May 9, 2014, 4:40 p.m.
Thessaloniki

Greek crisis sparks new wave of solidarity

It is often in times of need and crisis that either the best or worst human qualities come to light. This is also the case with Greece, we see both sides of the coin. The rise to power of nationalist parties such as "Golden Dawn" and on the other hand the upheaval of self-organization and solidarity groups. Our first stop on the route to discovering these initiatives was Thessaloniki.

We were invited by the friendly people from Perka, whose goal is the communal and in season cultivation of vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs in a field or an appropriate space near the city of Thessaloniki. The space in question used to be a military camp, that they have now successfully converted into an organic garden. Their group is open to everyone willing to grow their own produce. By bringing people closer to nature and by growing their own food, they encourage a different approach towards human interaction, a different world view even. As our hosts explained, seemingly small things such as seeing a seed develop into a crop, then harvesting it and preparing it as food, can have a tremendous impact on our urban way of thinking. The last century has seen people being born in cities without realizing how exactly food is being produced or grown. There has been an emotional detachment caused by the packaged goods we find in supermarkets. It is then easier for companies to further reduce the quality of our food, which in terms has a huge negative effect on our health. 

This bring us back to what Mihail and the people involved with the Bread House had said. It isn't just about producing food, of course it's very rewarding to have an end product, but the most important thing is being involved in the process of doing it. It was obvious through the close-knit community that was Perka and from their passion of growing that this whole idea is not just a rose-tinted theory. They were the kindle that sparks the change we all want to see. The struggle isn't just about reforming the political system, politics is a reflection of society. By starting from the bottom up i.e the ordinary people, changing their mentality, then everything else will surely follow. That's why such initiatives matter more than most would give them credit. Involvement in acts of solidarity and cooperation leaves a permanent mark in one's psyche. Unfortunately the profit oriented society has numbed these natural feeling such as compassion, which have driven humanity forth throughout numerous periods in history. 

The next initiative we visited was the Solidarity Kitchen in Katerini. To give you an idea of how severe the effects of the economic crisis in Greece are, is the fact that some families cannot afford sufficient food anymore. And that's people that managed well enough before the crisis, you can imagine the frustration and stress caused, when all of a sudden you are stricken by poverty. In the words of Christos from the Solidarity Kitchen "It doesn't matter how many are in need, even if it's only just one person, we are obliged to help them". Therefore they have set up this initiative and are now helping 40 families with food supplies. Each week they organize volunteers to collect food donations in front of supermarkets. Then they proceed to the farmers markets where vendors donate fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. We witnessed firsthand the whole process and indeed people were willing to give out donations as long as they go to a just cause.

Also check out Elena's article on the extraordinary case of the self-managed factory Vio.Me

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