Lost in the terrible torrent of bad news that pours out of Greece like grief at a funeral was a little item not long ago that more half of students in deprived areas are still going hungry.
They were being fed only because of the grace of the boundless generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation – which does more good in the name of a deceased benefactor than most of the living billionaires in Greece combined.
Along with the likes of the Onassis Foundation and the Hellenic Initiative and a handful of other heartfelt charities for Greece, these groups are doing more than the gaggle of the country’s wealthy elite, multi-millionaires, billionaires, celebrities and shipping tycoons who beat their breasts like jingoists but won’t pay taxes or put up a nickel to feed the poor, house the homeless, or build a municipal swimming pool and put their names on it so poor kids in 100-degree Greek heat can have somewhere to swim, barred from public beaches with 10-euro fees controlled by land thieves.
With workers, pensioners and the poor bearing the brunt of harsh austerity measures imposed by successive heartless governments of first the PASOK Anti-Capitalists and after it joined the New Democracy Capitalists of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in a coalition, it’s been left up to the likes of the good people at the foundations and NGO’s and the Greek Orthodox Church, which feeds thousands of people a day, to show the meaning of philanthropy in the country that named the practice it no longer practices.
It’s these good people and a few other major institutions of giving who help people get fed, get medicine, have shelter and otherwise survive.
The Archbishopric of Athens used to distribute around 3,500 portions of food every day to its parishes but that’s up to 10,000 people a day.
“Around 1,400 people used to eat there every day before the crisis, mostly migrants. Now less than half are foreigners and the number of portions served has dropped to 1,000,” Father Vassileios Havatzas, General Director of the Archbishopric’s welfare fund told the newspaper Kathimerini.
Politicians, tax cheats, and most of the rich who’d drink wine out of the skulls of the poor before giving them a drachma – make that a euro – have largely escaped the pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that created record unemployment, deep poverty and remaining hunger.
Meanwhile, charities insured that many people who wouldn’t have a lamb or Easter dinner got one, just as they did at Christmas and just as they do every day. Doctors Without Borders and other volunteer medical groups operate free clinics that used to see mostly immigrants but over the past five years have seen more people who need help because a Socialist country won’t provide them free health insurance.
While Greece leads the European Union in corruption, it’s record for philanthropy is just as shameful, a disgrace beyond words made worse by a government which does almost nothing and punished workers, pensioners and the poor with big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings while letting politicians and the rich skate.
The World Giving Index, prepared by the British-based Charities Aid Foundation, ranked Greece 120th in the world among 135 countries charted for 2014. Get this: that’s a jump as the year before it was dead last – last – among those countries surveyed.
That’s while the likes of the super-rich and shipping tycoons were dining in style, uncaring and unseeing the suffering not too far from their fancy villas and hidden swimming pools and secret foreign bank accounts.
There’s no requirement for them to give anything of course, unless you think they’re human and have a heart, but if they did they wouldn’t be rich because heartlessness is almost required to reach that state. These people don’t just step over the poor, they step on them, thinking they’re doormats and shoe-cleaners for the privileged.
Even the Hellenic Red Cross couldn’t do as much because the 180,000 euros it takes to fund the Christmas and Easter meals was set aside for single-parent families living in poverty.
That covers the needs of only 300 at-risk families receiving supermarket coupons from the organization every month to cover their shopping needs when the government and people who can afford to be generous aren’t. That’s philoxenia for you right there, another Greek word being dragged through the mud in Greece.
“The needs in a family are constant. People aren’t hungry just four days a year,” Dora Papadopoulou, a regional Social Welfare Manager for the Red Cross told Kathimerini ahead of the holidays.
Samaras, in a shameless bid to buy votes, doled out a few hundred euros last year in so-called “social dividends,” that were really just a transparent attempt to prop up his coalition government.
Last September, Elpis Philanthropy Advisors, noting the record unemployment wrought by poverty and the lack of caring or giving, properly said that, “The need for effective philanthropy in Greece has never been greater.”
The call will go unheeded because there’s so little caring that counts or philanthropy in Greece that the precious word should be struck from the language because those of means don’t know what Homer meant when he said, “The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others.”