Paradigms of living solidarity from Greece

1.Unemployed youth feeds the hungry in Athens – Allos Anthropos

People are weaving solidarity networks to withstand a deep crisis. ‘O allos anthropos’ serves free food to those who need it in the streets and squares of Athens – a simple thing that institutions fail to deliver.

In December 2011 a group of young people, unemployed themselves, while strolling in Athens they faced a dramatic scene of two children fighting in front of a waste bin for some rotten foodstuff. That was shocking enough for them to start their own initiative by setting up street ‘social kitchens’ in different locations. Since then they have fed thousands of people in more than 50 events. As the numbers of poor, hungry and homeless have been increasing rapidly in Greece, such actions provide direct solutions to people overlooked by authorities.

The concept is fairly simple but is driven by noble feelings of compassion and solidarity: they ask from restaurant owners for food surpluses as well as they receive foodstuff or money donations on-the-spot from common people to cook for the next time. Some equipment and a kitchen has been granted to them as well. They visit different places each time, mostly in the centre of Athens, almost every day.  Every Sunday, a weekly program is uploaded to inform people and mostly volunteers that want to help by cooking and serving the people. The food is served for free

It was astonishing for them that even in Kolonaki area, a prestigious wealthy neighbourhood, they served 60 meals of lentil soup. The people behind this initiative have experienced themselves this crisis quite harshly, but although they are unemployed, they decided to break passivism and take action. They hope that with their solidarity actions will awaken the consciousness of other people and inspire them to start more actions and groups.  The name of the group is ‘O Allos Antrhopos’ (Greek: ο άλλος άνθρωπος) which means ‘the other human [person]’ means for the group members ‘what is really happening in the mind of other people in times of crisis, poverty and hunger’.

If you live in Athens and you can help out by cooking, serving or collecting foodstuff. You can also cook something at home and bring it daily from 1100 to 1300 hours at Tsamadou 15, Exarcheia Athens. ’O Allos Anthropos’ also needs:

  • Folding tables
  • Gas bottles and gas stove
  • Kitchen papers, detergents and other kitchen utensils
  • Van for transport
  • Laptop etc.

For more information visit their website.

2.A people-led network for free education.

As of now, 263 teachers and professors offer 176 courses to 92 pupils for free in a voluntary education network called ‘tutorpool’  which was recently established in Greece. Every educator in order to participate in tutorpool is required to plight not to receive any compensation for sharing his time and knowledge. Priority is given to pupils that do not have the financial ability to receive additional teaching or ‘coaching’, especially those that are preparing for the national exams which are leading to university enrollments. As stated in the homepage of #tutorpool:

“#tutorpool is a network of volunteerism and solidarity for Education. Former pupils transfer their knowledge to today’s pupils. Parents support each other. Pupils meet each other and create”

Why? Is there something wrong with the education in Greece?

One needs to understand that in Greece, education was never really free. Due to low quality of education in public schools, parents in the majority of cases have been forced to provide additional education by means of after-school private lessons. While public education is free, private classes are rather expensive. Not to forget that a lot of parents due to low quality education in public schools were forced to inscribe their kids in private ones.

Many teachers in Greece are nowadays worried that the country is sinking back to ‘dark ages’, since education is not anymore affordable to a large part of the population which is driven to poverty due to the economic crisis. Funds for education are severely cut. For instance, the academic year 2011-2012 started without school books. Some schools closed while others merged, thereby constraining the efforts of teachers and students. The formal institution of additional education (‘coaching’) that came into force the period 1992-1993[1] was recently cut. Under the troika memorandum regime Greece will be conditioned for the next decades to prioritize dept repayment to lenders rather than education or health. Dark ages are indeed real and prescribed. Are people in Greece going to become illiterate? People are already establishing networks of solidarity, refusing to fall to an educational obscurity.

Solidarity networks – education truly free for the needy

It is encouraging to see initiatives like tutorpool, driven by people who want to enlighten society and share their knowledge liberally. Where education is becoming privatized at a global scale, equal opportunities for personal development remain a distant dream for most. Tutorpool is driven by the conviction that free, public education is an inalienable right providing equal opportunities for all.

Tutorpool is an online platform that brings tutors, parents and pupils together [2]. Anybody interested can subscribe in the platform from all corners of Greece to follow a course or create a new one. Teachers are responsible for the quality of education, while the parents are responsible for the overall monitoring of the process.  Lessons can take place at the pupil’s home, in groups as well as online (e-learning).

Apart from ‘core’ school courses like maths and literature, the coordinators want to expand to courses of general interest like dance, webdesign , music etc. Most importantly, tutorpool encourages youngsters to look at their neighbourhoods and communities in a different way: providing solutions and support to others voluntarily. Tutorpool acts also as a forum where pupils are invited to share new ideas for the network and activities for the social good. This is badly needed in order to overcome the crisis of propagated fear, alienation and disappointment that has brought a culture to its knees.

Solidarity beyond borders

International Solidarity: Tutorpool Map of participants

Solidarity transcends borders; there are already volunteer tutors from Germany, Italy, Sweden and Spain among other countries. As crisis deepens, people feel the need to come closer; solidarity is more urgent than ever. As T. Poulitsas, a project participant stated: “Now is that we need each other more, to change the way we live and think and that renders solidarity more timely than ever.” [5]

Tutorpool is another example that demonstrates the power of the internet, which offers people the tools to organize and work together. Tutorpool apart from a website utilizes social media like twitter and facebook [2, 3]. The internet is also an ideological arena: one the one side there is more surveillance, censorship and the concerted efforts of formal institutions to enforce stringent laws and copyrights (PIPA, SOPA, ACTA) while on the other side people are constantly opening up alternatives.

At the next phase, tutorpool coordinators are seeking for public spaces that can be provided by local municipal authorities for free, voluntary education [5].

As a user in twitter precisely pinpointed: ‘’Tutorpool is not philanthropy, it is solidarity.”

(“Το tutorpool δεν είναι φιλανθρωπία, είναι αλληλεγγύη.’’)

Contact by email: contact@tutorpool.gr

or fill in the contact form: http://tutorpool.gr/contact

3.Food System-Food Crisis? A direct response from ‘Allilegion’ initiative in the heart of Athens

The supermarket has become the single point of getting our food in the modern urban setting; it is a sort of consumer fetish where we can gaze at all those fancy products on the shelves. However, this has resulted at a high concentration of capital and control in the retailing sector of the food system as well as the processing sector. In many cases the whole supply chain is dictated by the retailer (TNCs – TransNational Corporations).

In those cases the retailers are buying directly from the farmers in massive scales in very low prices. After that they are processing, packaging and branding the products to finally supply these products through their own retailing chains (supermarkets). That has been the trend globally in the developed world. In Greece it has been a significant development the last 20 years, but in much less intensity compared to other EU countries since the traditional open markets still supply around 50% of the foodstuff to the consumers.

Is there anything wrong with supermarkets and this type of supply chains? Well, we can have a lot of foodstuff offered in one shop that goes along with our hectic life in the city where we seek for the most convenient. Nonetheless we need to understand that there is a host of economic, social and ecological problems arising from this kind of operations.

I am not going to analyse here the whole industrial food system, I just want to pinpoint at a couple of key-processes. Firstly, farmers have seen themselves not benefiting much due to the price squeeze (well-documented by research), which  is a result of economies of scale and power inequality when facing the large-scale corporate food processors and retailers. Farmers are affected by the prices of inputs (agro-chemicals, seeds etc.) and the price of farm outputs which are set by the companies while they are unable to change them. Before, farmers had their own seeds and inputs (manure, compost etc.) while in industrial agriculture they are dependent on the inputs they buy from the agro-food industry.

Secondly, consumers are also affected in this process. While there is an influx of cheap foodstuff from all over the world in our shopping basket, we are unable to control and set the prices of food. These prices are set at a global level by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and large TNCs; consequently prices can go any direction without the possibility for us to have a say. For instance that is a major problem in poor countries, where the people cannot afford the food and stay hungry (925 million people). During economic crises, crop failures and other events prices are volatile, thus increasing the risk of food crisis.

There is an urgent need for farmers and consumers to come together and set collaborating platforms to be able to share the benefits of food production. By eliminating the middlemen, the supermarkets etc. farmers can absorb all the profit from the products they sell while the consumer can benefit from lower prices, fresh produce of good quality. That is a fundamental aspect of food sovereignty.

With hope we embrace in Freegan Kolektiva the new initiative that started in Athens. ‘Allilegion’ (‘Αλληλέγγυον’ which means solidarist or joint) is a volunteer exchange market which is located in a nodal spot in Athens. The objective of this fresh initiative is to supply consumers with food without any profit at the retail point while supporting directly the participating farmers. Without wasting time, this is a direct response to the problems mentioned above that has an extraordinary significance in times of economic crisis and social deterioration.

The address is Agias Sofias 50 and Didimotichou just behind the ‘Larissis’ railway station in the Kolonos area of Athens. Consumers and farmers who want to participate can call at 0030-6975646728 (Giannis Galanopoulos, organizer).

At this point we would like to present the aims of the ‘Allilegion’ initiative:

  1. In the dark ages we experience and the darker that are coming, nobody will be hungry.
  2. Greek agricultural products to reach the consumer at farm gate prices.
  3. To respond directly to the heinous speculations of TransNational Corporations and the junk they are feeding us.
  4. The urban consumers to meet the simple farmers at last.
  5. To stop the profiteers’ way who are waiting for Greece to fall under the threat of ‘nutritional nightmare’ (food crisis).

Articles from http://freegankolektiva.wordpress.com

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