Chinese youth show their pencil drawings for the families in need ahead of Easter celebration, in Athens, Greece, on April 25, 2019. Dozens of Chinese youth flooded on Thursday the Support Center for Children and Families of Greek NGO "Smile of the Child" in the Athens eastern suburb of Nea Makri to assist Greeks in preparing festive packages for thousands of people who are supported by the charity organization. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese community in Greece demonstrated once again its solidarity with Greek society, offering a helping hand to Greek families in need ahead of Easter celebration.
Dozens of Chinese youth flooded on Thursday the Support Center for Children and Families of Greek NGO "Smile of the Child" in the Athens eastern suburb of Nea Makri to assist Greeks in preparing festive packages for thousands of people who are supported by the charity organization.
Greek Orthodox Christians are set to celebrate Easter this Sunday, but after a decade of an acute debt crisis, although the economy is on the mend, many households are still struggling to make ends meet.
Under an initiative of the Sino-Hellenic Investors' Confederation, about 50 Chinese children living in Athens helped to fill in baskets with food products, Easter delicacies and toys for kids to be distributed in the area by the "Smile of the Child".
"They are offering voluntary work, something which is very important for us. The Smile is depending on its volunteers," Theodora Giatagana, Fundraising Department officer at the NGO, told Xinhua.
The "Smile of the Child" depends on solidarity since its establishment over two decades ago.
The Nea Makri support center is housed in a store provided by a major super market chain which is among the long list of companies donating products and services. Each day individuals also visit similar centers operating across Greece to make small donations to assist the work done in the NGO's 14 daycare homes and thousands of families.
During 2018 the organization supported over 14,350 families nationwide. Beneficiaries receive also medical care and any kind of aid to stand on their feet again and the Chinese community's contribution to these efforts is deeply appreciated, Giatagana explained.
"I just met everybody today and I had no idea how wonderful people they all are. I am so happy seeing that they know Greece and they speak our language. It is very significant and very beautiful," Giatagana said.
Giving back to the Greek society which has warmly embraced the Chinese is a moral obligation for overseas Chinese living in Greece, Michael Xia, executive president of the Sino-Hellenic Investors' Confederation, told Xinhua.
"We want to have the children to better understand the society and better integrate into the society and be more grateful for the society, because they enjoy the living here and they have to return something," Xia said.
"That is our Chinese philosophy and that is our value, and we want to help the children to understand in a better way," he added.
Several of the children who participated in Thursday's event felt that they did something meaningful for Greek friends in need, in particular in a festive season.
"I will help so that they have a good time. I will paint a basket containing many eggs and various things for Easter," Kefan Liu, 12, told Xinhua, in fluent Greek.
He arrived in Greece two years ago with his family and feels very close to his Greek friends.
"We came here today to help Greeks spend Easter better. We should all be together and we can make it just fine," Zander Liu, 10, Kefan's brother, said.
"If we all join forces, we will make it," was the slogan written on the T-shirts the Chinese kids were wearing on Thursday.
This was the favorite phrase of Andreas Yannopoulos, who died of a serious health condition in 1995 aged 10, inspiring the establishment of the "Smile of the Child" by his father, Konstantinos Yannopoulos, who is serving as the NGO's president.
The Chinese community in Greece has in many cases in recent years of difficulties for Greece showed with actions that they also believe that unity is the way forward.
"The local organizations, Chinese associations or federations, they do organize these kind of events to help the local community, whenever is necessary," Xia told Xinhua.
Last year, for example, they helped to heal the wounds of the deadliest wildfire in more than a decade in Greece which affected the seaside area near the Support center in Nea Makri.
The blaze left behind 100 casualties, dozens of injured and hundreds of homeless. Chinese living in Greece mobilized immediately to donate food, water, clothing, medicines, and blood, proving how strong is Sino-Greek friendship.