I’ve often been asked recently what foreigners can do to help Greece and the Greek people. Below are some of the things I say. Of course, this is just one person’s opinion, and I can’t guarantee that the advice is sound, but it reflects my experience of living in Greece and talking to Greek people.
Book a holiday in Greece. The economic crisis hasn’t dimmed Greece’s sun, or made its seas less blue or its beaches less relaxing. The landscape is as lovely as ever, the history as fascinating, and the people, though tried and hard-pressed, as friendly. The Greek tourist industry needs visitors, and the chances are you’ll receive an even warmer welcome than usual. So visit, have a great time — and be generous to your hosts.
For good independent travel advice, I recommend Matt Barrett’s Greece Travel Guide, which contains a wealth of information and links to other sites.
Buy Greek products
Many thousands of Greek businesses have closed since the crisis started, and the situation is getting worse. According to a recent survey, around 180,000 small businesses say they may have to close in 2012, with the loss of at least 240,000 jobs. Most of these will be family businesses, supporting an extended family and helping compensate for the limitations of the Greek social security system. At the moment, all Greek businesses are operating on the margins of bankruptcy, and your custom may help a business, and family, survive until better times eventually come. So please buy Greek products, sourced locally.
An enjoyable way of supporting Greece is by indulging in Greek food and wine. If you are new to Greek cuisine, two good places to start are Matt Barrett’s Greek Food Guide and About.com’s section on Greek food. About.com also have information on buying Greek foods and ingredients online.
Get informed about Greece
You may want to get involved in political campaigns to help Greece, as many people around the world are doing. This isn’t a political website, and I’m not going to offer advice on this. But if you want to get involved, I urge you first to get informed. Much popular reporting of the crisis (from all political angles) has been caricatured and simplistic. The situation is complex and nuanced, and the causes of the crisis have deep historical roots. Read up on the history of modern Greece, and follow the Greek press as well as quality foreign reporting. There is an online English-language version of the Greek broadsheet I Kathimerini (‘The Daily’), and the English-language Greek newspaper Athens News also has an online edition. There are also many blogs devoted to analysis and comment on the crisis, from various political perspectives. Without endorsing any of their views, I recommend: Nick Malkoutzis’s Inside Greece, Yanis Varoufakis’s blog, Nikos Tsafos’s Greek Default Watch and the group blog lolgreece.
Support charities working in Greece
Charities are no substitute for an efficient and well-funded health and social security system, but Greece does not currently have such a system, and charities are doing important work in helping the most vulnerable in Greek society, including migrants, refugees, and, increasingly, Greek citizens who have fallen through the flimsy social security net. Here are some of them:
Doctors of the World (Médecins du Monde) Greece. Doctors of the World is a non-governmental organisation providing humanitarian medical aid in Greece and abroad. In Greece, it runs a shelter for asylum-seekers and refugees in downtown Athens, another shelter for women victims of sex trafficking and a free walk-in medical centre. The group accepts cash donations as well as donations of clothes, toiletries, cutlery, and dry foods.
Médecins Sans Frontières Greece. The Greek arm of the international humanitarian aid organisation that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger.
Klimaka. A Greek NGO specializing in projects concerning mental health, the development of human potential and the fight against social exclusion of underpriviledged groups of people. Klimaka’s English language webpage.
SOS Children in Greece The Greek branch of SOS Children, the world’s largest charity for orphan and abandoned children. It provides homes and a family environment for abandoned, orphaned, and destitute children of all nationalities.
The Smile of the Child A charity working for children’s rights and welfare.
Tutorpool. Huge cutbacks are being made to the Greek state education system, and many parents cannot afford to pay for private lessons to supplement it. Tutorpool is a voluntary educational initiative which provides free extra tutoring to children who need it. The group needs volunteers, and if you are living in Greece you might consider offering your services as a tutor of English or other subjects.
Help re-brand Greece
At a recent meeting of the Hellenic Management Association, the brand strategist Peter Economdies made a speech on re-branding Greece, in which he argued for the importance of imagination and self-belief in overcoming the current crisis. In order to build a better future, he argued, Greeks need to create a new, dynamic image of themselves and their country, drawing on the rich resources available. His speech inspired many people, and Peter has since created the Ginetai Workshop (‘Ginetai’ means ‘It can be done’), an online community where designers, marketers, and advisors working to revitalize Greece’s image can connect and collaborate. If you would like to contribute to the effort, this is an excellent place to start and make contacts.
Notice and disclaimer. The advice and information on this page is offered in good faith, but the site editor accepts no responsibility for its accuracy and no liability for the consequences of any actions undertaken as a result of it. The editor has no affiliations with any of the websites, companies, or organizations listed, and he has received no payment or other inducement for listing them. Readers who wish to propose corrections or additions to this page are invited to contact the site editor
Image credits (from top):
Greece (Beach of Kefalonia, Acropolis of Athens, Shipwreck on Zakynthos Beach, St. Andrews in Patra). Collage by Adam Balch – Amplified-Photography. All Photos by: Adam – AdamosMaximus Photography. Licensed under Creative Commons. Source.
Greek Feta Cheese. Photo by Click-track Heart. Licensed under Creative Commons. Source.
Today’s News. Photo by Roger Salz. Licensed under Creative Commons. Source.
Untitled [Man sleeping rough in Syntagma, Athens]. Photo by Protonotarios. Licensed under Creative Commons. Source.
Ginetai Workshop logo. Designed by Peter Economides. Source.