Ilargi The Other Human crew, Monastoraki Square, Athens July 2015
I owe you all a major update on the AE for Athens Fund, and perhaps an apology for this taking so long. It’s been over a week since I made the latest donation, and I even left Greece 6 days ago already. As I noted before, I will have to go back, and take Nicole with me, and I’m planning to do that soon, in August. It’s just that because of my mother’s condition, here in Holland, it’s sort of in limbo when exactly that’s going to happen.
I have gotten a much better overview of where to donate your money during my three week stay, so hopefully we can move a bit faster next time around. I guess it’s always a toss up between doing these things fast and doing them properly. I would always pick the latter, giving away your money is a large responsibility. It simply takes time.
I have donated €3000 so far, €1000 each to two Solidarity clinics, and $1000 to Constantinos (Kostas) Polychronopoulos, who I wrote about in AE for Athens Fund 2nd Donation: The Man Who Cooks In The Street. I went back to see Kostas and gave him another €500. Can’t think of anyone less selfish and more deserving of support.
Here’s Kostas’ crew in Monastiraki square with the food to be handed out. He didn’t arrive till later, he had a meeting at the Health Ministry. Probably a good thing, they recognize what he does. Still, as I said before, he wants no government or NGO involvement.
Most of these people are homeless, the others are supporters in one way or another. They’re all remarkably nice and gentle. They’re an amazing crew that Kostas gathered around him, and gave a sense of belonging.
That same day, I donated €1000 to a second clinic, much more on that below. A third clinic didn’t happen because of a general strike and riots. But they’re the first when I return. We now also have a more or less comprehensive list of solidarity clinics, that’ll make things easier. Just need to find the most needy ones; some are already well funded.
At the second clinic, in Peristeri, Dimitri and I were told, by everyone in one voice, when we asked where the greatest needs were: insulin. For some reason the clinic has a hard time even importing it, and there are many diabetics. We’re trying to find out why what the issue is, and if perhaps we can bring some from Holland, either in our bags or by FedEx. Finding those things out, too, takes time.
But still … all in all, I managed to donate “only” €3000 so far. I would have signed up for that in a heartbeat a month ago, but not anymore. Because the total for the AE for Athens Fund today stands at an bewildering $11,681.95(!!!). That’s American dollars. I converted what came in in euros and Canadian dollars on the day itself, so with the rising USD we actually won a bit more there lately.
If we put the euro at $1.11 (it’s even less now), I still have over €7000 left to donate. And no, that doesn’t mean I think you should stop donating. Quite the contrary. I did mention before that all the money will be donated, right? That our flights and expenses will not come out of the Fund. Just wanted to make that clear again.
Even if the government seems to have surrendered for now to the Troika, and there’s money being exchanged from the ECB, through Athens, and then straight back to the ECB and IMF, the Greek people won’t see a penny of it.
The lack of solidarity that the rest of Europe have shown with Greece is quite stunning, really. That the big shots have no perception of compassion is one thing, it’s what selects them to be big shots, but that the people themselves don’t either, is quite another.
The solidarity clinics and “men who cook in the streets” will be needed in Greece for a long time, no matter what happens. A society gutted to the bone over a 5-year period takes a long time to rebuild, and that’s presuming any such efforts will be made to begin with. Raising VAT on basic necessities paints a dark future.
And we may not be able to solve the problem, but we can certainly alleviate some of it. All it takes is to go to the right places. And that’s what I intend to continue doing.
We have a bunch of clinics lined up, and I want to do something for children in need, and for the refugee problem. Even if the latter is fast becoming such an overwhelming issue it will take billions of euros, not the thousands you guys entrusted me with.
When I look at that, at how thousands of people are being left stranded daily somewhere in bankrupt Greece, I’m thinking there’s little doubt that Europe as a whole is financially bankrupt, but I care much less about that than that it’s morally bankrupt. Of which the condition of the Greek people themselves is evidence enough by itself, of course.
Please make sure donations keep coming in. Here’s how, through a quote from a number of weeks ago:
I don’t think I can go to Athens and not try to see if there’s something I can do to alleviate some of the misery in my own small way. But since that way would be extremely small given where the Automatic Earth’s financial situation and funding stand at the moment, I thought of something.
I’m hereby setting up an “Automatic Earth for Athens” fund (big word), and I’m asking you, our readership, to donate to that fund. I will make sure the revenues will go to clinics and food banks, to the worthiest causes I can find. To not mix up donations for Athens with those for the Automatic Earth, which are also badly needed, I suggest I take any donation that ends with 99 cents, as in $25.99, and single those out for Greece. Does that sound reasonable? Let me know if it doesn’t, please.
If you prefer to donate Bitcoin, our address is: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.
On to the second clinic that received some of your generosity. My friend, photographer and interpreter Dimitri said when we were on our way there on July 14 that these people have no idea what’s happening to them; they are busy all the time with what cannot be done, with trying to provide people with even the most basic care, and here comes this stranger who says he’ll give them €1000, just like that. A surefire recipe to make a body feel small.
By the way, Dimitri is also the author of a great line on the Europe/Greece financial conundrum:
Since I can’t pay on my bankrupt loans and you won’t renegotiate them with me, how’s about paying yourself back with a bridge loan to me so you won’t have to write off your debt, which I’ll likewise not pay back, to give you guys some more breathing room until you realize that I already told you I can’t pay you back.
A keeper for sure. On to Peristeri:
Some data I picked up: Peristeri is an Athens district with a population of 400,000 people. Most state health clinics have been shut. There were 150 doctors in the district before, there are now only 50. A population of 400,000 people with no access to gynaecologists or dermatologists, and just two cardiologists. Thousands of doctors have left the country. Those that have stayed, including senior hospital doctors, earn about €12,000 a year.
Social Solidarity Clinic of Peristeri
Xrisolora 1 & Ag, Pavlou, Athens, Peristeri 12132
The clinic also functions as a pharmacy, they feed dozens of homeless people, and are involved in action against water privatization.
Dimitri and I talked to Nikos, the only person who spoke reasonable English, and Dr. Apostolos Gianopoulos, a retired physician who donates a lot of his time to the clinic. What an amazing bunch of people. Can you imagine this happening where you live?
Here’s the wonderfully chaotic drug cabinet:
How the drugs typically arrive, after volunteers go out and collect them:
The obligatory group portrait with yours truly:
And since I don’t seem to be able to find back the receipt they wrote, after looking for well over an hour yesterday (it’ll turn up), the actual handing over of the €1000:
A French film crew recently made a documentary about the clinic, and there is a video on YouTube. Unfortunately, it’s not in English, but you get a picture of the entire operation. They have all of 55 square meters at their disposal.
The blurb from the video:
For Two Years, Volunteers Run A Social Clinic/Pharmacy
Today, more and more Greeks find themselves without health insurance. All over the country, clinics and pharmacies are organizing solidarity to support them. Reportage in one of them, in Athenian suburbs.
The small waiting room of the clinic at Peristeri is never empty in the late morning. In this suburb of Athens, a three-room apartment serves as both pharmacy and medical office. People come here to get medicines and also see a doctor, make an appointment to the dentist or even just talk. All this without paying anything.
Between calls, Georgette and Martina, the two volunteers in secretariat today, find a moment to discuss with each patient. “Now we know everyone,” says the latter. They, along with Dr. Gianopoulos and 50 volunteers and doctors, launched the initiative of a solidarity clinic and pharmacy two years ago. “With the crisis, more and more people have lost their social security for their families she explains. You really had to do something. ”
More than 3,000 patients
More than 3,000 patients walked through its doors. It has integrated the network of fifty solidarity clinics/pharmacies that cover the country. On the desk lies a secretariat agenda with impressive dimensions. The Bible testifies to the collective’s success and especially the willingness of the team to ensure regular monitoring of patients. “We receive many diabetics, people with asthma or heart,” says Dr. Apostolos Gianopoulos. Everyone can re-establish the treatment which had given up due to the loss of social security rights. “I remember a diabetic man who had lost two toes because it no longer followed his treatment,” says Martina.
“People in need were ashamed to ask for help”
More than the distribution of medicines, volunteers seek to create a space for solidarity and confidence. “At the beginning of the crisis, people in need were ashamed to ask for help, says Matina. They felt guilty not being able to support their families. But progressively, we have managed to establish a relationship of trust and anticipate their needs. ” In addition to the distribution of medicines, the medical center has also set up a food collection.
Coming to seek her package for the week, Anastasia demonstrates its involvement in the clinic work. After a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry, the single mother found herself unemployed. Today, she lives with her mother, who receives no pension, her 13 year old son and his brother, who earns only €400 per month. “I come here to get some medicine for my mom who is sick, she says. In exchange, I participate in various collections of food and medicine. ”
“The superstar here is the psychiatrist”
Like everyone who comes here, Anastasia will not depart only with a package but also with a smile. For Matina, it is also the moral support that people come up there. “We have a pediatrician, general practitioner, a dentist and several other doctors , but the superstar here is the psychiatrist,” she says. At the social solidarity clinic of Peristeri volunteers claim a twofold objective: to provide primary healthcare, but also push people to make their voices heard on social issues.
I think the message is clear: the recipients of your donations are more than deserving, they do things, they show a wealth of solidarity, that in the rich nations of the world would be hard to imagine, and they merit our support in making that possible.
Our support in alleviating misery, pain, hunger, and also, crazy as it is, in saving people from dying from afflictions that are perfectly treatable, and that are treated all over Europe as a routine part of the healthcare system. That hardly anyone even gives a second thought in Germany, Holland, Britain, France. How can Brussels take that away from a nation? A nation that is highly educated to boot, that has plenty of doctors, of scientists?
In Greece, these treatments are no longer routine. People there have found another, much darker, routine. And we can make a difference. Not everywhere, but in plenty places, in plenty ways, and for a whole lot of people.