#OURHEROES: Evangelia Tsilimigkra_In the midst of this Crisis, Work Opportunities lie ahead

Many things have changed during this crisis. All the important activities in the field of labor market and education were “frozen” or suspended. An immediate priority in the Employability Service at the SolidarityNow’s Athens Solidarity Center, was the adjustment to the new reality as to continue being on the side of our beneficiaries; and most importantly, respond effectively to their most urgent needs.

During this period, the biggest challenge for me is to continue to provide my services and help people who are having difficulties, while at the same time having to deal with my own challenges. The abrupt adjustment to a new reality, with all the psychological consequences that this may bring along, is something that concerns the people we support and with whom I communicate daily; but it concerns me as well.

In these new conditions, while we were trying to do our best, a new liaison project has emerged between the Employability Service and a large human resources company, which is active in the field of tourism. So, we started to gradually send to the company the resumes of 160 beneficiaries of SolidarityNow and of 9 more NGOs – that is, people who had previously visited our employability counselors seeking for a job. The company, in turn, invites beneficiaries to telephone/or online interviews.

As I took this new initiative, I realized that this businesslike process was developed on very “human terms”. During my communication with the Advisors, there were many moments when we shared our worries, our fears and our anxiety about the most vulnerable people. We also shared our optimism, our gratitude for the existence of this initiative and also, our estimates for the future opening of the tourism market, and the new opportunities that could be created, such as the benefits of teleworking.

The beneficiaries gladly agreed to be interviewed and, in fact, were relieved to find out that the labor market had not “died”. I first contacted them to let them know about their interviews. At the same time, however, I encouraged them and discussed how they experience all this. They wanted me to support and strengthen them – something that helped me as well. I felt their relief in the tone of their voice. It’s unbelievable that after these communications, which involve a lot of personal effort, my fatigue started to disappear.

During this period, I was particularly moved by a beneficiary from Greece. I will call her Maria. Maria is over 45, has no relatives, is unemployed and finds it very difficult to find a job. I did some phone sessions with her so we could prepare her resume and send it to potential employers. The first time we spoke on the phone, she was crying because of the frustration she felt about the “collapse”, as she believed, of the job market, but also about the fact that she was unable to meet even her basic needs. It took an effort on my part to make her understand that her sadness came from her thoughts and beliefs about the job market but also about herself, which were wrong.

We sent many applications together. I referred her and prepared her for a telephone interview with a company of our network, with very good results. I encouraged her to claim and eventually receive, the support allowance for long-term unemployment – she was not aware that she entitled. After many phone calls, sessions, it is now clear that Maria is another person. Not only in terms of her mood, but also in terms of attitude towards life. And that’s one of the things that makes me proud of my job: I can help improve the lives of the people and present them new opportunities. Because opportunities exist, even in the midst of this crisis.

I am Evangelia Tsilimigkra and I am Employability Advisor. I am working at the Employability Service of SolidarityNow’s Athens Solidarity Center. The Athens Solidarity Center is financed by EEA and Norway Grants, with HumanRights360 and CROWE Greece as the fund operator. The Center is also supported by the Municipality of Athens.