STEPHEN Metcalfe, Member of Parliament for South Basildon & East Thurrock, has joined over 30 participants from the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) in Athens to work with two charities that provide much needed support to Greek homeless and excluded citizens.
The financial crisis of nearly a decade ago hit the Greek economy hard, and the repercussions are seen in the high levels of socially and financially excluded people, with unemployment at around 25% and limited basic state provisions.
The country’s geographic location has also placed it at the frontline of the migrant crisis, with economic migrants and refugees arriving daily from Africa and the Middle East.
The ACRE delegation, led by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan and other MEPs, MPs and activists from 14 countries, are working with the independent Praksis organisation to re-equip and redecorate two service centres much relied upon by those struggling – a homeless day centre and a polyclinic with medical and dental facilities. Mere streets away from Athens’ striking tourist attractions, a different side of the city emerges as the number of people coming to these centres for help has greatly increased and shows no sign of waning.
The ACRE delegation in Greece will construct an artificial pitch in front of the iconic Zappeion ceremonial hall in central Athens and play a charity football game with players from Athenian homeless teams – whose motto is “we play to become better people, not necessarily better footballers.”
At the charity football event, to be held on the morning of Saturday 12 November, ACRE will also distribute 14 full football kits for all age groups that were kindly donated to Project Maja by London’s Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
The project is the latest instalment of Project Maja – the ACRE’s social action work programme – which has run projects in Turkey, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Croatia, and Sicily, and aims to help policy makers experience and participate directly in the social problems they are often called upon to discuss and plan interventions for in parliaments.
Commenting on the project, Mr Metcalfe said:
“I am pleased to be part of the ACRE delegation to Greece which aims to support some of the most vulnerable families and homeless people in Athens.
“We are joining forces with Praksis, an independent organisation that helps deliver humanitarian support and medical aid to vulnerable people, and also the Shedia charity and its Kick Out Poverty campaign, which uses the incentive of playing in football tournaments as a way to support homeless Greeks to socialise, exercise, and re-integrate in civil society.
“Shedia is a great social enterprise initiative modelled on The Big Issue in the UK. It offers honest work to those most in need of a hand-up and is the only street newspaper delivered in Athens and Thessaloniki. Shedia and the other programmes we are working with are designed to help those who want to re-enter the world of work do so whilst building crucial experience and self-confidence.”
Mr Metcalfe will return to the UK later this week and on Sunday will pay his respects at the annual service of Remembrance in Stanford-le-Hope.