Iraq, waiting for their visas, like me. I would love to reunite soon with my family, as I cannot live without them anymore. I miss especially my dear mother.
Here in Greece, I like a lot of the dance classes at the shelter. Also, I like doing many other creative activities, like taking photographs. Many people ask me about my photos, why I only like to take pictures of flowers and food. I tell them that I really love flowers because they make the world look nice! I also like to take pictures of the old archaeological sites around Athens, and of fruits. Though even for the fruits photos I like to cut and arrange them that way to look resemble flowers.” (For more of the children’s stories see below).
How You Can Help
Although both Boroume and THP are receiving support, mostly in the form of private donations, minimal corporate sponsorship, and volunteers, both have a continuous need for assistance. “Our immediate needs have to do either with volunteer participation or with financial support,” says Camporopoulou. “Anyone kindly willing to contribute to our cause can find all the relevant information on our website or email us at [email protected] for any further inquiries. We are eager to welcome new collaborators!” As for THP, they welcome donations from individuals or organizations – either as single donations or as ongoing contributions. Donating can be done easily through their website at homeproject.org. “People can also volunteer for us or donate in-kind,” Economou says, “many great individuals have volunteered their time – teaching language, IT arts and crafts, dance, yoga and more, for which we are immensely grateful.”
More stories from Refugee Children in Greece
M’s Story: “My name is M and I am almost 17 years old. I was born in Kabul – Afghanistan and my given name means “brave cradle”. When I was around 16 years old I had to leave Afghanistan and now I live in Athens-Greece. When I arrived here, people tried to help me. For this reason, I believe that people here have a good heart and are kind…In Athens, I found who M. (herself) is! I am a refugee but also a talented girl at the same time. Greece is a country that helps me to improve my talents by giving me the chance to study. This summer I studied English and guitar and in the winter, I will go to a Greek school. For my future, I have the dream of becoming a professional taekwondo athlete who combats for peace and who lets other professional boys know that a female Muslim girl can also be a successful athlete. I would like to wave the Afghan flag in front of hundreds of people and right next to other flags of the world as a gesture symbolizing the bonding of all countries. I am grateful to Greece, the people in my shelter and the Home Project, my friends, my kind guardian and teachers for helping me to make my dreams true.”
Javad’s story homeproject.org/en/on-the-ground/voices/javad-s-story/
The voice of a girl from Kobani, Syria homeproject.org/en/on-the-ground/voices/i-worked-in-a-pharmacy-in-Syria/
*All images by Nick Bourdo Photogprahy (Copyright)