A local Paphos businessman who is helping to feed those in need through ‘Chalkies Kitchen,’ has called on the government and local authorities to foster an environment of philanthropy and put measures in place to ensure people stop ’falling through the cracks.’

“No-one here really cares, the authorities don’t want to help people have a decent life, too many people are falling through the cracks. So many people are existing below the poverty line and if you just scratch the surface, the situation in Cyprus is horrible and disgusting,” Tony Theo of Chalkies Kitchen told the Cyprus Mail.

Theo has just helped seven individuals who were homeless to get off the Paphos streets. It is all too easy for people to ‘slip the net’ as there is no system to protect anyone in dire straits in Cyprus, he said.

“We have families who go days without eating. Children starving, babies without nappies and people living on the beach. This needs to be addressed urgently by the government, as the situation is only going to get worse,” he warned.

The seven individuals that were sleeping rough on the streets of Paphos are all are now either in new accommodation or have been repatriated to the UK.

“This shouldn’t be our role or responsibility and we wish the municipalities and the government would take their responsibilities on board, but until that happens we and other groups like us have to do our best to help,” he said.

One case involves a British woman that has lived in Cyprus for the last 16 years. After the death of her husband, life took a toll and she has been living on the streets for the last three years, Theo said.

“She was once a happy person, an educated and lovely lady, but her life spiralled out of control. We were able to help her,” he said.

The volunteers found her B&B accommodation which lasted 26 days, and she is now living in a studio flat of her own which the initiative is paying for.

“We have paid up until the end of March and contacted welfare to see if they can help her. Her entire life is here in Cyprus and this is her home as she has been here for so long,” he said.

As she hasn’t made social insurance payments, she is unable to obtain the necessary paperwork and also cannot find employment, he explained.

“We hope the authorities will help he get her life back on track,” he said. “But this situation is just one of many. It’s horrifying how many stories there are like this,” he said.

Theo is the owner of Chalkies Bar in Coral Bay in Peyia which is closed again due Covid restrictions. Along with a group of volunteers, he has been helping hundreds of families in the Paphos district since the pandemic swept Cyprus and resulted in a first lockdown, which saw many people lose their jobs in March 2020.

As of last Sunday, they had served and delivered in excess of 15,000 free, hot meals to those who needed it, and all from their own pockets and donations.

Theo’s bar has been closed since March 2020, and he has not received any financial support from the government. However, he decided to use his time to help others.

“I’ve had nothing from the government, and no income, and my turnover is down by around half a million,” he said.

Along with a core team of eight daily volunteers, the wider community have provided invaluable support to ‘Chalkies kitchen.’

“We couldn’t do this without them. The local community stepped forward as well as a number of businesses, including a Paphos butcher’s who gives us meat at cost price and a farm food company in Coral Bay that give us good prices and also free items as well. We would struggle without it.”

Each day the kitchen prepares a hot meal, such as, stews, pastas and so on, and delivers to 150 individuals on their list, of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds living around Paphos.

In the previous lockdown, the volunteers were delivering 400 meals a day at one point but have had to ‘better manage the number’, Theo said.

“We are feeding people from all walks of life. Romanian, Bulgarian, Cypriot, British, African, old, young, all sorts of people. The majority were working in the hotel and hospitality industry and others have just been failed by the system,” he said.

One way to navigate this difficult time is to get the ‘pay it forward’ scheme up and running properly he said. This would at least ensure that people in need got one free meal a day and would take the burden of the kitchen and others like them.

“This could be in operation island wide and there is no reason why it couldn’t help to look after thousands of people in need,” he said.

Through donations, those who are really in need will be given meal vouchers that they can present at participating establishments in return for a hot meal. The establishment will then redeem the voucher from the donations that have been given.

“We really need more people to help us with preparation, cooking and deliveries. Unfortunately, we do not have the finances to offer any payment, so we are once again relying on the good will and caring nature of people around us.”

For further information: Chalkies Kitchen on Facebook