Keeping Greek Village Life Alive
Greek Archdiocese/IOCC Partnership Allows Villagers to Sustain Farms and Traditions
Peloponnese, Greece (December 13, 2007) — His father is in Patras on kidney dialysis and his wife is in Athens in her fifth month of pregnancy, so Vasili can’t spend much time lamenting the loss of half his herd of goats, sheep and some 85 olive trees to last summer’s wildfires in Greece. Vasili, 37, had previously finished a 14-month stretch of working 18-hour days in Germany for extra money so that he could return to the village of Pelopio to upgrade his father’s farm. “The animals are my tools,” says Vasili, “like a taxi driver has a taxi, I had my animals. The trees will grow back but the animals were my daily income.”
Like many of the farmers who have received emergency supplies of animal feed from International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), Vasili is choosing to remain in one of Greece’s rural areas in order to keep his family business, and an entire way of life, alive. IOCC’s latest distribution, over 400 metric tons of animal feed benefitting 130,000 heads of livestock, is made possible through a grant from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Niko, his brother and sister are also determined to keep their family farm in the village of Leondari. They lived their childhood years in an era of old-world traditions as their parents and multiple generations before them wove fabric, sowed and tilled the land by hand. Niko and his siblings decided to create the “Ecological Footpath”, a model of a working farm based on traditional farming techniques. The wildfires devastated their organic stables, their open range pastures, and the structure of their natural amphitheatre. IOCC is helping to keep their livestock alive in the short term and has also given them forage seed so they can replant their grasslands for a long term solution to the problem.
Yianni and his son Kosta of the village of Chelidonia in Ileia Prefecture are working long days to maintain their livelihood. Kosta is picking olives on a farm in a neighboring village although ten of his friends left for Athens after the wildfires to find work. “They had no choice,” says Kosta, “they will probably not return.” Yianni saved some of his animals during the wildfires but could not salvage the two tons of animal feed he had warehoused. IOCC’s donation of feed and Kosta’s hard work on the neighboring farm will keep the family going until father and son can rebuild their stable and warehouse.
“The key to IOCC’s success in the Peloponnese since early September has been the cooperation we have with local municipalities and Orthodox priests,” says Dimitri Djukic of IOCC Greece. He is based in the town of Pyrgos to oversee IOCC’s distribution to local farmers.
IOCC’s total relief and recovery program for Greece has exceeded $500,000 and has included two distributions of feed totaling 610 metric tons and 20 metric tons of forage seed to allow Greek farmers to permanently restore their grasslands. “People are grateful for what they have received thus far,” says IOCC Development Director Daniel Christopulos. “But winter is coming and the need to keep livestock alive is the number one issue for Peloponnese farmers.”
IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $250 million in relief and development programs in 33 countries around the world.
To help in providing emergency relief, call IOCC’s donation hotline toll-free at 1-877-803-4622, make a gift on-line at www.iocc.org, or mail a check or money order payable to “IOCC” and write “Greece Wildfires” in the memo line to: IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, Md. 21297-0429.