Thank you @HostelWorld for shining a light on WELCOMMON HOSTEL as one of the “Hostel Heroes” (2/10/2020)
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.
Help us provide accommodation in dignity, empowerment and non-formal inclusive education
for 70 homeless vulnerable refugees in Athens
We are a social cooperative and a beacon of sustainable tourismin the heart of Athens as well as a community centrefor social inclusion of refugees and local Greeks, to come together, learn essential life and language skills and be empowered; and an inspirer and educator for climate change action, energy transition and social economy. Welcommon Hostel project is an initiative started by the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal with 3 main goals in mind:
–Promoting sustainable tourism models, social and green economy, climate action and social rensponsible jobs.
– From the “profit” created from the the hostel, addressing the increasing homelessness issue within the refugee, asylum seeker and migrant communities in Athen by providing temporary accommodation in Welcommon Hostel for a number of vulnerable persons and creating new jobs for unemployed greeks, migrants and refugees or/and training them for a professional (up)skilling.
– Providing non-formal education, empowerment and intercultural classes and activities for refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant communities in Athens.
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 their government 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, people with chronic diseases and disabilities, pregnants and mothers with new borned babies.
As a result of the pandemic and decline in tourism, we have many empty rooms in WELCOMMON HOSTEL which could potentially be used to temporarily house these vulnerable refugees while they look for a more permanent housing solution and a job.
Why we need your help?
Since reopening the hostel in June, we have hosted in our hostel a few tourists by mostly refugees and asylum seekers, including many vulnerable cases, thanks to the collaboration with a number of organizations. Since the end of September 2020 we are offering accommodation to 70 vulnerable refugees from streets and squares in Athens. Unfortunately both us and other NGO’s active in Athens have limited resources, and can only manage to help very few families, while many vulnerable refugees are still homeless, and living in streets of Athens, during COVID-19!
Our plan, is to not only provide accommodation for 70 vulnerable refugees, but also help them (and some more from outside) with empoewerment and social inclusion by providing educational and intercultural activities or/and job preparation.
What are we going to do with the funds?
We need about 25.000 Euros/month at least until May 2021 for safe accommodation (and protection both of the local and refugee communities) during COVID-19, empowerment, nonformal education and social inclusion of about 70 vulnerable homeless refugees, including the costs for the rent and maintance of the building,energy and water bills, staff, consumables, cleaning and protection materials, art supplies, notebooks, books, markers, pencils and papers for the courses. Even a donation of 1 euro is very important for our social project. For kind donors of more than 10.000 euros, we will offer an art work.
About Welcommon Hostel
Welcommon Hostel is a 7 storey building with 167 beds, 2 floors of it dedicated to intercultural and educational activities. Since the start of the hostel, we’ve provided 1500 refugees with non-formal education, and hosted a wide range of activities and classes such language lessons (greek, english, german, french, spanish etc), painting, music and theater lessons, cooking etc. At the moment, we are providing refugee communities with English, French and German language lessons (based on their needs and levels), as well as art therapy, drawing, and photography classes. These activities are conducted by our valuable volunteers, who come from all around the world to help with our project. We also provide our volunteers accommodation in the hostel. Since 9/2016 we have already hosted more than 320 volunteers in our hostel who provided a wide range of classes such as arabic, german, english, frence language lessons, art courses, visits to museums and galleries, table games, music and theater, photography, cinema etc.
Welcommon Hostel opened in 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.
Welcommon Hostel is managed by 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, welcome refugees – providing safe accommodation and social inclusion.
As a cooperative we don’t share profits, if there is any we invest it in new jobs, social, climate and green activities.
If you would like to learn more about us and support our project, please visit:
Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal and its Welcommon Hostel have signed a Manifesto on Social Economy in June that was addressing the EU. The manifesto was subscribed by over 30 organisations from across Europe.
Planning post-COVID-19 cooperative cities Building on existing efforts towards social economy
We advocate for existing knowledge, policy recommendations and financial resources to be geared towards the strengthening of social and solidarity economy practices*throughout Europe. We believe that this is the way forward to not leave anyone behind.
At the present time EU Member States and the European Parliament are discussing with which instruments and under which conditionalities should the EU direct its investments. Whilst this is a fundamental process, we also know that this will take time, which many people in Europe cannot afford to afford. For this reason we suggest to take immediately a few steps, capitalising on existing efforts carried out up until now:
FRAMEWORK: Over the past years, the EU has made a great effort towards developing the EU Urban Agenda, with detailed action plans foreseen for key themes connected to sustainable urban development. We should highlight the recommendations that can strengthen social economy.
PILOT ACTIONS Key actions planned within the EU Urban Agenda Partnerships, which can directly address the most pressing social and economic challenges through a social and solidarity economy perspective, should be rapidly implemented as a test-bed. For this, funding and guidance should be allocated, as is being done through the Urban Innovative Actions program.
This manifesto provides an overview of the key items to take into consideration to ensure Better Knowledge, Better Policy and Better Funding, in terms of financial allocations and in-kind support, as a means to strengthen social and solidarity economy in Europe.
This Manifesto is currently being subscribed by a number of organisations throughout Europe, it is therefore to be seen as a starting point for dialogue and action to take place.
WHY SOCIAL AND SOLIDARITY ECONOMY
During the COVID-19 crisis, throughout Europe we have seen solidarity practices being developed by civic organisations, often in cooperation with the local authorities and businesses. These practices have proven to be, in many cases, essential welfare services to the marginalised members of our communities. Yet most of these initiatives have been started up or strengthened as a result of the current health emergency, mostly on a voluntary basis, which have self-evident limitations on the long run. Furthermore, we have seen that social purpose companies were more resilient in this crisis than simple for-profit companies. These are learning points for the planning of post-COVID-19 cooperative cities.
Throughout the lockdown, the Cooperative City magazine on collaborative urban practices in Europe has carried out a series of public webinars to explore with municipalities, civic organisations, private actors and researchers, what are the most pressing issues and what solutions can be created to overcome this crisis. Aside from the dramatic health crisis, we know that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of socio-economic impacts that the coronavirus will have on our society. In fact, worldwide, half a billion people face poverty after COVID-19. It is conservatively estimated that about 45 million jobs in the EU are at risk**.
At the same time there are 2 million social economy enterprises in Europe, representing 10% of all businesses in the EU. More than 11 million people – about 6% of the EU’s employees – work for social economy enterprises. Up to 160 million people in Europe are members of social economy enterprises. Whilst social businesses have different legal forms and operate in a wide range of sectors objectives ranging from agriculture and banking to tourism or catering, they all pursue a social mission within their business activity.
In the face of the upcoming economic and social crisis, we advocate for Europe to support the social and solidarity economy as an opportunity to ensure economic sustainability to all those people who are already in a condition or at high risk of poverty. These are not new issues for the EU, which has greatly invested towards better knowledge, better funding and better policy in the EU Urban Agenda. But it’s time to put in place those ideas rapidly and back them up with the necessary financial resources.
Social entrepreneurship is a key to empower weaker groups, for this we need to ensure capacity building and investments. It is essential for city administrations and stakeholders from civic, private and research backgrounds, to know how to work together to tackle their local challenges through social economy. We already have impactful initiatives throughout Europe in terms of food sovereignty, the employment of marginalised groups in the tourism or cultural sectors, as well as community-based education services. Hence, the dissemination of good practices, such as those developed by Urbact and UIA, should be shared in the light of strengthening social economy. Furthermore, we should also focus on the importance of monitoring economic tissues, enabling a social impact analysis of socially oriented urban projects.
We need to ensure policy support to solidarity practices, which have been essential throughout the peak of the crisis, to foster community-supported initiatives as a means to strengthen our democracy. This is the opportunity to establish and innovate public policies in order to connect the different segments of the value production chain, ensuring a fair redistribution of recognition and financial resources. This is very evident in the food sector, by connecting producers and consumers through a publicly owned infrastructure of farms, distribution firms, markets, etc, as the City of Milan is doing through its Food Policy. For example, the rapid diffusion of food delivery services offers the opportunity for restaurants and delivery workers to join forces with consumers and cluster their requests to ensure fair working conditions as well as share of the profit from larger delivery food firms.
Solidarity funds, grants or revolving funds need to be activated in order to support social and solidarity economic initiatives that have been fundamental throughout the crisis to ensure social cohesion.
Start-up social entrepreneurship grants: the experience of the Bip/Zip grant system in Lisbon or the European Cultural Foundation solidarity grants show that amounts lower than 50.000 EUR per initiative have the potential to create jobs and contribute to local social and economic vibrancy.
Supporting smaller, socially-oriented businesses is an opportunity to save the already existing companies from going bankrupt and being bought up by larger enterprises, which is a highly likely scenario under the current conditions.
Increasing the uptake of financial instruments***, such as the Community-Led Local Development (CLLD), is an opportunity to strengthen not only the economic resources but also the capacities and political impact of social and solidarity economy initiatives.
Better Finance is not only expressed in terms of financial liquidity, but also in terms of investment in physical and human capital, which needs to be geared towards ensuring access to space and to better labour conditions.
Access to space: We need to ensure access to available, underused space and unused land in cities, for social economy practices to take place and have an impact. For instance, if we want to ensure access to healthy food also to poorer citizens, this can be supported through vouchers but also by establishing public community gardens. If we want to support community spaces and social enterprises, these can be supported by lower rents and reimbursed renovation processes, especially focusing on underused or abandoned buildings.
Better Labour conditions: Social and solidarity economy can be an opportunity to include marginalised people in the society through fair working conditions. For this reason, investments need to go towards those workers who risk entering poverty as a result of the upcoming crisis. Therefore, a major role is also played by unions that need to regain their advocacy power to be the voice of those workers who risk being left behind. During the COVID-19 crisis we have seen the emergency hitting especially certain sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, culture, etc, as a result of the high precarisation of contracts throughout Europe.
Any individual person or organisation is welcome to subscribe this manifesto and advocate for a stronger social and solidarity economy in Europe to ensure social inclusion and economic growth in post-COVID-19 cooperative cities.
* The European Commission launched the Social Business Initiative (SBI) in 2011, in which the definition was: “Social and solidarity economy comprises enterprises, associations or cooperatives whose main objective is to have a social impact rather than make a profit for their owners or shareholders. It operates by providing goods and services for the market in an entrepreneurial and innovative fashion and uses its profits primarily to achieve social objectives. It is managed in an open and responsible manner and, in particular, involves employees, consumers and stakeholders affected by its commercial activities.
”** Pouliakas, K., Branka, J., 2020, European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), EU JOBS AT HIGHEST RISK OF COVID-19 SOCIAL DISTANCING, is the pandemic exacerbating the labour market divide? Working paper series, No 1 / May 2020.
*** Such as Stadmakersfond, launched by STIPO and Stadkwadraat as matchmaker between citymakers/placemakers and investors.
To support the Manifesto please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THIS MANIFESTO IS SUPPORTED BY:
Eutropian GmbH, Wolfganggasse 26/20-22, 1120 Vienna, Austria Eutropian.org
Eutropian Association, Via F. Pacelli 14, Rome 00165, Italy Eutropian.org
Thousands of students from 72 schools of the Municipality of Athens alongside with their teachers and parents expressed their commitment to climate protection. This commitment includes an integrated activity of information, education, training, awareness, research and provision of educational methodologies and tools which constitute the basis for future actions.
The Municipality of Athens, participates in city networks and initiatives at both European and global level with the aim of raising public awareness on climate protection and climate change adaptation. An example of this kind of initiative is the ‘’European Climate Initiative’’, through which, the Municipality of Athens found important support for the implementation of the program called ‘’SCOOLS OPEN TO CLIMATE PROTECTION AND ENERGY SAVINGS Athens – Berlin’’.
The aforementioned program, lasted from October 2017 to January 2020 and aimed for the complicity of the school community in climate protection. The main target of this program was, not only the energy footprint reduction of school buildings, but also to raise students/teachers/parents awareness and knowledge in the subject of energy savings and ecology.
This program used the existing experience as it emerges from environmental educational programs both in Greece and Germany. It also propelled a more comprehensive approach which is the basis for future continuation and expansion of the program in schools:
Institutions with different experience and role, from the two countries, collaborated in the program, adding their own know-how: The Municipality of Athens as coordinator, the social cooperative enterprise ‘’Wind of Renewal’’, the German Independent Institute for environmental issues (UFU) and the German Citizen’s initiative ‘’Respect for Greece’’.
They also edificated in climate issues by Greek and German trainers who already had significant experience from similar programs.
20 trainers then trained 200 teachers, of whom 197 took an active role in their school. In total 72 primary, secondary and high schools have supported their students in this program and posted the necessary ‘’testimonies’’ on a digital platform called ‘’moodle’. This platform will be accessible to all members of the educational community who want to implement similar actions in the future.
The educational community was supported for the entire school year 2018-2019, with methodological, educational information and tools. In addition, ‘’energy suitcases/ tool boxes’’ have been given to them in order to apply the knowledge they gained in practice. More specifically, these “energy suitcases” included tools of measurement, observation and experimentation, thus combining different tools of environmental /climate education.
The students were informed, sensitized and turned into active researchers, surprising all the participants for their commitment and interest. Their work was captured on both posters and rich material posted on the digital platform moodle.
The students, teachers and school unit participated in a relevant research that evaluated the implementation and catered, with good practices and suggestions, the program’s final action plan for interventions in the school.
Last but not least, the project was a useful tool for intercultural education and inclusion of all the pupils, greeks and the ones with migrant and refugee backgroud, offering different roles and tasks to all the pupils based on their interest, skills and capacities, enchance the community building approach.
The imprint of the program not only in the educational but also in the wider community, constituted a legacy for future actions and programs:
A website with all the necessary information and educational materials that are generally useful for the program (http://athensecoschools.gr).
An educational guide on energy saving and climate change was a part of for students training.
A well-organized action plan for the Municipality of Athens usable in all its schools.
A research for the application of the program in schools.
200 trained teachers of Athens schools in matters of climate change and energy saving, with training lasting 24 hours.
72 pilot programs that have implemented this program and are willing to continue.
15 educational suitcases with needed equipment borrowed from schools, in order to measure energy, brightness etc.
A digital moodle platform on which all participating schools posted their work. In the future, this platform will be maintained and enriched by the work of other schools (http://athensecoschools.gr/moodle/).
Applying telematic systems in 5 pilot schools allowing remote or local energy management (an additional energy and money saving measure)
The 5 smart pilot schools of the Municipality of Athens are the first in Greece with artificial intelligence, providing the opportunity to:
Record the energy consumption from electrical appliances and lighting fixtures.
Secure and protect electrical appliances from high electrical load.
Manage energy based on an ecological perspective.
Provide security and comfort to teachers and students.
This program ‘’Schools Open to Climate Protection and Energy Saving, Athens-Berlin’’, evaluated and selected for funding by the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) which is a funding implement of the German Ministry of the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). While it is also under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Education, Research and Religions.
The European Climate Initiative (EUKI), reinforces the cooperation in a European level and aims to increase knowledge and awareness about the causes of climate change, as well as the ecological, economic and social opportunities linked to climate action. The German Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) established the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) to cooperate even closer in the development and implementation of EU climate policy. Through EUKI, climate actors can learn from each other; the initiative supports inner-European dialogue, the exchange of good practice, awareness raising, and knowledge transfer.
On 24.06.2020 the European Commission together with 14 Member States (Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (the Memorandum of Split) to ensure the future of the Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative. The Memorandum of Split was announced the same day during a press conference of the Croatian Presidency, who has worked with all signing parties over the last months to finalise this document. A specific priority of the Croatian Presidency was reinforcing the support to clean energy islands.
EU islands, where 15 million citizens live, have the potential to be frontrunners in the clean energy transition by adopting new technologies and implementing innovative solutions.
What does this mean for the Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative?
The MoU ensures the establishment of a long-term structure for supporting EU islands in their energy transition. Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson highlighted in her statement that this Memorandum is an example of great cooperation among EU Member States. During the press conference, Croatian Minister of Environment Tomislav ĆORIĆ outlined the objectives of the initiative moving forward, namely
The Memorandum of Split will firstly give the needed support to islandsin preparation of their transition agendas while promoting the participation, the engagement and empowerment of citizens. In addition, the structured cooperation will facilitate the creation of energy communities on islands.
The Memorandum of Split has also recognized the importance of the implementation of pilot projects aimed at increasing the use of renewables using storage systems, innovative technologies, developing clean and sustainable transport, sector integration by integrating the electricity system with other sectors such as heating, cooling, island water systems and with the scalable demand response on the islands.
We should not forget where everything started from, and that is the connection problems. Therefore, the Memorandum of Split recognized the necessary support to islands not connected to the national grid in their decarbonisation process through the increased use of renewables in final use of electricity and of transport, heating and cooling.
In the end, since sharing means caring, the special emphasize in the Memorandum of Split was given to the promotion and exchange of best practices because dissemination of lessons learned can only make a Europe stronger in a world of challenges.
Why the Memorandum of Split?
The Memorandum of Split is a continuation of many years of efforts by the EU islands community to advance the energy transition in their territories.
In May 2017 the European Commission, together with 14 Member States, had signed the “Political Declaration on Clean Energy For EU Islands” under the Maltese Presidency. This declaration (Valletta Declaration) was born out of the recognition that islands and island regions face a particular set of energy challenges and opportunities due to their specific geographic and climatic conditions. The opportunities have the potential to make Europe’s island communities innovation leaders in the clean energy transition for Europe and beyond – a fact the European Commission explicitly recognised in its Communication on “Clean Energy for All Europeans“, reassuring its commitment to ensure that the energy concerns of island inhabitants are at the forefront of the energy transition and related policy developments.
In cooperation with the European Parliament, the Commission in 2018 set up a Secretariat to deliver the objectives of the Clean Energy for EU Islands Initiative.
Over the last two years, the Clean Energy for EU Islands Secretariat has been supporting islands all across the EU in developing Clean Energy Transition Agendas, providing in-person and online capacity-building trainings as well as project-specific support to island communities, and supporting community building at from the local to the pan-European level.
The Memorandum of Split hence represents a continuation of the work done jointly by all members of the EU islands communities over the last years, which is now also enshrined in the EU Green Deal.
“Collage – therapy for women!
Let’s do some whimsical art without prerequisites!
It’s just imagination, to mix ideas and create something new and expressive!
September, 1 (on Tuesdays)
15:00h – 16:30h
September, 2 ( on Wednesdays)
15:00h – 16:30h”
The courses are open to women and girls from 14 years old.
Each group will consist of 5 persons and has to implement the health protocols for protection against COVID -19.
Fatima, our volunteer, who will coordinate the courses is an illustrator from Brazil and Portugal, who graduated in Fashion Design and has experience as an illustration teacher. You can see here part of her art work: Ventapane
The projects are realized with the participation and contribution of volunteers from all over the world. Since 2016, Anemos Ananeosis has collaborated with more than 320 volunteers, 30 NGOs and many universities.
Until COVID-19 and the lockdown we were offering a great selection of educational courses: language lessons (English, French, Chinese, Turkish etc), painting, photography, drama, music etc and we offered the opportunity to volunteers and our guests/visitors to organize in collaboration with Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal and the WELCOMMON HOSTEL many intercultural events “knowing better each other like (Greek, USA, Italian, Indian, Ukraine, Pakistan, Scandinavian, Chinese, French… Nights). There are people from all over the world they would like to know better other cultures.
We continue our intercultural courses implementing the health protocols for COVID-19. The measures has an impact on our volunteering work but we try to do our best in the new period, to show solidarity in a period of social distancing. At the memont we offer language lessons and collage-therapy.
Our moto is: “Be a teacher and at the same time a pupil. We learn from each other”.
ANEMOΣ ΑΝΑNEΩΣΗΣ / WIND of RENEWAL is a social cooperative for social – green economy and innovation, empowerment and social inclusion www.anemosananeosis.gr, 2103803959, 2103810646
My name is Thomas and I am a 30 years old French person who decided to come to Greece to help with the refugee situation. I am also an engineer who had the crazy idea to change career four years ago to get involved in teaching and humanitarian projects.
My original plan, earlier this year, was to volunteer on Lesbos, in the Moria camp. Unfortunately my trip to the island was canceled on the very day I arrived in Athens because of the border crisis with Turkey early March. Of course I am not the type of person who gets discouraged by such a minor setback. I set out to look for a volunteering opportunity in Athens itself and found the social project of the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal and its Welcommon Hostel. After a couple of emails, I met the volunteers already working with the project. They explained what they were doing and it sounded exactly like what I was looking for: informal teaching and social empowerment.
My first contact with Anemos Ananeosis and Welcommon Hostel was on a Sunday, I started volunteering on Monday and on …Wednesday the activities stopped because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of course I am not the type of person who gets discouraged by such a minor setback. As all the volunteers flew back home to spend the lockdown with their families, I decided to wait out the pandemic confined in the hostel until May. After all, I had arrived in Athens only two weeks before and had no interest in going back to France.
The Welcommon Hostel reopened on the first of June and we could slowly start the activities again, while being careful to observe the sanitary restrictions / health protocols. Since I was the only volunteer left in the hostel and since I had had only two days of experience working for the project before the lockdown, I began from almost zero. I was left to work quite independently and was trusted with the organisation of language lessons. It was agreed that the evening activities that were happening before the Covid crisis (Karaoke, movie nights, etc…) would be too difficult to organise in a sanitary satisfying way.
I created three level groups for English classes: beginner, intermediate and advanced, with no more than five students per group. It quickly became clear that there were a lot more than fifteen students interested in the lessons and I had to create more groups and therefore put in more hours (because I was still the only teacher).
That month of June was an abrupt waking up from almost three month of hibernation. Athens was slowly coming back to life and I didn’t know anyone there (except for the cashier of the supermarket maybe). My whole life became about my students, some of whom were coming to the hostel almost everyday, demanding extra lessons which I gladly provided. I created very strong connections with several of them, learned a lot from their stories, and was humbled by their resilience.
In July, new volunteers came and we were able to organise a more formal timetable and to take-in more students. Even though I still maintained a close bond with my students, spending time with the other volunteers in the evening and on the weekends was a welcomed change of pace from the intense month of June. We even restarted the evening activities once a week (a French cooking night, a game night, and a movie night) and Sunday outdoors activities.
I started volunteering with Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in the Welcommon hostel with the intent of only staying for a few weeks before traveling to an island and ending up staying for six month. This is not only the result of the lockdown; I enjoyed the atmosphere, the mix between refugees, volunteers and travelers, I enjoyed the freedom I was given, I enjoyed the people I met. But the main reason why I stayed and why I will probably come back in the near future is the potential I see in this place and in my students.
With more people, more money and a real organisation, this place could change the life of a lot of people and I would be proud to be a part of it.
As tourism in Europe is slowly opening up again (at least within the EU), many people are eager to get back to exploring different countries and relax after the psychologically taxing pandemic. As a travel blogger, I would love to get started with travel again. But I am cautious and prefer to wait and see what a possible second wave of infections will bring.
Nonetheless, for those who wish to start traveling again, I have put together a list of responsible tourism projects that are worth supporting. If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that as humans we need to find better ways to live with nature, the animals, and each other. While I’m a firm believer in the responsibility of big corporations and governments, I also believe that solidarity between individuals and support for positive projects is vital if we want to move in the right direction.
I sometimes wonder how people can travel to other countries without taking into account human rights and other social and political issues. But it’s not always easy to find projects that are worth supporting which is why I put together this list of responsible tourism projects.
As a general rule, I believe the smaller and more local a project is the more difficult it may be to get more insight into their work but the more serious you will find these initiatives to be. Once you get very powerful stakeholders involved the focus is most certainly going to switch from benefiting poor people, the environment, or local communities to financial gain for those who are already rich.
So here are some responsible tourism projects you should consider supporting.
Responsible Tourism Projects to Support
Plastic Fishing in Amsterdam
Starboard is a boat tour operator in the Dutch capital that offers private boat rentals and company cruises, on top of participating in the Amsterdam Light Festival. But it’s their canal cleanups that have caught my attention more than anything. In order to make tourism in Amsterdam more sustainable, the company organizes monthly plastic fishing trips. This is one of the very hands-on responsible tourism projects on this list where you see your impact immediately.
But here’s the thing, very often these projects can be marketing schemes to attract tourists. You never really know what else a company really does to minimize their environmental footprint. But Starboard uses electric boats for their tours and makes sure that all the waste created on their boats is recycled. What’s more, the plastic that is fished out of the water during the canal cleanups is then turned into useful items, toys, or souvenirs.
A Hostel For the Common Wellbeing in Athens
I’ve been living in Athens for six years now and have seen the effects of the financial and refugee crises in the city. And so, I couldn’t leave WELCOMMON Hostel off this list. This hostel in my old neighborhood of Exarcheia supports sustainable tourism but also focuses on arts, culture, and social change. After the elections last year, migrants and refugees in Greece have come under increasing pressure, and WELCOMMON Hostel is working towards their empowerment through language courses, professional training, and workshops to acquire useful skills.
The hostel is also accessible which is extremely rare in this city. If you want to see another side of Athens WELCOMMON Hostel is a project that can introduce you to social justice movements in the Greek capital and as such provide a ray of hope for a better future for everyone. All profits are donated to social and environmental projects that benefit those who really need them.
A Women’s Cooperative in Amman
Although women’s rights are one of the top priorities of the Jordanian government there is still a long way to go in their empowerment. Supporting projects that allow women to make an income on their own terms is something all travelers to Jordan can do. The Iraq al-Amir Women’s Cooperative helps women to be financially independent in a country where less than two-thirds of all women have employment. In general, women often don’t benefit from tourism directly so finding responsible tourism projects that involve women is very important to me.
And to make things better this happens with a focus on keeping the local culture and traditions alive. The women craft ceramics, paper, and soaps and also acquire the necessary skills to run a business. As a visitor, you can participate in one of their paper making workshops which makes for a meaningful experience. I truly believe everyone should travel to Jordan at least once. But it’s even better if you can combine your trip with a look into artisanal crafts.
Explore Indigenous Canada
I spent some months in Canada while in university, and there are definitely things I miss about living in Montreal. But aside from watching a lot of APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), I didn’t really get to learn much about Canada’s Indigenous cultures. I imagine that tourists have even less of an opportunity to do so, but that’s where the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada steps in.
They list an abundance of Indigenous experiences and events on their website which you can even filter by region or culture. So whether you are looking for dedicated museums, Indigenous camps to stay in, want to go rafting, or see the aurora, there are ways to make Indigenous cultures a priority. I think on a trip to Canada it’s essential to support responsible tourism projects that involve Canada’s Indigenous population.
Discover Berlin Through the Eyes of Refugees
Guided tours are all the rage in Europe, and from free tours organized by students to pub crawls, there are a ton of options for travelers. But what about the people that are often spoken about and rarely given the platform to tell you about their cities? Querstadtein offers city tours led by refugees who now live in Berlin (or Dresden). These tours go beyond the typical sightseeing tours. The guides introduce you to aspects of their lives as refugees in Germany and the struggles they have to face.
For those who understand German, Querstadtein also offers tours by formerly homeless people who will tell you more about the people you pass every day but perhaps never take the time to get to know. While similar tours exist in other major European cities, there has been a lot of criticism regarding the motivation of both the tourists as well as the organization behind them. Do tours by homeless people turn homelessness into an attraction? How do they really help to provide shelter for those who need them? These are serious questions we must ask if we want to support truly responsible tourism projects.
Experience India Off the Beaten Path
India is one of the most popular travel destinations for the seasoned traveler. And yet, most people only visit places like Delhi, Agra, or Goa. India Untravelled wants to introduce people to the many different facets of this huge country. They show you rural areas of India where you get to learn about local cultures during your time in homestays. This provides the population in the villages with an income that is necessary to sustain their culture and traditions.
Many villages in India are shrinking due to migration. Too often, there are no income opportunities in rural areas so people have to move to the cities to fight for their survival. Responsible tourism projects must address this if they want to be truly sustainable. By participating in India Untravelled’s authentic experiences, you are doing your part to support India’s rural population.
Help the Conservation of Black Rhinos in Namibia
The black rhino is a critically endangered species that is protected in Namibia’s Palmwag Concession. This is where Wilderness Safaris set up its Desert Rhino Camp which offers rhino tracking both on foot and by vehicle. The camp is powered by a hybrid system and also solar energy for individual tents. On top of the rhino tracking, Wilderness Safaris also organizes birdwatching excursions as well as safaris that allow you to see some of Namibia’s most impressive animals.
This responsible ecotourism project works with three local communities and pays them both an annual fee as well as a percentage of the profits from the Desert Rhino Camp. Getting local communities involved is very important if responsible tourism projects want to be more than a PR campaign.
Adventure Trekking With a Female-Owned Company in the Himalayas
Trekking is considered a male domain in Nepal. 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking challenges this view and trains women to become guides. The three Nepalese sisters who founded the company wanted to provide safer treks for female travelers but also empower Nepalese women. Many of the thousands of women the organization has trained since 1994 belonged to socially disadvantaged groups such as lower castes.
During their training, women not only learn how to be trekking guides but also get English lessons. Upon completion of the program, they can choose to remain employed by 3 Sisters Adventure Trekking or can move on to something else. If you choose to join one of these treks in the Himalayas you can be sure that the majority of the profits go to the women’s salaries.
Tour Norway in an Eco-Friendly Way
Norway is internationally known for its natural beauty (and because it’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world!). But when a lot of tourists go to Norway to experience the country this threatens the very nature people want to see. Fjord Tours is a sustainable tour operator that has won the European Sustainable Tourism Award and carries the Eco-Lighthouse certificate.
Fjord Tours places great emphasis on sustainable means of transport, such as trains and electric ferries and buses. So if you’re looking for an individual tour through the gorgeous landscapes of Norway why not choose one of the tours offered by this sustainable Norwegian tour operator?
Go on a Women’s Tour (by Women for Women) of Pakistan
Women in Pakistan are still quite restricted, not by law, but because of societal conventions. The Mad Hatters is a woman-owned and -run tour operator that also focuses on supporting other women-run initiatives during their tours. With a tour that goes beyond the most popular places in Pakistan, you can actually get to know the country and some of the local communities.
And what I love about The Mad Hatters is that the tour’s description is very honest: Sometimes the standards of hygiene will be below what you are used to. There won’t always be internet or electricity. And men are not used to seeing groups of women travelers. None of this is glossed over meaning you can really trust The Mad Hatters with what they are talking about and doing.
Support Sustainable Tourism in Peru
Peru has become more and more popular with tourists as Machu Picchu was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This has unfortunately brought many irresponsible travelers to Peru who threaten the survival of the Indigenous spiritual heritage. Perú Grand Travel is a tour operator that focuses on sustainable tourism and offers a variety of tours aside from Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
On top of its zero litter policy, Perú Grand Travel only employs persons from Cusco, purchases most of its equipment from Peru, pays fair salaries, and provides health insurance to its staff. Booking a tour with Perú Grand Travel means you get to experience the beauty of Peru while giving back to local communities.
Travel Around Iran the Vegan Way
Traveling as a vegan can be difficult sometimes. When you travel you want to experience the local cuisines as well. But often, food, especially for guests, consists of non-vegan dishes. Nowadays, there are vegan tours in several European cities. But what if you want to explore a country and are unsure how to find vegan food there? I created a vegan guide for Greece for exactly that purpose.
But are there responsible tourism projects that address this issue? Yes, Iran Vegan Travel offers vegan tours for those who want to experience Persian food, culture, and hospitality. I’ve always had Iranian friends and can vouch for the deliciousness of the food, and I’ve even included a Persian recipe in my vegan Ramadan recipes from around the Muslim world (which you can obviously cook outside of Ramadan as well). So what are you waiting for? Experience Iran the vegan way.
Join a Tour of South Africa With a Fair Trade and Black-Owned Operator
Tourism to the African continent is growing, especially in terms of safaris in the southern part of Africa. But very often the companies are owned by foreign investors. Southern Africa 360 offers tours in and around South Africa with a strong focus on fair trade (they are certified). But they are also an exclusively Black-owned tour operator in South Africa.
Whether you want to go on a safari in South Africa or Mozambique, there are several options for you with Southern Africa 360. But they also do Nelson Mandela themed tours that give you more history on this great South African leader and the history of the country. Because there’s more than beautiful nature and wildlife in the southernmost African country.
Support Ethnic Minorities in Vietnam
In many developing countries over the world, difficult realities are even harsher for members of ethnic minorities. Vietnam is no exception. Sapa O’Chau is working towards educating and training members of ethnic minority communities. They employ them as trekking guides but also organize homestays with families. This empowers people and provides income opportunities beyond agriculture.
On top of that, Sapa O’Chau helps women from the Hmong community sell handicrafts. This allows the women to make a living without having to abandon their cultural practices and artisanry. Instead, it is through their traditional art that they can earn a living and provide an education to their children. Sapa O’Chau is a social enterprise that tackles the various issues ethnic minorities deal with hands-on.
So there you go, those are some of the responsible tourism projects you can support after the pandemic. Which one will you join first?
Welcome to Lemons and Luggage! I’m Nina Ahmedow, a travel content creator who has traveled to more than 20 countries on three continents. Born and raised in Germany but currently living in Greece, I love exploring the world through vegan food. Here, I share travel and sustainable living tips from a vegan perspective.
Note for the attention members of the Social Economy Intergroup of the EP
Re: Social and Solidarity Economy in Greece
The situation in the field of Social Economy in Greece is dramatic. Below we briefly describe the main problems we face, and we are at your disposal for further information and documentation regarding our comments.
1. Refusal of institutional dialogue: The Minister of Labor and Social Security refuses to have a contact with us and does not respond to our letters and requests for a meeting as from December 2019 on issues that concern the sector.
2. Social Cooperative Enterprises are excluded from the special purpose allowance granted to enterprises due to COVID-19 (Ministerial Decision 39162 EX 2020, Government Gazette B ‘1457 / 16-04-2020).
3. The Law 4430/2016 on social and solidarity economy became an inactive legislation. In fact concerning :
Article 2: on “Social Impact Measurement Tool” no ministerial decision was ever taken in order to implement this provision.
Article 5: on the National Fund for Entrepreneurship and Development it is to be said that we were never eligible and allowed to receive such funds and there is an extremely complicated procedure to obtain funding from programs of the Employment Agency of Workforce.
Article 6 Exceptional difficulty in concluding program contracts with local authorities
Article 10 on the creation of a Social Economy Fund was never put into force
Article 12 and 13 the consultative committees remain inactive
Article 34 there are no financial resources and financial incentives
Article 36 and 37: the Special Secretariat for Social and Solidarity Economy was abolished
3. Insufficient Funding. In the Action Plan for the Development of an Ecosystem for the Social and Solidarity Economy for the years 2017-2023, various actions have been foreseen that concern the promotion of Social Entrepreneurship and Social Economy. However out of the projected resources of € 161,837,554 which only 1,396,882 (0,86%) have been committed. Our members did not have access to any form of financing, loan, guarantee, etc.
4. There is no National Strategic Plan. From 2011 until today, the 2 relevant announcements have never been realised.
5. Lack of Training across Greece: there are only 11 institutional support centers, with limited resources and no centralized plan for a training program.
6. Lack of understanding of the particularities and very low visibility of Social Economy Entreprises by the Public Administration
Thank you for your attention
Thomas SOPILIDIS Athens 29/5/2020
Social Coops Union DYNAMIKI
tel +30 210 3001574 : +306932 302009
Our official complaint and our letter to the President and the Commissioners about discrimination of Social economy legal forms, State aids Covid 19. Services directive
Honorary President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula Von Der Leyen
Honorable Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Frans Timmermans
Commissioner of Internal Marketing, Mr. Thierry Breton
Commissioner for Jobs and Labor, Mr. Nicolas Schmit
Commissioner for Competition Ms. Margrethe Vestager
Director-General of Legal Service, Mr. Mr Luis Romero Requena
C/C co-chairs of Social Economy Intergroup in EP Mr Sven Giegold & Ms Patrizia Toia
president of Social Economy Europe, Mr Juan Antonio Pedreno
director of Social Economy Europe, Mr Victor Meseguer
Subject: Discrimination of Social economy legal forms. State aids Covid 19. Services directive
Dear Ladies, Dear Sirs
I am Nikos Chrysogelos president of the social cooperative Anemos Ananeosis / Wind of Renewal in Athens running the innovative WELCOMMON HOSTEL, a hostel with social and green impact which is nowadays locked down. In this hostel we used to host groups of young tourists and a number of refugees offering them language courses, training for social insertion and social services for their children. It is also a center for social and green innovation and economy.
I am writing to you to complaint for a discrimination suffered in Greece by the entities of social economy, taking advantage of the letter addressed by Commissioner Mr. Nicolas Schmit to the national Governments on April 23, 2020, where he is calling on Member States to ensure strong support for the social economy at this time of serious crisis due to the COVID19.
In Greece, however, the social economy entities not only suffer from the lack of supportive policy from the national and regional authorities but in addition they are excluded from any aid, subsidies and other financial support related to the COVID19 crisis, as explained in the annex.
In practice, the terms and conditions imposed by Government decisions and by financial institutions, for lending to companies suffering from the crisis, prevent social enterprises from claiming financial support because they do not have the appropriate legal form. This is contrary to the statement found in the relevant Commission’s decisions, according to which all types of enterprises can profit from the State aid measures. This causes to us an inadmissible competitive disadvantage and it is a discrimination in violation of the Services Directive.
Given that the new COVID19 financial instruments should be addressed to all types of enterprises, you are kindly asked to take action in order to remedy to this inadmissible situation, by taking into account the particularities of the companies in the field of Social Economy.
SUBJECT: DISCRIMINATIONS AND EXCLUSION OF SOCIAL ECONOMY FROM RECOVERY MEASURES COVID-19
The European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Mr. Nicolas Schmit, in a letter dated 23 April 2020 to the Ministers of Labor of the EU, calls on Member States to take all necessary measures to ensure strong support for the social economy entreprises.
State aide measures
In the meantime, the Commission has adopted a Communication on Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to support the economy in the current COVID-19 outbreak1 on the basis of which it approved a Greek guarantee scheme on this issue and an amendment to that scheme 2.
These latter texts concerning State aids make it clear that Member States are authorized to grant various support measures to undertakings of all kinds in all sectors, as it is literally stated.
Discrimination of social cooperatives; Services Directive
However, we consider that the cases described below, in the context of the application of the support measures, create a negative discrimination of social cooperatives on the grounds of their legal form, when compared with other types of businesses, using different legal form.
We regard this situation as contrary to the provisions of the Services Directive Article 15(2)(b).
Social and Solidarity Economy Enterprises in Greece are created in the form of Social cooperatives with limited liability (Koinsep in GR) and are governed by the Law 4430/2016. As such they are considered as companies by the Treaty Article 54 TFEU and therefore they are entitled to enjoy all rights recognized by EU law to enterprises.
However, they are excluded from the “special purpose allowance” COVID-19 granted to other enterprises (800€) like limited and unlimited partnerships, liberal professions, private single person capital companies (Ministerial Decision 39162 ΕX 2020, Nat Gazette B 1457 – 16.04.2020).
This aid measure excludes all kinds of social economy enterprises, even those locked down by Government Decision, like our Welcommon Hostel. This policy creates an unequal treatment regime since for the same code of commercial activity (in Greek KAD) other companies receive the aid of 800€ and others do not, depending on their form. The answer sent to our application reads as follows: “We would like to inform you that you are not entitled to the special purpose allowance, because the conditions of articles 2 and 3 of Decision 39162 EX 2020 are not met. Specifically: You are not a liberal professional or a self-employed person, owner of a sole proprietorship or a personal company or a private one-man capital company”.
Exclusion from subsidies to the interest of professional loans. (Ministerial circular 32790/ par 13§1 3). All social economy enterprises are excluded from receiving subsidies on the interest they pay for their existing professional loans, for the simple reason that they are not capital based companies. In fact, applications are dismissed because credit institutions are bound to examine only demands of capital companies with limited liability. In reality the circular foresees that only the undertakings mentioned in Annex I of Company Law Directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, consolidated financial statements and related reports of certain types of undertakings, are covered; and according to the Greek relevant declaration these are only public and private companies limited by shares (and the unlimited partnerships with shares) but not social cooperatives 4.
Aid in the form of repayable advances: Facing a severe lack of liquidity, as all other tourist establishments, we tried to get informed about loans COVID19 from banks that act as intermediaries between European (or national) funds and the enterprises. We realized that the same problem appears also in this case, in the sense that a company applying for a repayable advance should not be an undertaking in difficulty according to the definition of Commission Regulation 651/2014 declaring certain categories of aid compatible with the internal market. However, only the companies mentioned in article 2 point 18 of this Regulation, are entitled to apply and these are again the types of companies that are mentioned to the Annex I of the directive 2013/34/EU, on the annual financial statements, as explained above.
Questioning the high rate for loans based on EU funds
In addition we would like the Commission to renegotiate with the Greek authorities a number of points concerning aid conditions like interest rate of 8% or 10% levied by the banks that are intermediaries for repayable advances of Community funds, which is not reasonable neither and proportionate.
Furthermore, if an amount is pledged as collateral by some members of social economy enterprises in order to help their undertaking – since for the legal entities it is impossible to access even European-funded loans – this sum which is deposited and blocked in the bank is granted an interest rate of 0.15% while the loan granted to the coop, like a repayable advance or open loan or otherwise, is charged with an interest rate of over 8%, which is exorbitant.
It is almost impossible for social economy companies to benefit from a European-backed program such as Greek TEPIX I and II in support for small undertakings, given that banking criteria both before and during the crisis exclude them. There are examples of such exclusions, even for innovative business plans which, if they were presented by other legal forms of business would be sure to be included in the financing program.
Absence of favorable environment
At present, any application for a COVID 19 State aid should be signed by an accountant declaring that “the loss the company suffered in 2019 is less than 50% of registered capital”. However, it is very likely that the majority of Greek social economy enterprises have suffered losses in previous years, either due to a crisis or due to investments made as start-ups and are therefore nowadays excluded from loans for cash flow, although not in bankruptcy or similar procedure.
For example, a social economy business in tourism, as is the case of our Welcommon Hostel, that started in 2018 without subsidies or loans but only with funds from members and friends, needs at least 3-4 years to reach a degree of economic viability. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to have losses in previous years. And for this reason, it is now being prosecuted and risks bankruptcy, as it does not have access to the necessary cashflow and restart liquidity.
Hygiene and safety measures, especially for the tourism and catering industry, are costly (cleaners, disinfectants, uniforms, physician, insurance, staff training, equipment required, etc.), while the environment in which these businesses are back after the crisis is uncertain. In addition, obligations (rent, electricity etc) have not been written off and many costs had to be paid within the lockdown period. In Greece banks are asking for a mortgage or other real surety or even a deposit at least equal to the requested cash flow, as a prerequisite for considering such a demand.
However, it should be noted that according to the information published by the Ministry of Labor (2017) concerning social economy there are €161 million from European Community funds in order to finance the Greek “Action Plan for the development of the social economy 2017-2023 ” out of which less than 1% (+-1.3 m) is committed.
Measures to support employment
If employment and training in green and socially good jobs are not supported today, we will see soon an increase of the number of jobless people, especially in countries with already high unemployment rates, such as Greece. The measures to support employment through “community service”, within local authorities, or in public or semipublic organizations etc., implemented for several years, do not give to social economy enterprises a chance to actively participate and draw an advantage; and this despite the fact that the funding of the program comes from the European Social Fund and that the role of the social economy in social and professional integration is well known as this was pointed out in the letter of Commissioner N.Schmit to the Member States.
While many European countries have already implemented national and regional employment support programs through the social economy, there has been no similar planning in Greece. However, at European level, before and after the crisis, social economy businesses were considered to be a key tool for reducing unemployment and for training unemployed and socially vulnerable young people to subjects and professions that are important for social and ecological sustainability, green – circular economy and digital modernization.
Unfortunately, in Greece the European Social Fund resources continue to be treated as unemployment benefits to reduce its extreme dimensions but by no means as tools for the promotion of a social economy enterprise nor as means for the insertion to the work of the most vulnerable people. In fact, jobless people are not offered experience in important, sustainable and promising areas of activity, like health and safety areas, social and green innovation, or digital modernization; in other words these national programs do not create the conditions for finding a long-term job after the end of support programs.
The actual policy of Greek authorities concerning investment and training programs should be revisited since the resumption of business activities cannot anymore be based on the operating conditions of the past. In this context social economy enterprises can play an important role as training vehicles.
We urge you to ask the Member State to remove all obstacles and discrimination against social economy in Greece especially when European financial resources are used for this objective. The actual suffocating environment does not help to attain the recovery of the economy and employment through social, digital, and green transition.