This is a brief description of our group ‘’Pervolarides’’ (Gardeners) of Thessaloniki, its activities and challenges.
Pervolarides is a non-profit group of people who believe in self-organisation and mobilisation through cooperation. The group exists in various forms since 4 years, but it was not until December of 2016 that we managed to rent a basement in Thessaloniki, with the generous financial aid of German solidarity groups.
The group operates in 2 pillars:
The 1st one is the solidarity node
The 2nd pillar is a variety of the social-solidarity economy projects
The solidarity node:
We support 10-20 families per month (depending on the available resources) with vegetables, fruits and dry food (rice, beans, lentils, flour, pasta, sugar, bulgur, milk etc) plus tomato sauce and marmalade produced by our members and friends. We used to provide also fresh fish from the fish market on a monthly basis, but the team does not have a car anymore so we postponed this activity. The idea behind the solidarity node is that people who receive help also assist the Pervolarides group or the local community in return.
The social-solidarity projects:
- Beekeeping cooperative: 3 Greeks, 1 refugee from Iran, plus some people (around 10) that came and contributed to the project. We teach ourselves the art of beekeeping by exchanging knowledge with other beekeepers, while taking care of the environment and having fun!
- Solidarity olive collection: That takes place every November-December. The idea is simple: Employed and unemployed citizens collaborate together, collect olives from abandoned or ‘’donated’’ olive trees and produce the olive oil to cover their needs.
- Tomato sauce, pickles and marmalade production, cooking for people in need: During summer of 2017, a group of refugees joined us by producing of tomato sauce, pickles and marmalade for self-consumption and donation to the Pervolarides group. Around 15 people, locals and refugees were involved in this project. After some time (November of 2017) we had a negative reaction on behalf of some Greek neighbours: They reacted on the fact that refugees were using a gas stove for the production, and also because…they were refugees! They called the police and generally there was a sense of insecurity. So, we were obliged to postpone the tomato sauce / marmalade production and cooking of hot meals, preparing occasionally only pickles that do not require gas or electric stove. We intend to start the tomato sauce production for self-sufficiency and social cohesion purposes in the open space since the weather is very good. So that we will bring locals and refugees together.
We are connected to a local group of citizens that make regular cleaning activities in the nearby forest. Our intention is to create small, easy-to-access public spaces in the area where the local community will participate in activities decided by the community itself. In that abandoned public space we have already started an urban gardening and compost making project. Our intention is to create social awareness for the local community concerning local and global matters. Pervolarides act as project facilitator, by providing the necessary tools, know how, meeting place (basement) and people.
The money that we raised in order to support the monthly expenses (Rent: 100 €, electricity/water bills, transportation costs, purchase of various materials: 150 € per month) already run out since February 2018. If it was not for the ‘’Respect for Greece’’, we would be obliged to close down the initiative.
The fact that some Greeks are hostile towards refugees poses danger and limitations to the whole project. We need to find another, more isolated and safe place. Unfortunately, although there is a big crisis in Greece, rental costs are too high even for basements and we were unable to find a donation for a free space.
The goal is to stabilize current activities (beekeeping, tomato sauce and marmalade preparation, food donation, cooking hot meals for those in need) in a safe environment, by engaging the local and the refugee community. So that more people will be mobilised and the help they get will be multiplied.
Current situation is challenging (to say the least), but we need to keep going. What is needed is our continuous action and presentation of a different way of living. Solidarity-collaboration-social awareness-change in our minds and hearts.
On behalf of Pervolarides,