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“Volunteering and Social Street Work, an experience worth living”

I have to say that, nearly five months after my initial contact with the cause of Emfasis and the methodology of Social Street Work, this entire journey has won me over entirely, first as a human being and secondly as a psychologist.

The presence of all of these social scientists around the city is exactly what is missing in a society that, on a daily basis, demotes both physically or psychologically, financially or socially, those groups of citizens who are more vulnerable than others.

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Street Work is a collective activity and our working field is neighborhoods, parks, alleys, sidewalks, street shelters, stalls under bridges and anywhere a person feels that he/she can survive. Even behind seemingly normal homes, there are people who need our counseling and our expertise in order to receive the care they merit, especially the mentally challenged or the chronically unemployed.

Emfasis acts collectively and we function in a way that complements each other. The knowledge and skills enjoyed by each team member, serves our common goal, namely solidarity towards our fellow citizens who are helpless or simply do not know where to turn to.

Part of our work is to map each area, by visiting and recording the needs, in order to enable us to define the most efficient and effective ways we can help. Our focus is on the human being, not the symptom. We gradually recognize the long-term course and we approach people belonging to groups of illegal substances users, homeless, children at risk, mentally ill without proper care, social outcasts. Information, networking, education, support, respect are key-words for our work in the streets. We also always look out for what is not visible, but rather hidden directly or indirectly…so that we can intervene…

The locations we visit are many. These include Daphne (base of our Emfasis home, where we get to meet, we plan our course of action, we relax, exchange views,motivate and inspire one another). At the Pedio Tou Areos, where we of course anticipate to come across users and various forms of trafficking.

We also have come across friendly teenagers, attempting their first steps of delinquent behaviour, other groups of people living within the park, treating the park as if it were their home environment!

We visited Kipseli and Patissia where we met and talked to families living in highly neglected conditions, where floor tiling does not exist but rather walk on plain soil. We walked dozens of times down town Athens, identifying many cases of users, homeless, underage working children.

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In each and every case we offer assistance either by providing information about structures where they can address their needs, or by liaising directly with such structures to arrange for them to be accommodated either for shelter or for other conditions.

We offered prescribed medication, psychological counselling, information, clothes or in some cases we simply show them that we do understand them, we offer a friendly face to talk to and always a smile. Especially in December and January we visited distant area by van with the Street Work teams. Perama, Kokkinos Milos, Rendi, Agioi Anargyroi in Piraeus were some of these areas.

It would be impossible to describe in just a few lines my experience with the Emfasis team, especially during the last two months. We have worked daily, including public holidays, in so many areas, we talked to dozens of people around us, we heard their requests, we tried to offer relief in any way possible and at the same time we collected information enabling us to work more effectively in the future.

We always act discretely, with equality and parity when approaching people. We also strive to be able to recognize from the start the suitability and eligibility of each case based on as many facts provided. We do not offer miracles and we do not heal. We support, inform and approach each person. For this reason we also look out for each other, remaining highly alert.

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Our constant presence in the areas of action is a testament to our commitment. We adapt according  to the space where we operate, with transparency, discipline and specific targets. Before the start of  each street work shift, we are being reminded that irrespective of their condition, all of these people  are facing problems and for a number of reasons, they will never reach to an existing social  entity to ask for help. Our team offers them a sort of a “social service desk” in the Streets.

Sometimes I realize that the complexity of our work out in the field lies in its simplicity; with sole  tools our eyes and our awareness, we are trying to understand a world that surrounds us, but  somehow is not visible to anyone.

This is Emfasis … A dynamic, scientific, united and above all human team. This team will leverage its experience in the near future, in order for permanent social structures to be created for the relief and assistance of vulnerable fellow people.

Joanna Tsoukalas

Volunteer

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EMFASIS IS ... SYNERGIES