Sunday, 28 February 2016

Cough, please!

It all began with a casual conversation in the local Gré Café here in Kiotari. Late last year and pretty soon after an event called "Help For Health" had taken place at the Lindos Reception café/bar I bumped into a couple of people I know from down in our part of the island and I asked them why they hadn't been there. My friends suggested that they'd like to see one done for our local health centre in Gennadi. The event had raised over a thousand Euros for the local health centres at Lindos and Arhangelos. Plus, as I only learned later, they also sent a box of supplies to the health centre at Gennadi.

The fact is, though, that all the local doctors' surgeries across Greece are in crisis owing to a severe lack of funds. They often don't have the money for even the basics they need to service the immediate health needs of thousands of people living within their catchment areas and they very much need support from people in those areas in order to keep going.

Thus was born the idea of running a modest little fundraiser down here in Kiotari and donating the entire proceeds to the Gennadi Health Centre. The event went well, held in the garden of Julia, a local ex-pat who's lived here for much longer than we have and, if you've already seen the Facebook page, you may know that we ended up with a grand total in cash of €735, which far exceeded what I'd hoped to make in my wildest dreams. I've mentioned this before, but in case you didn't know, I even received a generous contribution of €50 via PayPal from a reader of my books and blog in Alaska, such is the reach of the internet (and thank you again Judy!).

Owing to the crazy system that operates here in Greece we couldn't simply chuck the money at them and let them get on with it, because if we'd done that then in all probability someone from the tax office would have been down there like a shot and relieved them of half the cash, if not more. I'm not even going to express my view of that little loophole, suffice it to say that any sane person would probably agree with me!

So, we had to present them with a little certificate telling them what we'd made, then set about ordering whatever stuff they needed to keep the place going. To begin with lots of mundane yet essential things had to be bought in; stuff like pens, rubber stamps and pads (yea, I know, they still sooooo love those everywhere you go in this country, don't they), prescription pads, even toilet rolls. Anything that they couldn't afford to stock up with they were able to replenish with some of our cash.

Doctor Nikos, who runs the place and to me seems still a child (He's probably 40 if he's a day, and a very charming and dedicated man I might add), then set about organising a blood-testing programme using our cash to test locals for diabetes and cholesterol (maybe a couple of other things too, I dunno!). During the week of 15-21 February we heard from Dr. Niko that he'd like us (the sort of unofficial committee that's developed through the running of the event) to be present at the Health Centre at 11.00am on Sunday the 21st, where he planned to show his appreciation for the help that's been received by the Centre. Other than that we had no idea what he had in mind. Maybe a quiet chat in his office as an update on all the stuff we 'd bought and what else we could do with the remaining cash, maybe a photo opportunity, we didn't know.

When I got to the Heath Centre at just before 11.00am, I was rather surprised to see quite how many vehicles were parked outside. Once I got inside it was pandemonium. There were patients all over the place, standing and sitting, either waiting their turn for a blood test (see above) or holding a piece of cotton wool with the fingers of one hand in the crick of the elbow on the opposite arm, evidently having already had their blood taken for the test. There were ya yas with their headscarves firmly in place and old pappous with walking sticks. Staff were threading their way among the throng, trying to get their work done. There were also lots of smartly dressed gentlemen and ladies standing around waiting for something to happen and an anti-room where they'd set up a table with refreshments for those attending.The news had spread fast about the blood test programme and this was why there were so many patients present on a Sunday morning.

I found my fellow conspirators all huddled in the room with the refreshments and we began speculating on quite what was going on.  One thing was for sure, it was much bigger than just an event about us and our little venture. Something else was going down and we decided that we were just a sideshow, maybe Dr. Nikos would find us in the crowd, thank us and then we'd be on our way. Frankly, that would have suited us fine anyway.

It didn't turn out that way though. We didn't have long to wait, because at around 11.30am we were summoned up the steps, through the double doors and into Dr. Nikos' consulting room, which had been thrown open to receive as many attendees as could crush in there. On the far wall someone had unfurled and hung a banner advertising the work of the local Lions Club, an organisation that I remembered from my younger days in Bath, where I grew up, but had no idea was operating in Greece and especially here on Rhodes. Dr. Nikos, once he was satisfied that all those who mattered were within hearing distance, began a speech of thanks for all the voluntary support that the Centre had benefited from during the last 12 months or so. On his desk behind him, there were about 8 framed certificates, which he was evidently planning to hand out to various people.

I felt quite moved that we'd been invited to witness the event. Nikos had trouble keeping it together as he explained with great eloquence how tough life is for the centre and how hard it is for it to keep going in the face of the severe lack of financial wherewithal. The man cares about what he does and it was very evident in his words and facial expression.

After a while he lifted the first of the framed certificates and called the first recipient to him to receive it. Those receiving one included a local hotel owner who puts plenty of financial support their way, the Lions Club representative of course, one or two older ladies with their perms firmly in place, evidently philanthropists, and then, entirely out of the blue, Dr. Nikos looked right at me and announced that they were indebted to "Help For Health Gennadi" for their sterling efforts at fundraising and he gave me, yes ME one of the certificates. 

Here are a few photos...

Doctor Nikos is just about to start his speech

The moment when he looked for me among the throng (there were plenty more people spilling down the steps behind me)

He gets passionate in his explanation of how hard it's been procuring essentials

Ditto. Plus, the equipment on the chairs includes what the Lions Club and we had bought. 

The local hotel-owner gets his certificate

Our sort of unofficial committee, Pete, me, Julia, Maggie and Viv

All the rest knew the lady on the right. I didn't! But she was very nice!!

Our certificate.

So, folks, it only remains for me to say that this certificate is for every man-jack (and woman-jack!) of those who supported the event, from near or far. The effort made and the cash contributed is very much appreciated by Doctor Nikos and his team. Plus, I don't know how many locals now have a better idea of their chances of getting problems with diabetes or high cholesterol, but they wouldn't have been able to have that test done so close to home were it not for the sterling folk who turned out to make the event work.

There have been suggestions about doing this event regularly. TBH, I wouldn't have the time to organise it. Plus, with all the other "charitable" fund-raisers going on it would be pushing local ex-pats too far to do it too often. But this time next year? In all probability I'll be having another go.


  1. Well done, we hear a lot about Greeks helping the immigrants but you have done something to help the Greeks themselves.

  2. Well done.

    Us ex pats in Greece (I am in Symi) should do as much as we can to help out.

  3. Well done John and your gang. We will be in your neck of the woods in 6 1/2 weeks--not that I'm counting!! Is there a collection tin around or someone we could give a small donation to?

    1. Umm, your comment is published as "Anonymous" so I dunno who you are!!