The Salvation Army is currently in the process of establishing its projects in Athens. After founding the Salvation Army in Thessaloniki in 2011 and then running it, Captains Polis Pantelidis and Maria Galinou relocated to Athens to establish similar programs and activities.
These programs and activities fall under two main areas: the ‘By Your Side’ initiative, an umbrella name for the Salvation Army community program in Athens, and the Christian Church, or ‘corps’, division.
BY YOUR SIDE
The ‘By Your Side’ initiative was created to assist those in Athens who need support due to the current economic crisis in Greece. In keeping with international Salvation Army practice, the initiative is motivated by the love of God, and provides humanitarian assistance to all, regardless of religion, political affiliation, age, gender or ethnicity. Special attention is paid to the self-esteem of recipients in Greece, since many of those who once offered charity, are now obliged to receive it.
Our aim is to help participants regain and maintain their independence, using methods that have been globally implemented and honored(?) for decades by the Salvation Army. The initiative focuses on vulnerable groups, especially: young families, single mothers, the elderly and the so-called ‘new poor’ – those formerly of the middleclass who now need support to help them positively adapt to a new lifestyle which incorporates a lower standard of living.
Several programs fall under the ‘By Your Side’ umbrella:
ADOPT A FAMILY
COMMENCED: OCTOBER, 2012. This program provides a concrete way for groups of friends to help their fellow humankind in a pro-active, transparent manner. Particular emphasis is placed on maintaining the privacy and dignity of those on the receiving end.
PARENTS AND TODDLERS GROUP
PROJECTED COMMENCEMENT: BEGINNING 2014. We provide families with a safe, controlled, fully equipped environment where young children can play together or with their carers. Perhaps equally important, the carers also have an opportunity to socialise with each other.
PROJECTED COMMENCEMENT: 2014. Following international Salvation Army tradition, this shop will make donated new and second-hand articles available to the general public. We ask for a small donation which will be used to support other Salvation Army activities in the community.
GREEN LIGHT PROJECT
PROJECTED COMMENCEMENT: 2014. The Salvation Army in Athens actively participates in the fight against human trafficking. Equally important is the issue of prostitution, where many girls are trapped, often at a very young age. This program provides a nonthreatening place where victims of trafficking and women working in the sex industry can regularly drop in for a ‘normal’ chat and cup of coffee - hence facilitating their societal integration. The program also hosts workshops.
CHURCH OR ‘CORPS’
COMMENCED: 6 OCTOBER 2013. Like most Salvation Army centres, we hold weekly worship services on our premises on Sunday mornings, from 11.00-13.30. These meetings have a relaxed atmosphere and include hymn singing, Bible readings, members of the congregation talking about their Christian experiences, and presentations by worship or drama groups. We also host supplementary activities, like Sunday School, Bible studies and prayer meetings.