Interview: Irini Zoumbou
Translator: Elina Papadochatzak
If anyone tried to resume the last five years, for sure he would describe the period with terms like “social exclusion”, “humanitarian crisis”, “poverty” and “despair”. All these terms reflect, with the needed honesty, the situation that a large number of people has come to know. Among all these, and despite the difficulties of time, an initiative was born, aiming to help the homeless and other vulnerable social groups, which was implemented through the creation of the street magazine “Shedia”.
“Shedia” is the only greek magazine member of International Network of Street Papers-INSP. It is sold exclusively at the streets of the city from authorized salesmen that come from vulnerable social groups: homeless, unemployed and generally people proven to live under the limit of poverty. From the original prize of the magazine (3.00 euros), the 50% (1.50 euro) goes straight to the salesman. It is a unique chance to make the minimum, a decent income, but it is also a means of liberation from the vicious situation of social isolation and exclusion.
I learned about the magazine “Shedia” a few months ago from friends who had bought an issue, introducing themselves to this unique initiative. I confess that this action has moved me (and this is not excessive at all), for through times of crisis and inactivity it appeared that creativity and interest for «the other person» can lead to very meaningful results. For that reason I wanted to learn more about this action and who is better to tell the story than a person who is directly involved, such as a salesman of the magazine. So, I met Apostolis at the headquarters of the magazine in Thessaloniki and we had a brief, but at the same time very nice conversation.
How long have you been working as a salesman and how did the magazine help you?
A: I could not find a job for several months. I addressed the social organization “Arsis” and there they told me about the magazine. For 1.5 year I didn’t have an income… I have been working as a salesman at the magazine for over 3 months. The magazine helped me both financially and morally; financially because you have an income, morally because you become a better person. Moreover, you take great pleasure when you succeed.
In which values is the whole effort based on?
A: On the values of dignity, solidarity and love. Whoever comes here is embraced by the magazine, whoever he might be.
What is the attitude of the people this whole time?
A: The love of the people and the acceptance is huge. Of course, there are some that are indifferent… they also exist.
What does it mean for you the concept of solidarity? Do you believe that with your participation in the magazine you receive it in return?
A: Solidarity mustn’t be either standardized, or hypocritical, or selective. You must do that because you feel it from inside. And that is what most people in here do (he means in the magazine). I receive that from the citizens, too. There are, also, the indifferent ones as I said before.
So, do the citizens support you?
A: Yes, of course. In a great rate!
How do you see the future given the circumstances?
A: In a bad way… no I wouldn’t say that; I am optimistic. I believe that the situation will get better. The point is to fight. You try to survive, no matter the problems you might have (he mentions as an example the financial and the health problems), no matter for how long you may endure them.
Concluding, what he wanted to express with this conversation is his desire «for solidarity to exist, so that it can be also expressed by other organisms. It does not matter if you only take a bag of food or give a magazine; you can simply have a brief conversation or sit next to them». And he mentions: “There should be more actions and more organizations to offer solidarity”.
As I was leaving I thought again and again the words of Apostolis and I remembered a phrase of Christopher Hitchens: “Solidarity is an attitude of resistance, I suppose, or it should be”. However it is not that or only that. Maybe it is something more. Maybe it is simply a human thing. And that is what made a great impact on me from my meeting with Apostolis.
For more information
Note: The magazine Shedia is in need of volunteers. If someone is interested to work as a volunteer he/she can contact at the following phone numbers:
Athens: 0030 213 023 1220
Thessaloniki: 0030 231 301 3605