Realizing the need for community support after the destructive storm Ianos flooded Karditsa this month, Konstantinos Polychronopoulos and volunteers went to the town, located in Thessaly, to prepare food and feed the residents there who are in need.
Images from Karditsa show widespread destruction, included flooded buildings and crumbling roadways. Residents are now left with a town that is unrecognizable, and homes and businesses that have been heavily damaged, if not completely destroyed.
When asked about the work he’s doing in Karditsa and all over Greece, Polychronopoulos told Greek Reporter that “Everyday The Other Human serves 3,000 servings of food to those in need in Karditsa.”
“Migrants and refugees, Athenians, people from Thessaloniki and all over Greece are here cooking… all these different hands are united to show solidarity to the residents of Karditsa,” Polychronopoulos emphasized.
After witnessing the toll of the financial crisis in 2009, Polychronopoulos developed a food bank called “Ο Άλλος Άνθρωπος,” or “The Other Human,” in 2011. The group not only serves food to the hungry, but also prepares it in front of them, creating community and trust.
Polychronopoulos saw the clear need for such work, since there were many people who were struggling to feed themselves and their family, yet he faced difficulties in providing aid.
Regarding his early work, Polychronopoulos has stated that he started out by giving out pre-made sandwiches. Initially, people were very suspicious of the food, as they hadn’t seen how it was prepared, and only took it after they saw him eat it himself.
After that, he decided that he would cook the food in front of those who needed it, so they could see how it was prepared and also create a community as well, speaking with and forming bonds with others in need and with those preparing the food.
He gathered his ingredients by asking sellers at Athens’ open-air produce markets if they had any leftover or unsold goods that they could give him. Now, the Other Human accepts donations from both Greeks and supporters from around the world.
Hungry people all around Greece, including in Athens and migrant camps on Lesvos, have been fed for free by Polychronopoulos and other volunteers from his “social kitchen.”
The group has also rented a space in the Athenian neighborhood of Metaxourgeio, where they store their food, and anyone in need can take a shower and have coffee or breakfast.
For his work feeding those in need, refugees and Greeks alike, Polychronopoulos was awarded the “European Citizen Award” for 2015.
He refused the award, however, in protest of the treatment of refugees by some European states and the austerity measures imposed in the face of economic crisis.
He stated that he was waiting to accept the award from the “Europe of solidarity and culture… not the Europe of cannibalism.”