Open letter about the Greek Recovery and Resilience Plan: opacity and lack of participation

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Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal participates in the initiative COMMON GROUND connecting for social change, together with a number of civil society’sorganisations 

Over the past few weeks, we have been busy organizing an initiative to express civil society’s collective dismay and concern about being left out of the design and implementation of Greece’s COVID-19 recovery plan. 

Greece will receive €32 billion from the EU in a combination of grants and loans. We must ensure that this substantial amount of money is not wasted on ineffective or exclusive policies, but rather goes toward meeting the needs of all people living in Greece, especially those in greatest need of support. In other words, spending must prioritize green and socially just initiatives.

We’ve heard lots of rhetoric from the EU and the Greek government about how these funds will grow the economy, improve society, fight climate change, and improve resilience so we can weather the next storm, whether it comes in the form of another pandemic or something else. But how will this money actually be spent? Will it simply pay lip service to these noble goals or will it really transform society’s underlying problems and structural flaws that have led us into the current mess? 

In this spirit, we and Greenpeace have submitted an open letter to Deputy Finance Minister Skylakakis, co-signed by 70+ of our civil society peers, including many of you reading this. Our demands are clear: don’t leave us out of the process of designing the recovery initiatives because we, the people on the ground working with and representing some of society’s most vulnerable communities, understand Greece’s needs and we have thoughtful, detailed proposals on how we can meet them. Our input will not only strengthen the plan’s proposals but will also generate public buy-in, which is crucial to the plan’s success. We also insist on full transparency and accountability.

With the EU deadline looming, we understood that time was running out for the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to benefit from civil society’s valuable insights. Accordingly, last week on March 23rd, we and Greenpeace submitted an open letter to Deputy Finance Minister Mr. Skylakakis demanding meaningful opportunities to contribute to the recovery plan.

We have still not received a response. And yet, a few days later, the Greek cabinet approved a final version of the plan, announced it publically, and is expected to submit it to parliament this week before sending it to Brussels for approval. This leaves no time for us or Greek MPs to give feedback on the plan’s content and strategic directions (it’s hefty, at an estimated 2,000 pages!) But we are not giving up! There is still time to act.

Opne letter to Depute Finance Minister Mr Skylakakis and Prime Minister Mr Mitsotakis 

To Deputy Minister of Finance, Theodoros Skylakakis

CC: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

       Minister of Finance, Christos Staikouras

       The European Commission Recovery and Resilience Task Force (RECOVER)

Athens, Tuesday 23rd March 2021

Open letter about the Greek Recovery and Resilience Plan: opacity and lack of participation

Dear Mr. Minister,

The signatory Civil Society Organisations would like to express our concerns about the opacity in the design and adoption of the Greek Recovery and Resilience Plan. The EU recovery plan is a huge opportunity for member states to address the economic and social consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and to create greener and fairer societies that are resilient to future challenges. At this critical time when the pandemic is affecting millions of lives and especially the most vulnerable populations, it is very important that such an opportunity is not missed.

The absence of broad social participation in the formulation of the Recovery and Resilience Plan worries us intensely. We recall that under Article 18.4 (q) of the Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation, member states must include “a summary of the consultation process carried out with local and regional authorities, social partners, civil society organisations, youth organisations and other relevant stakeholders for the preparation and implementation of the plan and information on how the input of stakeholders is reflected in the plan.”

So far however, planning procedures for the Recovery and Resilience Plan have starkly contrasted the spirit of this regulation. More specifically:

  1. The virtual public consultation on the “Strategic Directions of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan” posted by the Ministry of Finance on 25 November 2020 consisted only of a general text with unclear terms and lacked a roadmap for implementation. As such, it is impossible for interested parties to thoroughly evaluate the proposal since the complete draft submitted by Greece to the European Commission has not been made publicly available. 
  2. Greece sent the draft Recovery and Resilience Plan to the European Commission before the end of the public consultation period, thus it excluded the feedback submitted by civil society during the consultation process. 
  3. The public consultation report has not been published and we have not received any information on if and how the proposals we submitted were taken into account in revising the plan, when the revisions will be complete, or what the next steps will be. 
  4. We remain in the dark regarding procedures for submitting the final draft to the EU as well as whether stakeholders will be given the opportunity to provide feedback on the final text, which will outline how resources will be allocated. We are concerned that submitting the final plan for public consultation only at the end of the revision process will exclude Greek society from substantially contributing to the plan’s development. 

For all the above reasons, we respectfully insist on full transparency regarding the development of sustainable recovery policies, both for the sake of monitoring and accountability and in order to keep the citizenry informed, which are essential for their successful implementation.

Mr. Minister, the recent crises (economic, refugee, pandemic) have deepened social inequalities in our country and require us to make radical changes to mitigate their effects on society. Greece should prioritise social inclusion by targeting typically overlooked populations such as impoverished households, the homeless, migrants, and refugees. The country also needs to invest in stronger social and labour policies and in public health with an emphasis on prevention, education and culture. The digital transition is an essential tool for achieving these goals. At the same time, measures must be taken to protect the environment and reduce the effects of climate change in order to prevent future crises and ensure a swift transition to a green and just economy.  

To do this, the Greek government must:

  • Invite broader swaths of society, and in particular civil society with relevant knowledge and experience, to submit proposals that will be integrated into the “Strategic Directions of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan”
  • Prepare a detailed action plan outlining proposed programmes, objectives, beneficiaries and expected impact, which includes valid environmental, social and economic indicators to assess the projects’ progress based on the stated priorities. All programmes and objectives must meet the following criteria: 

-Ensure a sustainable future 

-Contribute to social justice 

-Safeguard our fundamental rights

  • Ensure a meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including civil society organisations, in the design, implementation and monitoring of the Recovery and Resilience Plan. This process must take place before the government submits its plan at the end of April 2021
  • Improve clarity and transparency around the Recovery and Resilience Plan. This includes publicising available funding instruments and outlining priorities at both the EU and national levels.  Regular information exchange sessions with stakeholders and citizen information campaigns are also necessary, among other things.

We consider the above measures necessary not only for the proper use of available public resources but also in order to garner citizen support for the initiative. Finally, we emphasise that for the Recovery and Resilience Plan to have a positive effect, it should not be seen as a stand-alone initiative. Rather, it should constitute part of a horizontal and coordinated effort to strengthen public policies that, combined with other initiatives and funding opportunities, will lead us to a better and more sustainable future. Policies and programmes that do not align with the plan but lead us astray from strategic objectives agreed upon by the EU, must be ruled out or redesigned in a manner that supports a green and fair recovery.

We remain at your disposal for any discussion and contribution to the formulation of a national recovery plan that reflects Greece’s real needs for a sustainable and socially just future.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organisations

  1. ActionAid Hellas
  2. Action for Wildlife
  3. ANTIGONE – Information and Documentation Centre on Racism, Ecology, Peace and Non Violence
  4. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation
  5. Arion – Cetacean Rescue and Rehabilitation Research Center
  6. ARSIS – Association for the Social Support Youth
  7. Association of Social Responsibility for Children and Youth -Skep 
  8. Attica Bike Community – Podilattiki Koinotita
  9. Better Days Greece
  10. Boroume
  11. Callisto
  12. Centre for Research on Women’s Issues “Diotima”
  13. Changemakers Lab
  14. Common Ground Greece
  15. Doctors of the World Greece 
  16. DRC Greece
  17. ECHO100PLUS
  18. Ecocity
  19. Ecological Movement of Drama
  20. Ecological Movement of Patras
  21. Ecological Movement of Thessaloniki
  22. Ecological Recycling Society
  23. ELIX
  24. Emfasis Foundation
  25. Ethelon
  26. European Expression 
  27. Fenix – Humanitarian Legal Aid
  28. Food On 
  29. Friends of Monte
  30. Generation 2.0 for Rights, Equality and Diversity
  31. GIVMED 
  32. Greek Association of People Living with HIV “Positive Voice”
  33. Greek Council for Refugees (GCR)
  34. Greek Forum of Migrants
  35. Greek Forum of Refugees
  36. Greek Housing Network
  37. Greenpeace Greece
  38. Hellenic Liver Patient Association “Prometheus”
  39. HIAS
  40. HIGGS
  41. HumanRights360
  42. International Rescue Committee (IRC)
  43. Irida Women’s Center
  44. iSEA
  45. Ithaca
  46. Ithaca Laundry
  47. Lesvos Solidarity 
  48. MEDASSET
  49. Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos – MedINA
  50. Melissa Network
  51. METAdrasi – Action for Migration and Development
  52. Mobile Info Team (MIT)
  53. Nature Friends Greece
  54. Network for Children’s Rights
  55. NPCP “Me Alla Matia”
  56. Odyssea
  57. Organization Earth
  58. Organization Tulipa Gulimi
  59. Pan-hellenic Network of Ecological Organizations
  60. People Behind
  61. Praksis
  62. Promitheas  
  63. Refugee Rights Europe
  64. Samos Volunteers
  65. Schedia Street Magazine
  66. Social Action and Innovation Center
  67. Society for the Care of Minors and Youth
  68. SolidarityNow
  69. SOS Children’s Villages
  70. Steps
  71. Symbiosis-School of Political Studies in Greece, affiliated to the Council of Europe Network of Schools
  72. Syn-eirmos NGO of Social Solidarity
  73. Terre des hommes Hellas
  74. Thalassa of Solidarity
  75. The Bee Camp
  76. The Good House
  77. The Green Tank
  78. The HOME Project
  79. Union for the Protection of the Environment of the Corinthian-Patra Gulf – O Nireas
  80. Velos Youth
  81. We are Solomon
  82. Wind of Renewal
  83. WWF Greece

CALL TO ACTION!

Follow our suggestions, or invent your own action:

  • Inform parliamentarians (all of them or selected ones) that civil society was excluded from all stages of developing the National Recovery Plan and that this is not okay.  Call them, email them, use social media, and even fax them!
  • Email Deputy Finance Minister Skylakakis demanding full transparency and to be involved in the subsequent phases of the recovery plan.
  • Tell Prime Minister Mitsotakis that exclusion is not an option! Explain that a green and just recovery requires transparency and inclusive participation.
  • Encourage your peers, colleagues, donors, friends, partners, members, etc. to do the same in their individual capacities. We must all be well-informed, active citizens and make clear to our government that we are following developments closely and will hold them accountable.
Whatever action you chose to take, please do it quickly as time is of the essence! And please keep us informed of your efforts and any responses you receive.
Read the press release, including the list of co-signatories, and read the full text of our open letter in Greek or English.
In Solidarity,
The Common Ground Team

WELCOMMON HOSTEL, an EXTRAORDINARY Sustainable Hostel

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The WELCOMMON HOSTEL is a seven-floor facility building in the center of Athens that offers accommodation for people of all ages and places, a hostel for sustainable tourism, a proposal for accommodation of social, cultural and environmental active groups and persons during their stay in Athens. Our moto is “sleep for dreaming, be active for cultural, social and environmental /climate issues”. The WELCOMMON HOSTEL is run by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal, established in 2014 for the promotion of social and green innovation, sustainable tourism, environmental and climate potection, energy transition, social inclusion and intercultural dialogue.

The WELCOMMON Hostel is something more than just a nice hostel with social impact. It is also a place for social gathering and experiment, a center for innovation and art, as well as a centre for social and green innovation and economy, for social and job integration for Greek locals, migrants and refugees. 

Five floors of the seven storey building can provide accommodation to up to 150 people. Our guests have a variety of options for accommodation in the WELCOMMON HOSTEL: a four or eight-bed dormitory, a five-bed room, a four-bed room, a three-bed roomtwin or double bed room or a single. Regardless of what they select, all rooms are comfortableclean and attractive; a lot has been artistically designed with reused items, always with the comfort of our guests in mind.

Two floors of the Welcommon Hostel are dedicated to our social, cultural and green activities, providing opportunities to guests, international volunteers and refugees to collaborate and learn together.

Special place, people, values

Our guests are all different travellers (tourists, volunteers, erasmus students, nomads-workers, newcomers, refugees). Our vision is to bring close people from all over the world without discrimination, to enable them to communicate, to be entertained and to explore the creative side of Athens. Our guests have the opportunity to participate directly and indirectly in green, social, humanitarian and inclusive – intercultural projects, events and activities. They can also contribute with their ideas and experience. WELCOMMON Hostel means welcome in common – together.

In the WELCOMMON Hostel we can introduce our guests to the world of Greece’s cultural, environmental and social organizations as well as of social economy. We can connect them with the creative side of the city and social organisations, we can inform them about the situation of social economy, climate movement or  refugees in our country. And, they can play music in our bar.

We are a bicycle-friendly hostel and our guests can leave their bicycle …at the reception during their stay or they can rent a bicycle for a city tour. All the hostel is accessible to disable persons but there is also a special designed room for 3-4 disable persons.

The hostel highlights the positive impact that sustainable tourism – and cooperatives and social enterprises – have on communities, revitalizing neighborhoods, making bridges between communities, social groups, newcomers and local people.

Supporting the local economy, contributing to environmental sustainability

We contributed to the revitalization of the neighborhood during the financial crisis period (2016-2021) and we continue to support the local economy with social and green procurement, reduction of single use plastics and with a zero-waste strategy. We have recently published the results of our green renovation that had a major impact on hostel’s performance. We managed not only to reduce the building’s electrical consumption and use renewable energy, but also to minimize greenhouse gas emissions produced by fossil fuels. 

We apply a waste minimizing system, especially reducing one-way plastics, increasing seperation at source and recycling, while the whole WELCOMMON HOSTEL was based on a rational upcycling and re-use, which is actually an example of how we can combine reuse with high quality aesthetic effect and functionality. We have signed and are implementatimg the INTERNATIONAL TOURISM PLASTIC PLEDGE 

A hostel with social impact

Since its launch, we have successfully provided accommodation for more than 1500 kids, teens and adults and 330 volunteers, who have participated in intercultural courses and activities for refugees and migrants. We offer classes (e.g. for language, painting, puppet show, music etc) with the support of volunteers to refugees, migrants, local people, tourists; we work for the empowerment and training of our guests and design interactive workshops for the professional training and promotion of the abilities and qualifications of refugees, especially the young persons, along with Greek nationals, in order to be able to find their way in our societies for the benefit of our societies.

We are very proud that our social cooperative enterprise ANEMOS ANANEOSIS / WIND OF RENEWAL has received 5 European-level distinctions for our innovation and contribution to the social economy. It is a great honor for Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal to have been awarded the European Citizen’s Prize on 9th of October 2018, in the European Parliament. HOSTEL WORLD named our WELCOMMON HOSTEL as one of the Hostel Heroes, “a hostel that in the midst of the crisis is supporting the community coming together… building a better world!”

Lastly, we are thrilled to announce that our WELCOMMON HOSTEL was distinguished as the best social / intercultural action of the year in Greece during covid-19; the competition was organized by the national network of “Anna Lindh Foundation“, the euro-med network for the intercultural dialogue. As of June 2020, even the sustainable tourism collapsed and at the same time thousands of recognized refugees and asylum seekers in Greece were left homeless in the midst of a global pandemic, therefore we decided to host a number of refugees, the most vulnerable between them, such as survivors of sexual violence, torture and ill treatment, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, pregnants and mothers with new borned babies. The vision for the Welcommon Hostel, was to be a sustainable solution to host all the travellers. If you’ve ever come into the Welcommon you probably felt that it is a special place, a place where you can meet people, learn from them… it is a community. Special place, people, values.

Nowadays, our world is transforming at a staggering pace, impacting the space, physical and man-made, we live and work, for better and at times for worse. Athens, in particular, where our hostel is located, is a city in crisis but at the same time one can see a real change if one decides to be part of the social and ecological change. We have decided to be part of this social and green transition.

We want to be financially, socially and environmental sustainable

The first step is crucial: we want to be financially and socially sustainable. Sustainability has to do also with the economic aspect of an enterprise, company or household. As a cooperative we don’t share profits, if there is we invest it in new jobs, social, climate and green activities. The WELCOMMON HOSTEL aims to cover with the generated income, the operation of the hostel, the creation of new jobs in innovation, climate projects and the cost of services offered to a number of refugees aiming at their housing, social inclusion,  and non-formal education. Everyday, we make an effort to improve our services,  make our hostel more convenient, friendly and live, more artistic and social, inspiring at the same time our staff, volunteers, guests and visitors to get involved and adopt a more responsible and sustainable way of traveling and living.

The day after

The next step is also very important to us; we are committed to support the transition to an energy-efficient and green economy, in creating a new center for eco-friendly projects and practices; we also aim to contribute to reducing the energy poverty of households, offering them know-how and support so that they can exit a difficult situation through social empowerment and energy efficiency.

    Sustainable Practices and impacts                  

In the Welcommon Hostel there is an installation of 20 solar panels for the production of hot water for shower and domestic use. It is a fact that the production of hot water is a major source of energy-consumption and economic duty of accommodation buildings and the ways of producing it most of the time is related to use of fossil fuels, a practice that is environmentally damaging. This is why, faithful to our purpose of creating a sustainable and environmental fair society, we chose an alternative source of energy to adapt the need of hot water to a carbon-free practice. (see infographic)

– Another measure implemented in the hostel is the use of LED lighting lamps, which might seem like a minimum expense for a household, but for a 7-story building with more than 10 rooms/story, plus the corridors, staircases, storage rooms etc. with  lighting needs ended up to be a significant investment. However the result for this investment was also significant and it is well portrayed in the electric bills afterwards. (see infographic)

The WELCOMMON Hostel have been designed as an open center for social inclusion, green transition and green – social jobs for young people. The aim is to create new employment opportunities for everyone in areas such as sustainable tourism, up-cycling,  green / cyclic economy, energy efficiency and others.

A large number of projects have been and still are realized regarding green transition and the Welcommon Hostel provides the premises and work-space to take on these initiatives.

– Moreover Welcommon Hostel is a physical space that welcomes every social, cultural and environmental active group to do their meetings, lectures, presentations or conferences to contribute actively to the dissemination of eco-friendly ideas.

Another action is the effort we undertook in 2017-2020 to promote climate action and energy efficiency in schools, provide a basic training  of  educators as well as pupils, in order to raise awareness about the climate challenge not only inside the strict boundaries of the hostel and its visitors but also in the wider society. 

Realised projects :

a) EUKI- CLIMATE SCHOOLS Be.Ath, a European Climate Initiative (EUKI ) program 2017-2020

b)  EUKI-YESClima: Young energy experts working for climate-friendly schools and energy efficiency“, a European Climate Initiative (EUKI) program 2018-2020.

c) EUKI-ZEWklima: ZEWKlima – Future Opportunities in Energy Transition in Southern Europe

and many events, seminars and workshops on energy transition, climate protection, energy cooperatives.

 

 

 

 

Civil society demands that Greece’s Recovery Plan prioritises making society greener and fairer

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70 civil society organisations co-signed an open letter to the Deputy Minister of Finance, Theodoros Skylakakis, initiated by Common Ground and Greenpeace, outlining their priorities for a green and just recovery and seeking more public involvement in developing policies

ATHENS, 23 March 2021 – Greece, like all other member states, has until the end of April to submit a plan to the EU outlining how it will spend the €32 billion it will receive in recovery funds to overcome the effects of the pandemic. Civil society recognises this as an unprecedented opportunity for a truly just, inclusive, and sustainable transition and seeks transparency in the planning process.

So far, civil society has been largely left out of the process and kept in the dark, despite hopes that it would be inclusive and transparent. “It is vital to have full transparency for the sake of monitoring and accountability and in order to keep the citizenry informed, which is essential for the recovery” says Common Ground spokesperson, Dominika Spyratou.

Given that recent crises (economic, refugee reception, pandemic) have deepened social inequalities in Greece, the signatories contend that recovery policies should target typically overlooked populations such as impoverished households, the homeless, migrants, and refugees. At the same time, they call for policies that prioritise protecting the environment and reducing the effects of climate change in order to ensure a sustainable future and stave off future disasters and displacement.

“On the one hand, we face a pandemic, the collapse of biodiversity, the climate crisis, and increasing social inequalities. On the other hand, we have an opportunity to use the Recovery Fund to protect our health, biodiversity, the planet and to promote social justice not just to pre- pandemic levels, but to make our society stronger, healthier, and more cohesive than ever.

Threat and opportunity,” says Nikos Charalambidis, Director of Greenpeace Greece. Common Ground and the letter’s co-signers urge the Greek government to:

● Invite the public, and in particular civil society, to submit their proposals for spending the recovery funds before the government submits its final plan in April and ensure their meaningful participation in the plan’s design, implementation and monitoring.

● Prepare a detailed action plan detailing proposed programmes, objectives, beneficiaries and expected impact, which includes valid environmental, social and economic indicators.
● Improve clarity and transparency around the process, including regular information exchange sessions with stakeholders and public awareness campaigns.

Why it matters: If the above mentioned measures are implemented as part of a coordinated effort combined with other initiatives and funding opportunities to strengthen public policies, it will lead Greece out of the pandemic and toward a more just and sustainable future.

After years of austerity, the refugee reception crisis and now the pandemic, this large sum of money can enable society to turn a corner and start truly recovering from economic and social problems. To succeed, Greece must avoid repeating the policies of the past that led us to the difficult position we are in today (confronting rising inequalities, polarisation, injustice, biodiversity loss, and the climate crisis).

Notes to editors
* In July 2020, the European Union launched a €750 billion pandemic recovery fund, of which 37% is earmarked specifically for fighting climate change with the rest going toward other investments and reforms to strengthen resilience, a digital transformation, fairness, and macroeconomic stability. EU member states now have until the end of April to submit their final spending plans to account for their share of the financial aid. Greece will receive €32 billion in a combination of grants and loans.

National Recovery and Resilience Plan: Greece’s official spending plan for the recovery funds.
Read the full draft of our open letter to the Deputy Minister of Finance.

About Common Ground
Common Ground is a new platform for strengthening strategic cooperation among civil society in Greece. From greening the economy to reducing inequalities to safeguarding human rights, Common Ground seeks to accelerate change through joint action.

Follow Common Ground on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn.
For more information please contact:
Dominika Spyratou, Common Ground, Athens, Tel: +30 6977868655,
dominika@commongroundgreece.org

 

Huxley, ESC volunteer: a very enriching and educational time with refugees in the Welcommon Hostel

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My name is Huxley Schnur and I`ve spent 2 months in the welcommon hostel volunteering with the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal. These two months as a participant in the European Solidarity Corps project “Social Green Innovation for Young Persons” have been a very enriching and educational time.

What I liked most about my time in the Welcommon Hostel was the teaching and the exchange with the students and really connecting with my co-workers and making a lot of friends in the process.

My go to memory of that time are the long talks we had with some of our students about how they fled from their home afraid of being killed, if they don´t leave everything they know behind.

One night my girlfriend and I had an hour long talk with one of the refugees in the hostel, telling us about his journey from Afghanistan to Greece. He told us how he had to leave his home, being threatened by the Taliban because he was a liberate muslim. A young boy, not more than 13-14 years old, threatened his life and told him he ‘d kill him if he wouldn’t convert to his beliefs. So the man packed his stuff and took his wife and newborn and left for safety elsewhere and for a brighter future. When we talked to him, his wife and son were in Germany applying for asylum.

It still moves me until this day to think of all the things they have told me and all the things I’ ve learned from them whilst volunteering in the Welcommon Hostel.

When I first arrived I knew no one and didn`t really know what to do when I entered the classroom and tried to educate my students on the german language. Luckily there were my co-volunteers, who soon turned into friends, that helped me get through this adapting period with useful tips and advice on how to be at ease and still be a good teacher.

Sadly after the first month the lockdown came and we had to cancel all outside classes. But we figured out a solution and had classes exclusively for the refugees – residents in the hostel, so we could keep up teaching during the lockdown. We designed a new schedule, with new classes to execute during lockdown. Unfortunately our planned classes didn`t match the sleeping schedules of the residents so we had to adapt to that. But little by little we created a kind of normality during the strangest of times.

Right from the beginning I loved the concept behind the Welcommon Hostel. That being the unification and combination of sustainable tourism and the accommodation, empowerment and non formal education of refugees. Even though tourism collapsed after Covid, just by the volunteers and refugees living in the same building kept the spark that is the Welcommon Hostel alive.

I absolutely enjoyed my time in the Welcommon Hostel, which taught me so much about myself, real suffering and true happiness. Here goes a big thank you to all those people that made the two months I ‘ve spent so lovely.

Lia, ESC volunteer: we created a kind of normality during the strangest of times

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My name is Lia Thiede and I’ve spent 2 months in the Welcommon Hostel volunteering, as a participant of the European Solicarity Corps project “Social Green Innovation for Young People” implemented by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal. These two months have been a very enriching and educational time.

When I first arrived I knew no one and didn’t really know what to do when I entered the classroom and tried to educate my students on the german language. Luckily there were my co-volunteers and the staff of Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal, who soon turned into friends, that helped me get through this adapting period with useful tips and advice on how to be at ease and still be a good teacher.

Sadly after the first month the lockdown came and we had to cancel all outside classes. But we figured out a solution and had classes exclusively for the residents, so we could keep up teaching during the lockdown. We designed a new schedule, with new classes to execute during lockdown. Unfortunately our planned classes didn`t match the sleeping schedules of the residents so we had to adapt to that. But little by little we created a kind of normality during the strangest of times.

What I liked most about my time in the Welcommon Hostel as a ESC participant, was the teaching and the exchange with the students and really connecting with my co-workers and making a lot of friends in the process. Our students were so grateful and happy about every lesson they had. Every time they exited the classroom they had a smile on their lips and said: “thank you teacher, which always warmed my heart. Furthermore they were really ambitious and anxious about learning languages from us, some even learned extensively at home more than what was expected from us with homework. I always thought this ambition and passion was very inspiring and I´ll always cherish their motivated faces in my memory. I think I will try to be as ambitious going forward as these people were, having faced things I couldn’t even imagine.

My go to memory of that time are the long talks we had with some of our students about how they fled from their home afraid of being killed, if they don´t leave everything they know behind. It still moves me until this day to think of all the things they have told me and all the things I´ve learned from them whilst volunteering in the Welcommon Hostel. Right from the start I really liked the concept of the Welcommon Hostel: to combine sustainable tourism with the accommodation of refugees and by doing so creating an exchange between these two groups. Concerning the fact that tourism collapsed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, I think the concept still worked alone by volunteers from all over Europe and refugees living together.

It was a wonderful experience being part of the communinty of the Welcommon Hostel and learning and growing together with friends, mentors, refugees and coworkers.

Common statement, Stand Up for the Social Pillar Alliance

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Common statement, Stand Up for the Social Pillar Alliance

Before the release of the release of the Action Plan for the Social Pillar by the Commission next May the 3rd, and in parallel to the informal meeting of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs (EPSCO), the Stand Up for the Social Pillar Alliance publishes the following common statement.

The European Confederation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives, the European Trade Union ConfederationSocial Economy Europe, the Social Platform, members of Alliance Stand Up for the European Pillar of Social Rights, jointly state:

The Alliance calls for an ambitious Action Plan implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). We believe that the EU’s recovery must be grounded in strong, sustainable and resilient economies flanked by social policies and services to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our health, employment, economy, and on equality and democracy in our societies.

We are committed to the principles enshrined in the EPSR and call on our European and national institutions to deliver an ambitious Action Plan to fully implement them. This Plan must be based on the European values, principles and cornerstones of:

Innovativeness and comprehensiveness: The Action Plan to implement the EPSR must lead to a higher quality of life for all, with new policies to bring social progress as well as a greener and more digital future.

– Promptness: The Action Plan should protect workers and enterprises that are suffering from the economic consequences of the pandemic crisis with the main aim of preserving jobs, including income of workers, self-employed and social entrepreneurs.

– Social ambition: The Action Plan should restore social and regional cohesion, fight inequalities, poverty and exclusion, lead fairer digital and green transitions, establish gender equality, ban discriminations and ensure equal opportunities for all. In the aftermath of the pandemic, it should rely on a job-rich recovery and lead to strengthened social protection systems that guarantee dignity to people of all ages.

– Social & economic well-being: The Action Plan should guide the use of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and shape a fairer and more equal post-Covid reaction. The RRF must fund actions that implement the EPSR and that relaunch the European project on the basis of thriving economies, advanced social models and wide-spread well-being.

– Investments & common good: We expect the Action Plan to promote public investments and to champion universal, effective, high quality and accessible public services, including health and care. It must stimulate private investors’ commitment to pursue the public good as well as tangible environmental, social and good governance progress. Enterprises of all sizes that can provide a high social return must be supported and rewarded – including the social economy and not-for-profit providers of social services, paying special attention to the collective and community dimensions and to socially relevant performances.

– Concreteness and tangibility: Actions aimed at recovery and social progress must be concrete and should therefore be measurable and accompanied by monitoring frameworks, jointly agreed among relevant stakeholders, encompassing the social, environmental and economic criteria.

Please find here the full statement, that has been sent today to the 27 Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs of the EU.

REScoop.eu: citizen energy cooperatives have transformed the energy market in many countries

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An interview with Sara Tachelet, Communications Manager of  REScoop.eu about energy transition, energy cooperatives and the role of REScoops in climate protection and revitalizing economy. REScoop.eu is the European federation of citizen energy cooperatives. Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of REnewal is a member of the REScoop.eu 

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Wind or Renewal: How, what, why with the creation of the energy cooperatives and REScoop.eu?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.euAs a result of the European project called ‘REScoop 202020’, a small European group of REScoop pioneers and stakeholders began to collaborate in 2012. The main idea of this project was to foster social acceptance for renewable energy projects by means of engaging citizens and stakeholders in the projects. In 2013, REScoop.eu was officially founded as a non-profit organisation under Belgian law.

REScoop.eu is committed to strengthen energy cooperatives and other community energy groups through networking activities, training and support. The federation wishes to make the citizens voices heard in the European energy debate and therefore actively represents the interests of its members at EU level. REScoop.eu succeeded in imposing new rights and supportive frameworks for citizens and communities in the EU Renewable Energy Directive and the Electricity Directive adopted at the end of 2018.

Wind of Renewal: Obstacles? How you were able to overcome the problems?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: In our network we identified energy cooperatives facing different obstacles for developing RES projects such as access to financing, the lack of regulatory frameworks, unstable public support schemes, administrative barriers such as cost and access to the grid

We see that in some countries, the development of renewable energy cooperatives has slowed due to the development of more market-based mechanisms for renewables, such as auctions and tenders. There is a lot of evidence that such methods of determining eligibility for support is not appropriate for smaller market actors, and renewable energy communities in particular.

In Germany for example the shift in the remuneration system from feed-in tariffs to auctions in 2017 has exposed the community wind sector to many challenges, as the specific conditions and interests of the community power projects have been given insufficient consideration.

Following the EU’s Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative package, EU Member States are currently working on transposing the definitions of Renewable Energy Communities and Citizen Energy Communities into their national laws. Although highly supported by REcoop.eu, a serious risk remains in the many Member States where energy cooperatives do not yet exist. In some cases national definitions and enabling frameworks will be created with little or no context. This could increase the potential for abuse of the citizen energy concept by other large market actors. It’s of crucial importance that the definitions adopted by the European clean energy package are well interpreted and leave no space for abuse by other market actors.

Wind of Renewal: Current situation (MW, members)? Number of citizen energy cooperatives? Where are they located?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: REScoop.eu represents over 1500 citizen energy groups either directly or through affiliated national federations. Our estimates assume around 3,500 in Europe in total. While these groups may be more expansive in Western Europe, such Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and the UK, we have members in Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey and Romania.

Wind of Renewal: Total installed capacity for the cooperatives?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: We do not have data to cover the whole of Europe however some national federations have done regional research.

In France:

  • Coops: 204
  • Electricity: 380.4 MW
  • Heat: 5989 kW (~ 6 MW)

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Combined, Scotland not included):

  • Coops: 300
  • Members: 234,000
  • Tonnes of CO2 prevented: 65,000 (2019)
  • Electricity: 193.9 MW
  • Heat: 2.1 MW

In Germany:

  • Coops: 883
  • Members: 200,000
  • Tonnes of CO2 prevented: 3.39 million (Since 2006)
  • 8.31 Terawatt hours of clean energy produced since 2006.

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Wind of Renewal: Activities?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: Photovoltaic panels are very popular in the form of either rooftop installations or solar farms, along with onshore wind. France has 163 groups involved in solar, with 28 groups involved in wind, however wind energy production (269.45 MW) is almost double that of solar (109.2 MW).

Other technologies include: Biogas, Biomass, District Heating, Small Scale HydroThough energy production is not everything citizen energy communities are involved with. Electric mobility is becoming far more popular, with e-vehicle sharing being the most common way in which cooperatives participate.

REScoop.eu helped set up the Mobility Factory to bring together cooperatives to work on a common electric car sharing platform to be used all over Europe in cities and with rural communities. Many of the groups are individual members in our federation.

Partag Ghent

Wind of Renewal: The role of Energy coops in climate protection and energy transition?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: By reinforcing the renewable energy cooperative model in Europe REScoop.eu works towards a green and sustainable energy landscape with citizens in the driving seat. Because climate change doesn’t stop at national borders, REScoop.eu tries to connect likeminded organisations around Europe.

Social acceptance of renewable energy production, as achieved by citizen energy cooperatives (REScoops), is the key to minimizing delays in authorizations as well as encouraging investment

Already today, citizen energy cooperatives have transformed the energy market in many European countries while contributing to revitalising the local economy and creating local jobs. REScoops deliver a significant share of renewables investment and promote their local development and public support. With the right implementation of the new European legal framework, citizen energy cooperatives could flourish and deliver an important share of Europe’s renewable energy and therefore contribute in a significant way to the decarbonization of Europe.

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Wind of Renewal: Goals for the future?

Sara Tachelet – RESCoop.eu: An important goal for REScoop.eu is to make sure that the EU’s Clean energy package, acknowledging and supporting active energy citizens and communities supported as stakeholders in Europe’s energy market is properly transposed in the different European Member States. Despite the corona-crisis, most countries are currently working on their implementation. They are organizing public consultations and making their assessment (conditions). However, still many countries are far from ready. Many questions are currently being asked about what energy communities are, how to define them, what activities they should be able to participate in, how they should be regulated, and how their development should be supported. As a federation we aim to give answers to these questions and put forward recommendations for how Member States can use their discretion in interpreting the Directives to develop ambitious and robust provisions on energy communities, to empower community ownership and foster local social innovation in the energy sector. See our transposition guidance

When the European Commission announced its ‘Green Deal’, she acknowledged the need for a socially inclusive energy transition, as well as a role for citizen and community ownership in achieving the EU’s 2030 climate and energy objectives. REscoop.eu is advocating to make sure the Commission prioritizes making energy communities a success ensuring that their development is supported by the EU’s finance pillar, and that they are involved in flagship initiatives such as the buildings renovation wave.

Next to this advocacy goals, the federation is currently setting up and improving services to support citizens, businesses and local authorities that want to work on community energy.

More about  www.rescoop.eu

What is a REScoop

REScoops are energy cooperatives, a business model where citizens jointly own and participate in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects. We also refer to REScoops as citizen or renewable energy communities. REScoops do not necessarily have the legal statute of a cooperative, but they distinguish themselves by the way they do business.

They typically respect 7 principles outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance, which is why we strongly believe that REScoops are leading the energy transition to energy democracy. The principles are:

  1. Voluntary and Open Membership

  2. Democratic Member Control

  3. Economic Participation through Direct Ownership

  4. Autonomy and Independence

  5. Education, Training and Information

  6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

  7. Concern for Community

All citizens are eligible to join a REScoop. After purchasing a cooperative share and becoming a member or co-owner of local renewable energy or energy efficiency projects, members share in the profits and are usually given the opportunity to buy the electricity at a fair price. In addition, members can actively participate in the cooperative: They can decide where the REScoop should invest, and are consulted when setting the energy price.

Here: Brand new guidebook on how to set up an energy community

Community Energy Handbook

HOSTEL WORLD: Welcommon Hostel as a “Hostel Hero”

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Thank you Hostelworld for shining a light on WELCOMMON HOSTEL as a “Hostel Hero” in October 2020
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HOSTEL WORLD:
We are thrilled to continue shining a light on some of the amazing initiatives hostels are putting in place, whether it’s in community outreach or sustainability or something completely different. In the midst of a crisis, we are seeing hostels supporting the community coming together… building a better world!
In this week’s Hostel Hero story, we wanted to introduce Welcommon Hostel; located in Athens, Greece. The hostel has become a beacon for sustainable tourism in the heart of Athens as well as a community centre for social inclusion of refugees and local Greeks where they come together to learn essential life and language skills and empowerment. They are also an inspirer and educator for climate change action, energy transition and social economy.
This is their story:
“We ran the innovative Welcommon centre for refugees for housing and social integration of 600 vulnerable refugees for 18 months (9/2016-2/2018). The project was funded by UNHCR and through the Municipality of Athens. Although this was an innovative approach to the refugee issue for the whole EU, the funding stopped abruptly, and we did not have the time to find any other funding resources.
As a result, we decided to continue with our social activities for the refugees in another context: A social youth hostel, something that was missing from our city. Our aim was not to create another hostel in Athens but to host tourists and groups with social, ecological, and cultural interests, and to reinvest the generated income in the creation of jobs, climate projects and in social services offered to a number of refugees and other people in need. It is a social experiment based on social innovation and green vision.
Our guests also have the opportunity to participate directly and indirectly in humanitarian, social, inclusive-intercultural and green projects, get informed about the situation of refugees in our country, get connected with the creative side of the city, and participate in intercultural events and activities. We also contributed to the revitalization of the neighbourhood during the financial crisis period (2016-2020) and we continue to support the local economy with social and green procurement, reduction of single use plastics and with a zero-waste strategy.
The Post – COVID19 life
Until today we have offered non-formal education, empowerment and social inclusion activities to up to 1500 refugees, the majority teenagers, women, children, with the support of 320 volunteers from all over the world, who are hosted in our hostel for 2 to 9 months. After re-opening the WELCOMMON HOSTEL in June, we took some initiatives by ourselves:
-We are now hosting a number of vulnerable refugees in Welcommon Hostel. This has become possible with collaboration of some NGOs, women organisations, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Greek Refugees Forum and communities of refugees.
– We have restarted our volunteering program Days of WELCOMMON with the support of our volunteers and the participation of many refugees.
– We try to create a supportive framework and communities of solidarity, focusing on empowerment, connecting people and finding practical solutions like baby clothes, training new mothers on breastfeeding of newborn, offering second-hand baby strollers etc.
Would you like to know more about us or support our social and green activities? Please check out our website here!
Thank you, Welcommon Hostel, for helping to provide endless opportunities to refugees in Athens and ensuring a greener, brighter future for those that visit Greece.
Let’s continue Building a Better World. Please do get in touch to let us know what your hostel is getting up to. No deed too big or too small.
Stay Safe,
Hostelworld Group

Refugee faces (No2) from Welcommon Hostel: The story of Nasadore (freedom and democracy)

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Refugee faces (No2), from Welcommon Hostel. The real stories of refugees 

The story of Nasadore (freedom and democracy)

During COVID – 19, we – the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal – are hosting about 50-60 homeless vulnerable refugees in our innovative and inclusive WELCOMMON HOSTEL. Additional to accommodation and interecultural courses we already offer to them, we want to aware the citizens of the real problems and needs of the refugees, therefore we will present the real stories of them.

If you want to support our work, go here: www.gogetfunding/welcommon

One day she came to prison to visit me in secret. Her father and her brother didn’t know and they would beat here if they were aware. She brought a ring, gave it to me through the fence and said: „I want you to be my husband.” It’s a very difficult idea in our country [for the woman to propose] and she challenged the ideology for me. She loved me as much as was needed to do it.
It was love from the first sight. I met her through a friend while she was studying in high school. On the first date we just walked on the street and she was very shy. She was afraid that someone could see us so we were hiding from people.
When I got to prison she waited for me. She came to court and waited for five hours just to see me for three minutes. Then she waited for me for six years. When I left we got married and now we are expecting a baby.
I remember the poem by Richard Lovelace which I read in the cell:
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
Except for my wife and family I don’t have many good experiences from my country. They put me in prison there only because I wanted democracy and freedom. I’m looking for a new home for me and my family, I want to belong somewhere and start a new life in a place which respects human beings, which doesn’t look into my religion, my ideas. We are only humans and we can accept each other.
I stay in the WELCOMMON HOSTEL now and it’s a good place. We have English, German and sport classes and I found migrants like me. We met the teachers from France, Germany, Poland and we had a good experience with them. Last weekend one of the volunteers noticed that my leg was infected. She hurried to the pharmacy right away and bought medicine for me. And she didn’t want any money for that. Now the leg is better and it’s all because of her.”
Nasadore’s wife is still in his home country.
He lost the engagement ring from prison during his travel to Europe.
The bracelet (on the pictures) is another gift from her he managed to keep.
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WELCOMMON HOSTEL: we offer accommodation and education for refugees in Athens during COVID-19

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About the Welcommon project during COVID-19

For the past 2 weeks Greece has been in lockdown (again), which means that everyone is supposed to stay home. Unfortunately some people don’t have a home and if it wasn’t for the Welcommon Hostel’s decision to remain open, a number of refugees would be left living (again) in the streets. In WELCOMMON HOSTEL we host  50 people during this lockdown-2.

Today, we are looking for funding or donations. Go to https://gogetfunding.com/welcommon/ to support two social projects:

  1. Housing of vulnerable refugees in the Welcommon Hostel during COVID-19 and especially lockdown2
  2. Providing intercultural classes and activities (language skills, job preparation, art therapy, etc.)

Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal was founded as a social cooperative in Athens in 2014. Born out of a desire to promote social and green innovation and economy, climate protection, energy transition, environmental awareness, intercultural dialogue, welcome refugees – providing safe accommodation and social inclusion. The WELCOMMON HOSTEL is an innovative hostel with social and green impact created and run by our social cooperative since July 2018, initially intended to be self-financed by tourism, and with a vision to bring people from all over the world together, by providing educational and intercultural activities for refugee communities in Athens, local Greeks and travelers. As a cooperative we don’t share profits, if there is we invest it in new jobs, social, climate and green activities. For 1,5 year (September 2016 to Ferbruary 2018) Anemos Ananeosis provided accommodation in dignity, empowerment and non-formal education for more than 600 refugees in the WElCOMMON, a centre for refugees based on the “empowerment through building communities” model.

What’s the problem and how are we addressing it?

As of June 2020, even the sustainable tourism collapsed and at the same time thousands of recognized refugees and asylum seekers in Greece have been facing eviction from the greek government / EU funded accommodation, as a result of a new government plan, which has already left many refugees homeless in the midst of a global pandemic. This includes many vulnerable asylum seekers, such as survivors of sexual violence, torture and ill treatment, the elderly, and people with chronic diseases, pregnants and mothers with new borned babies.

The vision for the Welcommon Hostel, opened in 2018, was to be a sustainable solution to host all the travelers. If you’ve ever come into the Welcommon you probably felt that it is a special place, a place where you can meet people, learn from them… it is a community. Special place, people, values.

 

Five floors of the seven storey building can provide accommodation to up to 167 people.

Two floors of the Welcommon hostel are dedicated to our social activities, providing opportunities to guests, international volunteers and refugees to collaborate and learn together. Our hostel is also a place for social and cultural exchange. Here, Greek locals, refugees, volunteers and tourists come together to eat, to drink, to discuss or to play card games.

Housing of vulnerable refugees during COVID-19

With the current situation in the camps and the streets of Athens and during COVID-19, it became vital to offer emergency and long-term accommodation for refugees, not only lessons. This is why we are open for collaboration and looking for resources, common projects and/or donations to finance this initiative. Therefore, during this new lockdown we are hosting 50 people from Afghanistan, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Palestine, Congo etc. Our objective is to find resources to host 60 to 80 people currently living in the street or in camps and support their return to society, focusing on vulnerable. Recenlty, we hosted the 51st newborn baby (and her family), and soon we will host the 52d one, since September 2016.

 

Accommodation to volunteers

We offer accommodation to volunteers coming from all over Europe and the world – some of them #EuropeanSolidarityCorps participants – to participate in our activities and provide the space for the intercultural lessons and activities. Since 2016, more than 330 volunteers participated in organising non formal education language classes, art therapy courses and socializing events with over 1500 refugees. The aim is to promote social inclusion and support refugees in restarting their lives and help them to become more independent but also to promote collaboration, respect and learning each other.

Intercultural classes and activities during COVID-19 and lockdown

Our plan, is to provide accommodation for refugee communities, but also to  help them with education, empoewerment and integration by providing educational and intercultural activities and job preparation even during COVID-19 and lockdown-2.

Our activities during COVID-19: The activities came to a complete stop during the Covid-19 lockdown-1 (March – May 2020) and restarted in limited capacity in June 2020 because of the small number of volunteers and lack of financial resources. Throughout the summer extra volunteers brought their enthusiasm and motivation to the project. From June to November 2020 (before the lockdown2) we offered the posibility to 110 refugees to participate in non-formal education, intercultural lessons. Most of the participants in the courses are teenagers and women.

Our activities during the lockdown-2: Since the 7th of November 2020, we had to cancel the courses for refugees from outside the hostel (camps and appartments) participating in the classes, because of the restrictions in mobility and of the health protocols. Our volunteers are re-organising the life in the hostel with activities, classes, daily chores, cleaning, etc… In the end, this lockdown is a good opportunity to get to know each other and to share our stories, our skills. We created a new schedule for the about 50-60 residents (refugees) of the Welcommon Hostel with different kinds of language classes (english, french, german, art) and projects for teenagers, children and adults! The children living in the hostel during COVID-19 and lockdown learn  language, painting, maths with the help of our volunteers in the kids rooms! To make the best out of this lockdown and make it a productive time,  the volunteers also organised all the resources that we have at the hostel to be able to be more efficient for the classes.

Why we need your help?

Since reopening the hostel in June, we have hosted in our hostel a few tourists by moslty refugees and asylum seekers, including many vulnerable cases, thanks to the collaboration with organizations such as Greek Council of Refugees, Greek Refugees Forum, women organisation DIOTIMA.

Unfortunately both us and other NGO’s active in Athens have limited resources, and can only manage to help a certain amount of people, while many more people, including many vulnerable refugees are still homeless, and living in streets of Athens.

But lockdown means no tourism, which means no income, which means it is difficult to pay the total cost (rent, bills, taxes and fees, cleaning material and personnel, laundry, staff, consumables. colors, papers etc). We need an amount – additional to what we can finance – of at least 450 Euro for 2 persons for a month, which means that we need your help!

We need your help to keep the project going!

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  • To financially support us go to: https://gogetfunding.com/welcommon/

 

or direct to our bank accounts:

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ANEMOS ANANEOSIS / WIND OF RENEWAL

  • Cooperative Bank of Karditsa

ΙΒΑΝ GR 7608900100003010003540200

Swift Code STKAGRA1

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ANEMOS ANANEOSIS / WIND OF RENEWAL

  • Piraeus Bank

IBAN: GR83 0172 0180 0050 1807 7868 253

Piraeus’s BIC code is PIRBGRAA

Don’t forget to send us (windofrenewal@gmail.com) your details. We need name, address, country, VAT No in order to be able to issue the receipt for your donation

And if you can’t donate, remember that sharing is caring! Thank you

#lockdowndiary #windofrenewal #welcommonhostel #socialwork #volunteering