Maria Vasiliou Monogiou, representative of the People’s Solidarity Network, says that the Network wants to expand its action beyond the supply of basic necessities.
She states that theater groups already offer places in theater performances to people who have socio-economic difficulties.
She also states that without the voluntary work of the youth, the Network would not be able to function.
She believes that the state should, in addition to adopting a more pro-people policy, simplify the procedures of state services to make them more accessible.
Regarding the action of the People’s Solidarity Network, we talked with Maria Vasiliou Monogiou, representative of the Network, in an interview she gave to Voice International.
Question: What is Solidarity Network’s purpose?
Maria: The Network has been operating for more than 10 years and emerged due to the difficult economic conditions. Of course, it initially started with a multitude of offers to the world, i.e. it did not only include the packages given during the holidays. It also included other services, such as the services of lawyers and doctors. With the General Healthcare System, it was no longer necessary, there was no such need.
The conditions did not improve, so that we could not deal with the food packages and deal with something else. We continue these actions every Christmas and Easter, that is, collecting food and giving it to families who apply, after we publish a notice that we accept applications from families who are struggling financially. An assessment is made with socio-economic criteria and the packages are prepared. If we stay in the technical part, it is a process to secure offers from producers, supermarkets and from various companies, also to secure food from people who come and bring us. Everyone helps as they can. There are other ways of collecting money, namely at funerals and weddings, where instead of a gift some people prefer to give to the Solidarity Network and this money is used specifically for this purpose.
From November we took over the new directorship of the People’s Network, continuing from the previous ones who ran the Network and did a very good job. Now we have different thoughts. We are at the stage where we want to draw up an Action Plan to cover other needs, beyond nutrition and other basic needs. We have already spoken with some theater groups, e.g. Antilogos, who told us that he would be able to grant us some seats in each show for these people. It is not only the food but also the culture and education of this kind. And that’s how we loved the theater, with the PEO vouchers our parents received.
Question: In order to set up and operate the Network I imagine it requires additional volunteer work. How has the participation of the world been over the years? Does the will to help still exist?
Maria: There is a network of volunteers that helps both to receive the food from the producers and the companies, but also to set up the packages. Like bees they worked. A lot of work was in the last 2-3 days, but for a month they have been providing food, everyone what they could. Until the last moment, difficulties and needs arose that had to be met. There is a willingness to offer and a lot of will, especially from young people, who are more spontaneous, purer. Without them nothing could be done.
Question: From the people you help themselves, what feedback do you get about the problems they face?
Maria: The problem has not been eliminated; it exists. Even in the area where I work, it was difficult to convince my colleagues, when we started collecting food, that there are families in need. Their reaction was “But does this thing exist? Is there a need for food collection today? Are there people who are hungry?’ Slowly, slowly, people were convinced, they saw it and everyone helped in their own way. For the people who received the packages, because I was present at both the evaluation and the delivery of the food, I must say that for none of them the food was unnecessary. It was clear that they are in need and it is a big problem in our society. It’s a shame we’re still struggling for the basic needs.
Question: What do you think needs to be done to have something more institutionalized by the state to help the situation?
Maria: Apart from the general policies that should eliminate the issue from its root, I think that more practical, even if it is impossible to happen immediately, would be for the services of the state to be more flexible and more immediate in their response. To be able to call for example and inform them that a fellow citizen has financial difficulties and that they can open a Fund and support financially. To be able to deal with situations immediately. This thing does not exist and if it does it is very isolated. There had to be this possibility for immediate needs, otherwise people will starve until the state reacts.