PRESS RELEASE | The Athens Solidarity Center’s Final Event for the completion of the EEA Grants funding period

In a warm atmosphere, an event full of stories, emotions, and numbers was held on Thursday, June 29th at the organization’s Athens Solidarity Center (ASC), in the presence of the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis. The work carried out at the Center by the side of the most vulnerable was presented through human stories and data, covering the period August 2022 – May 2023. The event was attended by representatives of the civil society, the local authorities and other stakeholders.

The above-mentioned period is the third grant by the EEA Grants funding mechanism for the Athens Solidarity Center, which ends in July 2023. It is worth emphasizing that the Centre started its operation in 2014 due to the EEA Grants funding that saw and recognized in it the potential and the need to implement such a project.

Since 2014, the Athens Solidarity Centre has been continuously on the side of the most vulnerable, providing free social welfare services -legal, social, accounting, psychological and employability- to all those in need without discrimination. In the reporting period, a total of 1,965 people benefited from 7,336 individual sessions.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of SolidarityNow, Stelios Zavvos, welcomed the audience and underlined: “The work we are implementing at the Athens Solidarity Center is not only reflected in numbers. It is part of the overall humanitarian work of the organization, which through its actions supports our most vulnerable fellow human beings to live a life with dignity and prospects. We are proud of the 350,000 people we have helped in total to date. This would not have been possible without our partnerships, such as the one with the Municipality of Athens, which has always been at our side since the beginning of the Center’s operation. Today, I would particularly like to thank the representatives of the EEA Grants and the donor countries as well as the Mayor of Athens, Kostas Bakoyannis, for their valuable support of our work. I wish the same for the years to come.”

Mr. Christian Halvorsen, Deputy Head of Mission, Norwegian Embassy in Athens, said: “The Center is a shining example of solidarity in action. I was here in 2013 when the space was still being formed before it started operating, and I am sure that people who have passed through here have countless stories to tell about how their lives have been changed. I am particularly pleased that Norway through the EEA Grants has been one of the first donors/supporters of the Center.”

On behalf of the EEA Grants Fund Operator, Epaminondas Farmakis, Director of the EEA Grants’ “Local Development and Poverty Reduction” and “Asylum and Migration” Programs in Greece, said: “I would like to congratulate the team of professionals at the Athens Solidarity Centre for ten years of successful operation and for the imprint of their work on the lives of so many people. The support of the Center is a very important program of the EEA Grants and is based on the effective collaboration among all the parties involved.”

The support of the Municipality of Athens and its close cooperation with a civil society organization was praised in a statement by the Mayor of Athens, Mr. Kostas Bakoyannis, who said: “The Municipality of Athens embraced the initiative for the creation of Solidarity Centers through a difficult time for the country and for our city from the very beginning; and continues to do so steadily during the 10 years of SolidarityNow’s operation. Our goal is to remain a supporter of such civil society initiatives. I would like to congratulate SolidarityNow for the excellent collaboration over the years and for the great work it is implementing through the Athens Solidarity Centre, which I hope to continue with the same strength and energy in the future.”

Highlights of the period August 2022-May 2023 follow briefly:

– Expansion of the social groups receiving support by the Center (ex-prisoners, people over 50, LGBTQI+, Roma, undocumented people).

– Immediate response to the needs of the displaced from Ukraine, with support in the registration process at the asylum service, labor market access seminars and psychological support.

– 27% of the beneficiaries of the Employability Service entered the labor market.

– 25% of the Center’s beneficiaries are single-parent families.

– 169 people gained access to social benefits.

For the end, the event’s participants had the chance to watch short videos of beneficiaries narrating their stories and how they were supported by the Center’s services and people. Among them was Idryssa, from Côte d’Ivoire, one of the victims of torture who benefits from the Center’s services in many ways. Today, with the coordinated efforts of the Center and other organizations, Idryssa got international protection, and works legally in Greece, being a great example of strength and inclusion.

* Since August 2022, the Athens Solidarity Center is financed by EEA Grants, with ΣΟΛ Crowe and HumanRights360 as the fund operator.

**The Center is also supported by the Municipality of Athens.