On Thursday, November the 14th, the Municipal Market of Kipseli neighborhood in Athens hosted a very special event. The idea for the event came from the psychosocial empowerment men’s group of the Caritas Hellas Center for Social Integration and Employability in the Kipseli Market.

The group was set up in June 2019, at the initiative of the Center’s Social Services Officer. It consists of 18 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers originating from African countries, who are or have gone through particularly bad experiences, either at their home country or during their difficult journey to Europe. These people, having previously faced very difficult conditions, are now called upon to manage a rather difficult reality. Therefore, they are trying to turn this reality into a sustainable everyday life, which in the long run they will be able to transform into a deeper and meaningful integration into the neighborhood, the local community, and finally the Greek society.

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As part of this effort, on Thursday, the 14th of November, an African Celebration within the Municipal Market of Kipseli was organized by the Psychosocial Empowerment group of Caritas Hellas. The program included music, dance, presentations of traditional costumes and recipes and games from various African countries. All the activities were organized by the group members, while the staff of the Center was responsible for the overall coordination. The celebration ended with African rhythms, a music performance by George Fassolis and students of the Kabeiria Percussion Music School. The event was highly attended as people from the neighborhood, members of local African communities, younger and older populations enthusiastically watched and participated in the event, coming together under the sounds of music.

Photo Credit: Vasiliki Kakavia

The event took place in the context of the worldwide campaign “Share the Journey” that is carried out by the Caritas network internationally. The “Share the journey” campaign aims to tackle xenophobic reactions towards the refugee and migrant populations, as well as negative perceptions that are often shaped by a sense of fear that something “foreign”, “unknown” may cause. It therefore seeks to build channels of communication between members of multicultural societies, to create networks of communities and neighborhoods, with a view to a welcoming environment for these new coming populations, and to the maximum possible cohesion throughout society.

This was precisely the target of the men of the Kipseli psychosocial empowerment group on that day, through a small but decisive step: to invite the people of the Kipseli neighborhood, their own neighborhood, to try to get to know each other better; to share with them their customs and traditions, their ethnic costumes, their tastes and recipes, their music and songs. To show that if one takes the time to stand and look a little closer, behind the anonymous numbers of a humanitarian crisis, behind the lowered and frightened looks, one will get to know people with whom one shares much more similarities than differences, and the things that can really unite them are much more than the ones that separate them.

The visit is part of the Program “Social and Economic Integration of Refugees and Immigrants in Athens” concerning the support and integration of refugees and immigrants in Greek society. The Program is implemented by Caritas Hellas and is funded by Caritas Switzerland.