But let us take things from the beginning and how we first met with Mr. “Dimitris”.
On Wednesday afternoons, our volunteer Social Street Workers and social services teams of Emfasis Foundation are present at ‘SynAthina’, a space opposite the Varvakios central market. During these hours, we offer various support services to the homeless, unemployed and in general to all of those below the poverty line. We inform them and educate them regarding social benefits offered by different social entities as well as how to go about bureaucratic procedures. Furthermore, we offer legal and employment advisory, as well as applications for the Emfasis Health cards.
One of these Wednesdays, we met 69 years old Mr. “Dimitris”. For the last few years, he has been facing a number of serious personal and financial problems that eventually drove him to live in a “street condition”.
The mishaps in his life were endless. Mr. “Dimitris” led a decent life in Kastoria, the city he originally comes from. He ran a small business in order to provide the necessary for his family.
Unfortunately, though, that was going to change.
The economic crisis that affected so many Greek households, knocked on his door too… His small business began gradually to fade away; the clients became sparse whilst his tax debts increased by the minute, making it impossible for him to meet the payment installments.
And as if this wasn’t enough, he suffers the ultimate blow… He loses his wife in a car accident…
He wanted to leave, disappear and leave behind his painful memories… He decides to travel to Athens. The capital proved to be a lot harsher than he had anticipated. After spending time after time as a guest in houses of friends, deprived of financial resources, he started losing hope for an independent life with dignity… But this started to change when he met an old family friend, who wanted to help him out of his situation.
Thanks to his friend’s financial support, he manages to rent a small room, with only a few basic furniture and a stove to cook. Despite having a roof above his head, it was still not enough to enable him to stand on his own feet.
The tax dues were a constant threat to Mr. “Dimitris” and eventually this constant tension and anxiety became the cause for a number of serious health problems. Once more, he feels excluded, marginalized and helpless.
It is at that point that we got to know him, confiding in us his life story of poverty, loneliness, despair…
Our team of specialists, psychologists and social workers detected the sheer sincerity in him and vowed to try and offer him the support and encouragement he needed in order to give the ultimate fight for a second chance in his life.
We met regularly with him for over 3 months, and we made a number of discoveries. First, we found out he was entitled to receive a small pension. Then, we swiftly moved on with applying for a national health services booklet, so that all his medical care would be under social welfare.
Then, it was time to deal with is biggest nightmare, the tax debts settlement. With our persistence and Mr. “Dimitris” daily efforts, we reached an agreement with the bank and he will start settling in installments.
Just as Christmas arrived, he of course felt that despite his life being on some kind of right track, he was feeling extremely lonely, with no one to share the festive atmosphere. We could not allow this to happen, hence thanks to our help, Mr. “Dimitris” joined few family members in the city of Ioannina in Northern Greece, surrounded by human warmth after torturous years filled with pain and loss!
Mr. “Dimitris” sets a real life example for all of those who feel they have lost everything. This is why we will continue to stand beside him, cause he is very special to us and has taught us in the most humble way that we should never stop dreaming of a better chance in life.
So, in a sentence, we will try and capture Mr. “Dimitris'” new motto in life: “He lives trying hard all the time, because the center of his life became an endless effort to live … “
Ioanna Panagopoulou & Panayiota Tsaroucha