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Greece: more turn to charity as austerity bites

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Greece: more turn to charity as austerity bites
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As the economic crisis in Greece leads to more austerity measures, its once proud citizens now find themselves turning to soup kitchens in increasing numbers.

Before 2010, places like the Sitisis Foundation in Athens mainly tended to immigrants and the homeless. Sitisis means “to feed” in the Greek language. Now people who have fallen victim to the crisis have no choice but to come to the centre.

As the camera appeared, one volunteer in the kitchen implored us to “Film, Film, so that people abroad see us, see how desperate we are. Oh my poor country,” she said.

The centre is jointly run by the municipality of Athens and the orthodox church of Greece. It helps the unemployed, homeless, pensioners and single parent families.

Sitisis Foundation President Giorgos Apostolopoulos feared the centre would not be able to cope in the future: “We hope we can continue providing food aid, but we’re afraid that the number of people will become overwhelming,” he said.

According to the man who runs the centre, between October 2010 and October 2011, the number of people needing food and housing rose by 26 per cent.

Even the IMF – an institution not known for its social sensitivity – acknowledges that Greece has done a lot in terms of austerity over the past two years, and that most of the burden lies on the shoulders of the people.

The latest package of austerity cuts approved by the Greek government will see public sector jobs slashed and cuts in pensions and the minimum wage.

With international lenders wanting yet more savings, the soup kitchens could well become even busier.