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VOLUNTEERS’ EXPERIENCE FROM EMFASIS WINTER CAMPAIGN “MERRY STREETMAS”

Solonas Malkas, Photographer & Social Street Worker1417559515

“It’s the 31st of December and I hear it is going to be freezing this evening…

“We are going to be on the streets tonight” I’m thinking… Just as anticipated, Tassos called to confirm, telling me: “we will go out tomorrow as well and for as long as is needed”. I rushed to reassure him that I was on board…

In freezing conditions, the plan is as follows: we first have to check if the people living on the streets are ok and if they need anything – we then offer them hot tea and snacks as well as sleeping bags/with special mats, so that they don’t lie directly on the surface, all part of what we call “survival kits”. We go with the Emfasis’ Van, part of the mobile support unit, carrying also clothes and other crucial items, such as shoes, jackets and other basic necessities someone in their condition might need.

It’s New Year’s Eve… everyone is at home with his or her families or loved ones, looking forward to 2015. The last thing a homeless person would expect is that on such a festive day, someone was going to be there for him/her. It’s not hard to imagine their look… mirroring their feelings in the realization that there is someone out there for them, offering a simple human touch. It is hard to find the right words to describe this…

A stronger feeling than love is the love that you can share with others. Better than being happy is to make others happy …I think there is no better way than that to start the new year.

I am a volunteer photographer for Emfasis, but that does not stop me from helping the people in need… With the right training, I finally made it!”

Katerina Velliou, Attorney at LawKaterina

“Long before the Emfasis’ winter project “Merry STREETmas – Christmas on the Streets” started happening, but also throughout its duration, the whole office support team was working feverishly to ensure we could meet instantly and effectively all of the campaign requirements.

Besides planning general public awareness days to inform them about our project, we coordinated the partnerships with other organizations and social structures, all along ensuring that we could raise enough donations to purchase the necessary supplies and equipment.

Our efforts were crowned with success. The public’s response was touching. I was surprised by how strong the feelings of solidarity and offering still are amongst us… I learned how a small step by each one of us could make all the difference…”

ΟρέστηςOrestis Makris, Social Street Worker

“Getting ready for the first night shift, due to the bad weather conditions. Special socks for the cold weather, a fleece, a jacket and a warm scarf. All that only for the few minutes you will step out of the van and go to the people that are going to spend the entire night in these conditions; as a matter of fact, this is like every other night for them.

The shift starts just before midnight.

The cold is intense; Athens is gradually getting empty, transforming itself into a different city.

A cup of hot tea, a snack and a sleeping bag, our tools for the night for those who need it. People you have not seen before in the street; you may simply wonder where they may be during the day, you almost never see them… Few words: “good evening”, “thank you” and “wishing you the best”. But the look in their eyes is a lot warmer than usual. Simply because you are there with them, in this freezing night, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Then you start dealing with the usual contradictory emotions: “Joy” because you are out in the street, but at the same time anger and shame. Because you know that these people are not outcasts that live in the dark that we can just pass by without looking. These are our brothers, our friends, even ourselves.

I return home; I take a hot bath, I try to pull myself together but my thoughts are so intense and conflicting. Only one thing is for certain. I will go out again the next day. I have to go.”

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Volunteered hours and counting

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