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The fifth Social Grocery Store of the Mission charity organisation of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens was inaugurated today at 6 pm by His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos II in Kallithea.
The Social Grocery Store under the name ‘Mission of Love’ will provide protection and food to 200 families of uninsured traders. This is the first step in the implementation of the programme to support uninsured traders of the capital and their families, as stated in the announcement of the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE) on 7 December; the aim is to help people who have been affected by the financial crisis and who are in a difficult position that makes them feel desperate and hopeless.
At the inauguration, Archbishop Ieronymos said that:
“I wish that next year there will be no Social Grocery Stores, no centres to support people in need; this will mean that there aren’t many problems and people are not suffering. However, if this does not happen, we are here, we are present, we multiply our efforts to provide support and alleviate the pain and difficulties of people who had organised their life and owned a shop, a store, a business, which they strived to run successfully, until the crisis came along and destroyed all their dreams. And, worst of all, they are at risk of losing their dignity as well –the only thing they have left– since they are not able to live with dignity. This is the terrible picture that we face every day; but then the Church comes along, with an embrace big enough to include all people, and we tell you that we are here for you, we will not leave you alone, we will help you get back on your feet, we will fight for your survival and for the survival of your families and children.”
Mr Konstantinos Askounis, Mayor of Kallithea, stressed that:
“The establishment and operation of the Social Grocery Store –which is the second one in the Municipality of Kallithea– comes as a response to the social crisis affecting our country. This is not a common act of charity. It is a genuine manifestation of solidarity, aimed at ensuring social cohesion and citizens’ dignity in a very critical period for our country. We would like to thank the Holy Archdiocese of Athens and His Beatitude Archbishop of Athens and All Greece for this.”
Mr Dimtsas said that:
“As you can see, our Mission still has a long way to go. We want to have you by our side at every milestone, so that we can pursue together our determination to carry out meaningful work. We are laying the foundations to uphold the morale and dignity of those who are financially vulnerable and to make sure that we are able to offer help. The uncertainty that has been prevailing for quite some time now in our country breaks our hearts, and poverty makes many people feel desperate. Like a hurricane, the crisis is ruining an increasing number of people. Now is the time for each and every one of us to consider our relationship with Jesus, our relationship with our ‘neighbour’, with the person who is next to us at any given time and who is carrying his or her cross. We should all try not to use our own cross as an alibi; instead, we should all see the bigger cross that countless ‘neighbours’ have to carry. This is the fifth Social Grocery Store in Athens, and we put it to the service of all uninsured traders and their families, according to the instructions of our Archbishop, in order to lighten the Cross they are carrying every day. We are not alone in this effort. We have supporters, organisations that believe in and recognise our work and share the same feelings of solidarity. Indeed, the Municipality of Kallithea has provided us, for a second time, with a space to run the Social Grocery Store, and the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation –representatives of which we have the honour to have with us today– supports this initiative by supplying the goods. We also have the honour to have with us all of you who surround us with your love and give us strength and determination to continue and increase our efforts and to creatively respond to emerging needs. Together, we can overcome this crisis. Together as one, we will face the lenders that have become tyrants by showing our solidarity. I would not like to omit to mention my co-workers, the members of the MISSION, the warehouse personnel, who strive every day to achieve the results that we saw yesterday, that we see today, and we faithfully continue to help change our lives.”
Vasilis Korkidis, President of the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ESEE), stated that:
“It is with great joy and emotion that I am inaugurating the first Social Grocery Store, in cooperation with the Church of Greece and the Municipality of Kallithea. It is an initiative that comes as a response to the serious humanitarian crisis faced by the country’s commercial sector. Since the beginning of the financial crisis, approximately 68,000 traders have been forced to close down their businesses, while nearly twice as many entrepreneurs are unable to pay their insurance obligations; as a result, these entrepreneurs and their families are deprived of healthcare. Unemployed entrepreneurs are a special socially vulnerable group, because these citizens lack basic social care. Moreover, their psychological breakdown and financial ruin is a major problem for themselves and their families who experience the insecurity and fear that comes with an unstable financial situation. The numbers speak for themselves: one out of three Greek families live below the poverty line, two out of three are facing serious financial problems, three out of ten are taking their children out of kindergarten and five out of ten are unable to pay tuition fees. As a result of the financial crisis, there are three suicides every two days in our country, while in the three-year period since the beginning of the crisis, and up to August 2012, approximately 3,200 suicides were recorded. The actions that will be jointly carried out by the ESEE and the Church of Greece include: preparing a list of beneficiary uninsured traders (to be prepared by the ESEE) and specifying the evaluation criteria as well as submitting the necessary supporting documents in order to access the services in question, connecting the Social Mission Clinic with the Mission and the ESEE, in order to provide help with respect to primary health prevention and care for uninsured traders, creating a social private tuition centre for the children of uninsured traders, providing accounting consultancy services in order to manage crises and, lastly, creating psychological support structures for any colleagues who may need it. Of course, the aforementioned actions will not be limited to Athens but will also be carried out at a local level, where local Metropolises, in cooperation with Trade Associations, will tailor them to the needs and problems of each region. By giving comfort and showing solidarity, the Greek Orthodox Church is trying to offer a healing touch to thousands of people who are currently in a helpless situation. Today more than ever, Greek society needs the Love, the Comfort and the Solidarity of our Christian Religion. The support provided by the Archbishop, through the Mission and the ESEE, to unemployed traders and their families sends the message that we have the strength to overcome this difficult period together. The warm and human words of the Church become concrete actions and help those, who live below the poverty line, to feel that it is by their side and to make a new start.”
The inauguration was attended by His Grace the Bishop of Diavlia Gavriil, Chief Secretary of the Holy Synod, Archimandrite Maximos Papagiannis, Protosyncellus of the Holy Archdiocese of Athens, Mr Athanasios Skordas, representative of the Government, Deputy Minister of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks, Messrs P. Kouroumblis and Al. Mitropoulos and Ms Rena Dourou, SYRIZA Members of Parliament, Mr Dimitrios Afendoulis, Secretary of the Executive Board of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, representatives of the Armed Forces and Security Forces, Local Government officials and many other people.
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