The Steering Group of Χείρα Βοηθείας issued this Statement
It is a matter of great regret that we have to acknowledge that we have reached a parting of the ways with the Municipal Authority of Mayor Charalambos Koukianakis.
Despite our persistent efforts to develop a dialogue and co-operation with the new Municipal Authority of Apokoronas, it is now clear that the Municipality has a fundamentally different approach to the distribution of food to those in need in Apokoronas.
Our Christmas distribution – the largest one yet, reaching out to support 308 families which include more than 400 children – will be our last.
With immediate effect we are temporarily suspending all fund-raising activities and re-calling the Red Boxes.
Χείρα Βοηθείας has worked for the last 2½ years to provide food bags to support all those in need in Apokoronas. We have raised money from supporters and encouraged people to donate items of food, using the Red Boxes we have placed in shops across the Municipality.
The new Municipal Authority of Mayor Charalambos Koukianakis has decided on a different approach.
Whereas we provided food bags containing non-perishable goods every 6 weeks, the Municipality has decided to include fresh meat, fruit etc and to do so every month.
We do not have the financial or human resources to do this.
We have also voiced our concerns about supplying fresh produce which has to be stored at specific temperatures and under specific conditions. The health and safety issues are an onerous responsibility we will not shoulder.
The Municipality is in the process of establishing a Social Supermarket. They are organising food collections and seeking large food donations from businesses and supermarkets in Apokoronas and in Chania. They intend to incorporate the distribution of EU surpluses into their plan.
All of this calls into question the role and contribution of Χείρα Βοηθείας.
Disappointingly, the Municipal Councillors responsible, without discussion or consultation, insisted on putting two leaflets in the 308 Food Bags our volunteers had prepared for the Christmas distribution. One was a leaflet clearly designed to give the impression that the food bag was a gift from the Municipality. There was no mention of Χείρα Βοηθείας.
The second was a scrap of paper. This set out the criteria and documentary evidence people must produce, in order to be considered as qualified to continue receiving the food bags we have been providing up until now.
If Papers, ID Numbers, Tax Returns etc are required in order to “qualify” for a food bag, this may deter people from seeking the support they need. People who are uninsured and those wary of contact with the Greek State may not ask for help for themselves and their children.
For these reasons we will not use the EU Criteria. Moreover, the distribution of EU surpluses (the pasta mountain, the cheese mountain, the olive oil lake etc.) is by law restricted to EU Citizens. Such an approach contravenes Article 3 of our Constitution which states that our purpose is to support all residents in Apokoronas who are in need.
Χείρα Βοηθείας is supported by all nationalities living in Apokoronas. We support all those in need, irrespective of their country of origin.
There has been no opportunity to have a sensible discussion with representatives of the Council about any of these issues.
We wish Mayor Koukianakis and his supporters every success in building on the very firm foundations Χείρα Βοηθείας and its friends and supporters have laid, with the consistent support and encouragement of the former Mayor of Apokoronas, Grigoris Markakis and Bishop Damaskinos, the Most Reverend Metropolitan Bishop of Kydonias & Apokoronas.
We are tremendously grateful to all those who have supported the Food Bag Programme with their money, their time and their energies. All those involved in Χείρα Βοηθείας can feel a great sense of satisfaction that the current Mayor and his team are following our example with such enthusiasm.
In the New Year we will be convening a meeting of the members of Χείρα Βοηθείας to discuss the future of the organisation and to explore new projects that can build on our work and experience, and consolidate the broad support we have across the communities of Apokoronas, so that Χείρα Βοηθείας can continue to make a significant contribution to supporting all those in need in Apokoronas.
The Steering Group