`In Greece, Volunteers Provide Olive Oil for Families in Need - Olive Oil Times

In Greece, Volunteers Provide Olive Oil for Families in Need

Nov. 3, 2015
Lisa Radinovsky

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On October 26, dozens of vol­un­teers in the Athens sub­urb of Glyfada began har­vest­ing olives from trees grow­ing on pub­lic land in order to pro­vide oil for local res­i­dents in need. In this sec­ond annual effort to make use of fruits that would oth­er­wise go to waste, stu­dents are among the vol­un­teers, adding an edu­ca­tional dimen­sion to the project.

The press offi­cer of the Municipality of Glyfada told Olive Oil Times that a res­i­dent, Stavros Giakoumakis, pro­posed the project to Mayor Giorgos Papanikolaou in September 2014. Giakoumakis and oth­ers had been deplor­ing the waste of all the pro­duce they saw grow­ing on pub­lic lands around Athens.

As long as vol­un­teers keep com­ing, we’ll keep doing it.- Municipality of Glyfada, Greece

Why, they won­dered, should that lie untouched in the midst of a major social and finan­cial cri­sis, when so many Greeks were in need? Why shouldn’t they do some­thing with that pro­duce rather than sit­ting around lament­ing the prob­lems of Greece? Mayor Papanikolaou loved the idea, enthu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported it, and joined in the effort.

Last year, indi­vid­u­als and vol­un­teers from var­i­ous clubs, orga­ni­za­tions, and schools col­lected four met­ric tonnes of olives, and social ser­vice agen­cies in the Municipality of Glyfada dis­trib­uted the 600 kilo­grams of 0.7 acid­ity extra vir­gin oil to impov­er­ished indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies in 3‑liter con­tain­ers.

There wasn’t enough time or vol­un­teers to col­lect all the olives avail­able dur­ing that first year’s effort, but the mayor hopes for even more the sec­ond time around.

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With Stavros Giakoumakis lead­ing this year’s all-vol­un­teer effort, Mayor Papanikolaou thanked the cit­i­zens who par­tic­i­pated, hop­ing to pro­duce more than two tons of oil this sea­son, since more than one thou­sand low-income peo­ple have reg­is­tered with social ser­vices.

Two or three reg­u­lars with expe­ri­ence har­vest­ing olives direct the process, while dif­fer­ent vol­un­teers show up daily. One morn­ing, three classes from dif­fer­ent schools took turns help­ing with the har­vest for an hour each. Glyfada’s press offi­cer com­mented, I think they loved it. It was a unique expe­ri­ence” for those city chil­dren, who had never before had any­thing to do with an olive har­vest.

Citizens who heard about the olive gath­er­ing project vol­un­teered to press the olives with­out charge, and a com­pany has pro­vided a mobile unit that will begin pro­duc­tion in school­yards this week. Most of the olives will be pressed out­side schools this year, so stu­dents can wit­ness the oil mak­ing process first­hand.

Although this com­bi­na­tion of social engage­ment, exer­cise, edu­ca­tion, and pro­duc­tive use of pre­vi­ously wasted fruit to help the needy sounds like a ben­e­fi­cial endeavor from all per­spec­tives, Glyfada’s press offi­cer sug­gests that there may be only two or three other munic­i­pal­i­ties in Greece with sim­i­lar pro­grams.

In Glyfada, this year’s com­mu­nity har­vest could go on for another month or so. As long as vol­un­teers keep com­ing, we’ll keep doing it,” the municipality’s press offi­cer said. It looks like a good year for olives, but it is unclear how much oil they will pro­duce; that depends partly on the num­ber of vol­un­teers and the num­ber of hours and days they can con­tribute to the effort. We’re try­ing to mobi­lize as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.”

The inno­v­a­tive vol­un­teer effort will sup­ply hun­dreds of low-income fam­i­lies with a sub­stan­tial sam­ple of their country’s healthy, omnipresent, and world-famous liq­uid gold.


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