Greece Austerity Hardly Means the Grinch Prevailed This Year
Despite the soaring unemployment rate and protests of the Greeks against austerity measures, people want to help. Since the government is not currently not in a position to provide social services, particularly in sectors such as health care, the responsibility to feed the growing number of hungry families due to cuts in pensions and wages then fall on food banks and charities.
It is especially tough to bear as winter continues. Further compounding the lack of food, is the inability to purchase heating oil. One is disheartened to read that many Greeks don't have the Euros to buy heating oil. Kostas Tsitskos, 88 survives on his 734 euro per month pension ($971) and lacks the 1,000 euros in order to heat his home.
Like many, he uses portable heaters in a delegated room — often the bedroom — to provide the only source of heat. The heating oil crisis has affected schools as well. Since the funding from central government hasn't been received in some towns, some schools have had to close due to the inability to provide heat to its students.
Politically, the far-right party in Greece — Golden Dawn — has been able to garner support by providing services such as police protection and operating food banks. While they gained some attention for their xenophobic and populist rhetoric, for the Christmas holiday, they had released a video on their website — reminiscing about the 1960's. They make the case that this was a time before the influx of immigrants from an integrated European Union and globalization took effect.
Yet, I'm hopeful that fascist sentiments can be met with an equal amount of opposition.
In this recently released video, thousands of Greeks have turned out to donate food, clothes and toys for those who are less fortunate. In less than three hours, ten trucks were filled with items that people will be grateful to have. This was done in cooperation with the "I care/I share" solidarity initiative.
Even Hollywood superstars are reaching out to help. Javier Bardem of No Country for Old Men is working with Medecins du Monde in a solidarity campaign to bring to the public the attention needed to relieve the hardship that are facing large pockets of Greek society. Medecins du Monde has stated that they will be operating in Greece to provide medical and psychological assistance to migrants at detention camps. The UN has come to terms with what it views as the next 'silent humanitarian crisis' in Greece.
Here is a "Christmas Tree" made up of donated milk tins from Athenians (second year in a row) courtesy of Medecins Du Monde, a non-governmental humanitarian aid organisation. The donated goods are to be distributed to the poor.
Considering that the government has plans to slash funding for NGOs, it's imperative that the services that charities and organizations provide continue to operate. It's difficult in an environment where an eco-cruise NGO in Greece was found guilty of committing a fraud of $4 million.
On December 3, The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) has also donated $20,000 to the Apostli Mission (a food bank charity), operating under the guidance of the Church of Greece towards addressing hunger in Greece. While this isn't their first foray into providing assistance on behalf of the Greek diaspora, it's really inspiring.
In the Christmas spirit, here is an short movie clip entitled A Very European Christmas.
It's an re-enactment of the European financial crisis where the characters are contemplating a breakup. It's a lighthearted and comedic take on a very dire situation.