One thing has become crystal clear over the past number of weeks in Europe, and that is how easily bureaucratic, political, and economic decisions made at the highest levels of power in the European Union can have traumatic and life-threatening effects on powerless people. Perhaps this is something we should have always known, but the truth of it has been exposed to us in a way that has left the overwhelming majority of Europeans shocked and frightened. A week has now passed in which Greeks have been subjected to banking restrictions, small businesses are closing down, and more people are finding themselves in extreme poverty. Capital controls have curtailed donations to homeless shelters and foodbanks, and the food has run out; leaving hundreds of thousands without any food. Clinics and hospitals too, unable to purchase medicines and medical supplies, have been completely depleted.
We all feel sympathetic, but there are many of us who can empathise with the hardships the Greek people are suffering. I for one know what it is like to live on boiled rice and brown sauce for weeks on end, and to be at the mercy of a selfish and unscrupulous landlord in a substandard house. Many of us know the fear and uncertainty of being socially and economically vulnerable. Yet we don’t have to be powerless, and we do not have to be helpless witnesses to this impending catastrophe. We can do something about it.
On Friday I made the decision not to sit idly by as my Greek sisters and brothers faced a situation that will, if unchecked, cost lives. I got in touch with a number of political activists, church and community leaders, the Greek Embassy in Dublin, and a group of friends to see if we could raise money (a lot of money) to stock up clinics and foodbanks in Greece. Yesterday afternoon a journalist from the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ was interviewing me by telephone – and I realised that it was getting real. I believe that it can all be made real. Why don’t we all start fundraising for Greece?
Earlier I was on the phone with Fr. Antonios Voutsinos, the director of Caritas Athens, and he knows how much can be done with our money. There are other brilliant organisations too, organisations like One Greece that are making sure that people get fed and that the elderly and the sick are getting enough fuel. We can raise the money, we have great places to send it, and we can make a huge difference. The problem is that right now it is an idea – only an idea, but we can make it real. All that we need are people to get involved and spread the word. If you are distressed with what is happening and if you have some spare time and energy then why not contact me and we can build a team and come up with a plan? Whoever you are, whatever your skills, you are valuable. All that we need is people and more ideas. We have to act fast! You can reach me in the comments, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at UrFhasaidh. I will respond.