A unique Christmas tree made up of milk cans to be donated to children and families in need across Greece was erected in central Athens on Tuesday.
The Greek branch of the international non-governmental organization Medicins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and other activists called on people to join in the creation of the tree by offering their own “ornaments” throughout the day.
By Tuesday evening, hundreds of Athenians had joined the endeavor underway in front of the old university in the centre of the city, donating milk tins, as well as medicines, pasta, rice, and olive oil.
“The only way to overcome this debt crisis is to join forces and offer help to people in need. Today my jobless neighbor and his children might need help. Tomorrow it could be my turn, it could be my children,” Tania Avgerinopoulou, a middle-aged housewife who participated in the event told.
In a similar event last year, Medicins du Monde gathered some 5,000 milk tins and three tones of food for households suffering from financial troubles.
As Greece is hit hard by deep recession, unemployment rates have increased to a record high in a decade. Ordinary households are suffering a significant income decline due to cutbacks on salaries, pensions and tax hikes in the context of efforts to stave off a potential disastrous default.
As a result, the numbers of people in need of charity meals have risen significantly since the end of last year, according to charity groups.
While in the past, the majority of people receiving charity meals were illegal immigrants, drug addicts and homeless people, nowadays among thousands queuing up for a free meal are low-income pensioners and family men who lost their jobs and can not make ends meet.
Local media reported that there have been cases of children fainting in classrooms due to malnourishment. The Education Ministry will provide financial aid for supplementary meals to students in some parts of the country starting from this coming January.