Pervolarides of Thessaloniki and Ethos humanitarian association are regenerating community relations and public spaces through social cooperation and community solidarity actions.
Based on food and the relations that form throughout the food cycle (from seeding, cultivation, crop collection, processing and cooking, to reclaiming and re-processing food that would be wasted), we run a social kitchen, plant urban gardens and nurture abandoned public spaces together with people from diverse local and refugee communities, who join into groups with common concerns and interests in solidarity actions and creative social activities.
Community cooking is our basis for nourishing social inclusion and cooperation. Every week we cook and prepare hot food that we distribute to homeless and people in need. Both locals and refugees come together to meet their neighbours, to cook and learn new recipes and to share their love for food and for helping people who are in need.
We are reclaiming food, by collecting products that are expiring and dry food in faulty packing that markets can’t sell as well as fruits, vegetables and fish that otherwise would be dumped. By forming a “social cooperative chain” every week these products are gathered, processed, re-packed into food packs or cooked into hot meals that are distributed to homeless and people in need.
We organise solidarity olive collection each November and work together with the bee populations to produce organic honey. We grow urban gardens and share ecological methods of food cultivation and sustainable food processing, through training activities and workshops that offer vocational skills and create employment possibilities.
Through our collective activities we directly support people in need to become self-sufficient and to overcome discrimination and social isolation. In parallel, we facilitate inclusion and the regeneration of community relations by mobilising locals and refugees together into social solidarity actions and joined activities that plant the seeds for social innovation, cross-cultural synergies and greater community integration.
Our activities envision not just the environmental regeneration of the soil and public space of our neighbourhoods but also the regeneration of human relations and social philanthropy. We create democratic hubs where people come together without hierarchical structures and cultural limitations, to express freely and equally in solidarity with their neighbours and to collectively offer their help to people in need. Through these hubs, we generate social mobility and foster equality and philanthropic innovation within society, while nourishing social synergies and cooperation between neighbours with diverse socio-cultural background.
Our activities, their impact and our community
Community cooking: Every Friday, a group of locals and refugees come together and cook around 100 portions of hot food for homeless and people in need. In 2018, we prepared approx. 4000 hot meals, while in 2019 we estimate that another 4000 hot meals have been cooked and distributed, in addition to food packs that count for 1000 meals. In every community cooking activity around 10 people are involved (pick-up of donated food, cooking, packing, distribution of hot meals). For 2020 our goal is to prepare and distribute 6000 hot meals plus food packs that will count for 2000 meals. This will expand our community cooking activity to 2 days per week with 20 people participating on a weekly basis.
Reclaiming food: For our cooking ingredients and for sauce, marmalade and pickles processing we rely on donations from markets, shops and from our volunteer network. In 2018, we received and processed an estimated quantity of 10 tonnes of food that would go wasted and roughly the same amount of food has been reclaimed during 2019. We would like this social cooperative chain to expand further and make full use of the growing network of “food waste” donations, so by the end of 2020 our goal is to double to 20 tonnes the amount of reclaimed food that we will collect and use for cooking, processing and distributions.
Since 2018 we have been facilitating several cleaning events and garbage removal in our nearby forest. We also organized 10 community feasts, where locals and refugees cooked and ate together, planted seeds, created an urban garden and trained 10 people in the art of beekeeping and the construction of beehives. In 2019, we facilitated and supported 10 workshops and neighbourhood events and we wish to support even more community initiatives turn into collective actions. For 2020 we would like to facilitate 15 workshops on beekeeping, urban gardening, food processing and to train at least 30 people in any of these.
In 2019, we also began to organise the collection of clothes and baby items for very poor families living in refugee camps and to respond to emergency needs of the wider community. We wish to continue mobilising the community in helping people with urgent needs and to facilitate further connections between everyone who wants to offer their free time and skills in the community. For 2020 we would like to support at least 5 new community initiatives to grow into major public campaigns and to become collective actions based on the needs of the community – that is, any requests on needs that derive from the community will be evaluated and supported in relation to community engagement and mobilization.
Since December 2016, Pervolarides have been running a social space and community meeting place in the area of Toumpa, which is also the base for our community gatherings and our food processing activities. Over the years we are seeing our community expanding and becoming stronger and more diverse. We are witnessing social synergies and community relationships growing and developing further connections and cooperation with initiatives across Greece such as Oikopolis, Bioscoop, Geitonia Svolou/Parko Tsepis, Domatio tis Geitonias, Naomi, Arogi Thessalonikis, Filoxenia, Centre of natural farming in Edessa, Perichoresis, Alkyone day centre, Omnes, Red Cross MFC, Communitism Sociocultural Centre, Open Cultural Centre and the network for volunteer coordination in northern Greece. Currently we are also part of the URBACT working group (which is led by the municipality of Thessaloniki and financed by the European Union), that targets the dissemination of good practices around urban food cultivation and the creation and maintenance of urban gardening projects. In public media, we have been part of 2 documentary films for “Antidrastirio” in ET3 national TV, several articles of “ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ”, “Makedonia‘’ and “Parallaxi” and also interviewed for the German media JungeWelt and “Neos Kosmos’’ newspaper from Melbourne.
Our community is a point of reference for social innovation and cooperation, a space where abilities, ideas and wasted resources unite and form dynamic social actions and strong supportive relations; a ground that cultivates community integration and empowers people to come together in solidarity and to co-create resilient and self-reliant communities where divisions and inequalities are healed through collective actions. We nurture a democratic society where people join around their needs, skills and resources and collectively mobilise to overcome exclusion and discrimination and to co-create a dignified and peaceful living environment for themselves and their neighbours.