Easing pain across the Greek community

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram The season for giving will once again see generous volunteers working hard in the lead-up to Christmas to provide invaluable food parcels and toys for those in need across the community.The Greek Welfare Centre alone will be catering to some 300 people this month, while the Orthodox Christian Mission of St John the Merciful will be visiting between 450 to 500 recipients across the Melbourne metropolitan area.“The majority are older people, followed by single people, both young and old, and Greek Australians who arrived in the last few years from Greece due to the financial crisis,” explains Edmondos Kaderoglou, office manager at the Greek Welfare Centre.While Joanna Diavatis of St John the Merciful admits the numbers have risen over the mission’s 35 years – “when we started we had about 50 recipients, now we are going to hundreds” – she says the Greek community shouldn’t be surprised by the numbers of people struggling financially.“Economics across the community are very tough. Everything has increased; they pay more for water, more for electricity, more for everything. If they happen to live alone, the pension is not always enough. Life is very tough for some people,” reflects Ms Diavatis.Many of the elderly the volunteer has encountered over the years are isolated. She says an all-too-common scenario is that their children move out, get married and relocate to a distant suburb, visiting their widowed parent once a month.“An individual may have memories of happy family days some years ago and all of a sudden they find themselves sick, isolated, neglected, forgotten, etc. So when we send our van around with the food parcels many of them comment ‘oh, you thought of us’, ‘you came, you brought us something. Thank you so much’. They cry, they hug them – it’s a big emotional affair as well, it’s not just that they are receiving the food,” says Ms Diavatis.“You make the other person feel that they’re not somebody who has been forgotten about, or that they are in waiting to die so the children can come and take the house.”Both organisations run food appeals twice a year, for Easter and Christmas when funds tend to run extra low for most families and individuals.Recognised across the Greek community from their work over the decades, in the lead up to the holidays most people in need know to call the organisations directly to list their address, while others call to inform them of family, friends or acquaintances in need.Having worked at the Greek Welfare Centre for 17 years, once again this year Mr Kaderoglou has been delighted by the generosity of the community.“What I would like to focus on are the donations we receive, because this appeal has been a success through the donations of the parishioners. They bring non-perishable food to the churches and the food is collected and ends up here at the Greek Welfare Centre; we put them in boxes and with the help of volunteers we drop them off to their homes,” he says.“The Greek community is very generous; we collect a lot of food and usually cover our needs to assist the people who requested the hampers. We’ve never had any issues with this.”While Ms Diavatis has also been exposed to the good will of the community, she has also been exposed to the other side of the coin, when it comes to rallying the support of businesses to donate.“For the first time we have Marathon Foods on board. But generally it’s actually a battle to get the companies in the Greek community to support; they’re not really geared to think that way. They should be made aware that this is a need, this is happening.”“We must think of those who have different life challenges and we must be there. By going to somebody’s home and giving them a food parcel at the same time he feels somebody thought of me, I’m still useful, I’m not a reject of the community, I’m not somebody forgotten,” she says, re-emphasising that it’s not just about providing financial support, but reaching out emotionally too. The lack of empathy that exists in certain sectors of the community, Ms Diavatis attributes to the misconception that because the Greek community is long-established in Australia that everyone is well-off financially.“They say ‘oh the Greek community is affluent’, ‘the Greek community is well-established’, ‘the Greek community has its buildings, its organisations, its institutions, it’s doing well, nobody is suffering, nobody is in pain’. “We need to stop being disillusioned about things and become more realistic; there is a lot of pain that we need to uncover and do something about.”Both organisations are currently doing the rounds and handing out food parcels to those in need. If you require assistance, or know someone who could benefit from these services, contact the Christian Mission of St Johns the Merciful on (03) 5428 9410 or (03) 9399 3377, or call the Greek Welfare Centre on (03) 9486 6588.last_img read more