By Bejay Browne
A PAPHOS based charity which is helping to feed hundreds of needy families in the district has issued an urgent plea for help as it struggles to keep up with the burgeoning numbers seeking assistance.
Solidarity was set up in 2012 and helps all those in need, of any nationality or background. Pavlina Patsalou heads up the Paphos-based charity along with George Sofokleous.
In just two years, the number of desperate families and individuals on the poverty line has exploded, Patsalou said, adding that the charity is helping more than 900 families, with new daily cases increasing dramatically.
“Every day we have desperate people coming to us who have nowhere else to turn. We are handing out emergency food supplies to people, mostly Cypriots, who have no income, no savings, mounting debts and no food. It’s heartbreaking.”
Patsalou said many of them have young children or infants.
Weekly food parcels are handed out to the needy, providing them with the basic essentials or whatever other food is donated.
The charity founder stressed that although economically times are tough for most people, Solidarity urgently needs public support. If people could manage to donate even one euro a month, the charity would be able to help many families, she said.
Patsalou said the charity is fearful about the coming weeks as winter draws in and many hotels in the district will close for this period; increasing the number of people without an income.
“Every day the welfare office is sending us three more families which they are unable to handle and we won’t turn anyone away.”
The charity is one of many organisations, churches and associations which are helping to feed the needy in Paphos. Patsalou said that thousands of people are living in poverty and that without help they would literally starve.
“The state does nothing to help and they don’t seem to care. I don’t know what it will take for them to understand how desperate the situation is,” she said.
Unemployment in Paphos is high and although some of the families seeking help are foreign residents, most of the families are now Cypriot.
“We hand out at least 200 loaves of bread a day as well as pastries; these are donated from local bakeries.”
Patsalou said that there is an urgent need for nappies and baby milk which are costly but vital for the health and wellbeing of tens of babies in Paphos.
The charity said that many people are now unable to afford a doctor and are turning to the charity for help. “We try and help with free doctors where we can and we are also grateful to have the help of Dr. Christos Demetriou, who is a pediatrician and sees children for free.”
Solidarity is aiming to have a continuous string of regular fundraising events to ensure there is some sort of a cash flow which can be used to buy food.
“More and more families that literally have nothing in their cupboards are coming to see us as emergencies. It’s very hard to see so much pain every day. I really feel for these people and couldn’t imagine being in their place.”
For the last three months, Patslaou has opened her children’s clothes shop seven days a week. The extra money earned from these longer hours she has donated to the charity and raised 430 euors which was used for coupons to buy powdered babies milk.
Donations of foods such as long life milk, pasta, rice, tinned goods, pulses, babies’ powdered milk and nappies are urgently needed, as stocks are running low.
And it’s not just the essential food staples that people need, said Patsalou. Shampoo, soap, washing powder, cleaning materials and toilet paper are also required.
“Some people are very shy to come to Solidarity, but without any help they would starve, so they have to come. I don’t know where it will end. This is going to be a hard winter.”
The charity recently handed out 300 school uniforms as part of a joint initiative with USB bank.
A fund raising event and food drive will be held at ‘Looney Land’ at Paphos Mall on Sunday from 11.30am to 5pm. There will be numerous family activities and a food collection point
Donations may also be taken to Patsalou’s shop, any of the drop-off points listed on the website www.solidaritypaphos.com, or the Solidarity house in Paphos with prior arrangement.
For information call Pavlina Patsalou on 99220152.