Lessons in solidarity
Peter Poulos, Executive Director at The Hellenic Initiative harnesses his solitude in lockdown to raise funds for those hardest hit by the Covid pandemic.
Over a month ago on March 23rd Athens went into a lockdown/quarantine which required each of us to notify the government with an SMS message when we needed to leave our homes. Numbers 1 – 6 corresponded to what we might need to do, i.e. visit the pharmacy, doctor, market, bank, walk the dog etc. We then waited for a reply to confirm we could venture out. The number 6 corresponded to exercise and dog walking, which was the number I used the most.
Our normal thirty-minute morning walk turned into a 2-hour-plus exploration of architecture, street art, green spaces, and ancient sites. Normally bustling neighborhoods and streets became ghost towns and afforded us carefree strolling and observing. This was all to be repeated many more times each day.
Athens is a garden of flowering trees, crawling tortoises, feral cats, Greek grandmothers collecting wild flowers, buzzing bees, swifts, swallows, and wild parrots. Many days I was overwhelmed with the smell of orange blossom while sitting on my balcony. It made me wonder if it had been like this before. If so how had I missed it?
In my role as the executive director of The Hellenic Initiative (THI), a Diaspora relief organization, we also felt it was our duty to respond to this new challenge. So we created the THI COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund Campaign.
It felt particularly cruel for Greece that after 10 years of a prolonged financial crisis it was finally set to see the light of day only to have it darkened again by COVID-19. And to make matters worse the one bright spot in its economy, tourism, will now take the most serious blow, worsening the economic situation for thousands of individuals and families.
Just like my dog taught me life lessons over the course of the quarantine, COVID also taught us lessons. And if as we leave lock-down and return to our old way of life we can take with us the spirit of unity that prevailed all over Greece we will be a better and stronger country in the end.