By Eleni Courea
THERE is no shortage of charitable spirit this Christmas – the government has distributed €125,000 to 47 food banks across Cyprus, while leading a nationwide collection of food, toys and clothing for poor families. Councillors, charities, and local businesses have all taken part in the coordinated effort to give help to those who need it this holiday season.
The interior ministry has distributed €125,000 to 47 food banks, while charitable programmes are also being run by the Volunteers Association and by small businesses.
Individual amounts are being allocated according to the number of families each food bank provides for.
The joint project was initiated by the ministry in collaboration with the Commissioner for Volunteering and Civil Society in 2013. Its aim is to ease the burden of the financial crisis on poor Cypriot families. Last year, the ministry allocated €115,000.
The action is part of a wider national effort to provide for the increasing numbers of families experiencing financial strain.
The Commissioner for Volunteering, Yiannis Yiannakis, initiated a ‘Hug of Love’ campaign on November 24 in order to collect clothing, food and toys for Christmas. The collection has been largely successful.
According to Yiannaki, the collection has benefited a total of 12,500 families all across Cyprus, from Polis Chrysochous in the west to Paralimni in the east.
Aside from the national collection, though, Cypriots are also leading smaller projects to give help to those who need it. The Association for Volunteers in Nicosia (ESSE) is running a programme through which Cypriots can ‘adopt’, or support, a local family during the holiday season.
In addition, volunteers in Nicosia plan to visit old people’s homes and hospitals to sing carols, distribute gifts, and spread Christmas cheer. Help is also given to the enclaved persons in the north in the form of Christmas packages.
Cypriot charities, too, are at the forefront of the national collection effort. The Alkionides charity’s Christmas Bazaar raised around €3,000 to support impoverished families and particularly those with serious medical problems.
The Youth Alkionides Club raised an additional €400 for the charity, with their bake sale in The English School Christmas Bazaar.
Local municipalities have also made an important contribution to the national effort. In Sotira village in Famagusta, councillors have voted to cut a collective €2,000 from their salaries this month, and donate that sum to the Sotira food bank. This food bank, which is run by the local church, helped a total of 75 poor families in 2014, and provides essential support to 15 families on a monthly basis.
Finally, help is not only given by the government and NGOs, but also by small Cypriot businesses. A takeaway restaurant in Latsia, Taste Boutique, has been donating all its leftover food to poor families for the past year. Taste Boutique provides between five and fifteen such meals on a nightly basis.
This season, the restaurant has taken an extra step by deciding to provide poor families with freshly cooked hot food on Christmas Day, helping around 150-200 people in the Latsia and Yeri areas.
By Eleni Courea