Air TravelIn the summer of 2019, one could have described a stroll through the streets of Istanbul or along the coast in Santorini as bustling. There would have been a great mix of cultures, languages and people around. Fast forward to 2020, and those same destinations were likely eerily empty, echoing the silence of the global tourism industry grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, 2023 presented a glimmer of hope. Air travel has made a remarkable comeback, with weekly numbers poised to surpass pre-pandemic 2019 levels for the first time in four years. Although annual figures have not fully recovered, the weekly trends of increased air travel are promising, highlighting the vital role of international tourism in the resurgence of developing economies.

Importance of International Tourism to Developing Economies

One can characterize many developing economies as “tourism-dependent.” These countries are usually small or  isolated, such as Jamaica, Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Other larger countries, with still developing economies can be classified as heavily reliant on tourism, including Thailand, Greece, Croatia, Turkey and Mexico. These countries, having limited diversified economic streams, are prone to higher poverty levels and were hit particularly hard by the pandemic’s impact on the tourism industry. The percentage of the population classified as ‘the working poor’ is significantly higher in these countries, and the removal of a prominent economic stream exacerbated their challenges.

COVID-19’s Impact on International Tourism

The pandemic caused international tourism to plummet by a staggering 83% in 2020, with 2.40 billion tourists worldwide. This was an abrupt disruption for tourism-dependent economies, whose average net international tourism revenues were a significant portion of GDP in the years preceding 2020. Examples include the following nations and tourism’s contribution to their GDP: 

  • Croatia, 15%
  • The Dominican Republic, 8%
  • Thailand, 8%
  • Greece, 7%

For the countries where economies are still developing and tourism makes up a significant part of the GDP, the sudden lack of tourism diminished revenue streams and removed jobs, which increased unemployment and negatively impacted the “working poor” the most, compounding poverty and its subsequent issues. A specific example of this is Santorini, where it is estimated that nearly 75% of the population depends on tourism for income. 

COVID-19 Relief Initiatives and Their Impact on Tourism Industries

It is important to mention initiatives that were instituted to help combat the negative impacts of decreased tourism in these countries. In Greece, the government implemented a fiscal package of measures totaling about 13.7% of GDP in 2020, including loan guarantees, health spending, temporary financial support to vulnerable individuals, extension of unemployment benefits, support for short-term employment, subsidies to households and fiscal support to hard hit businesses, including the travel and tourism industry. The measures helped support those the lack of tourism impacted, as well as individuals living in poverty in the country.

Another example is Thailand, where a fiscal package amounting to at least 9.6% of GDP was instated, covering health-related spending, assistance for workers, farmers and entrepreneurs that COVID-19 affected, support for individuals and businesses through loans and tax relief, reduced water and electricity bills and measures to support local tourism. Specifically, this goal was to support travel and tourism industries through domestic travel, to mitigate the lack of international travel. From July 15 until October 2020, there was a tourism subsidy package, “We Travel Together,” covering up to 40% of travel costs for 5 million domestic tourists. 

Despite these government issues, examination of tourism data, and GDP contracts indicate that support packages were not enough to compensate for the lack for international travel.

A Look at the Numbers

A comparison between 2019, 2020 and 2023 tourism numbers reveals the resilience and importance of developing economies. These countries saw the following changes in inbound tourism, for the listed years, respectively:

All figures represent international arrivals in the country and are in millions:

  • Croatia: 19.6, 7, 16.2
  • Greece: 34, 7.4, 17.4
  • Mexico: 45, 24.3, 31.9
  • Thailand: 39.8, 6.7, 19
  • Turkey: 51.8, 15.9, 29.9

Evidently, in 2019, countries including Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey were prominent tourist destinations. Remarkably, they continue to rank highly in 2023. The countries are developing economies heavily reliant on inbound tourism. Increased air travel foreign arrivals to the nations is a promising sign of economic recovery. 

Why it Matters

The pandemic caused an economic shock to these nations. For instance, Greece, which was projected to grow by 2.3% in 2020, actually contracted by more than 8% due to its reliance on tourism. Tourism plays a vital role in economic growth by supporting foreign exchange reserves, driving infrastructure investments, enhancing human capital, creating jobs and boosting income levels. Those living in poverty are most affected by changes in human capital and job creation. The resultant GDP growth fosters a positive cycle. With a continuing rise in GDP, countries can invest in their infrastructure, thereby further increasing international tourism as conditions improve. This will in turn create further job opportunities for the working poor and increase individual purchasing power.

Travel Today

Looking at 2023 so far, the resilience and adaptability of these countries, and of travelers, becomes evident. Croatia, Greece, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey, though not back at 2019 tourism levels yet, have proved remarkable recovery so far, especially prior to winter holiday travel numbers. Croatia has seen a 79% increase in international tourists since 2020, Greece is up by 81%, Mexico shows a 27% improvement, Thailand is the standout with a 96% growth and Turkey has surged by 61%. Crucially, tourism revenues in Turkey have shown a promising 23.1% growth to $13 billion in the second quarter of 2023, with 85.5% coming from foreign visitors. This signals a strong comeback in the country’s tourism industry.

Next Stop, Economic Improvement

In summary, while the COVID-19 pandemic took a heavy toll on tourism-dependent economies, their resilience and the spirit of travelers are now leading to a resurgence of the industry. The rebound in international travel post-pandemic is intrinsically tied to the economic well-being of these countries. Improving economies in developing nations creates jobs, elevates GDP per capita, reduces poverty rates and enhances the overall quality of life. Increased air travel and international tourism serves as a catalyst for progress, shaping a brighter and more prosperous future for these nations and their people.

Kailey Schwinghammer
Photo: Flickr

Fires in GreeceThe 2023 fires in Greece have wreaked havoc on communities across the country, with impoverished areas bearing the brunt of the devastation in the largest recorded fire in E.U. history. These communities, already facing economic hardships and limited resources, are now grappling with the aftermath of the fires. These impoverished areas within Greece are also facing the loss of both wildlife and vegetation, and the destruction of these natural areas can have a long-lasting impact on the ecosystem and biodiversity. However, amidst the challenges, there are also stories of resilience and hope emerging from these communities, with efforts going towards rebuilding homes, volunteering and implementing measures for habitat restoration and conservation.

The Impact on Impoverished Areas

The fires have exacerbated the challenges faced by impoverished areas in Greece, which have been disproportionately affected by the destruction of homes, access to resources and inadequate infrastructure, resulting in these communities being particularly vulnerable during this time of crisis. These areas often lack proper fire prevention measures and may have inadequate firefighting capabilities. As a result, it is more challenging to contain and extinguish fires within these communities, leading to greater damage, loss and strain on communities of already fragile conditions. Similarly, their access to health care, housing and basic necessities has become even more critical in these communities.

Support and Aid

Despite the challenges, there has been an outpouring of support and aid for the affected communities. The fires have highlighted the importance of support and assistance needed to rebuild and strengthen these vulnerable areas. Local and international organizations, volunteers and individuals have come together to provide assistance, including emergency supplies, fire-fighting equipment, financial aid and resources for rebuilding. So far, volunteers have joined local communities in firefighting, hoping to reduce the destruction and spread of the fire. Additionally, other good news is that since 2019, the E.U. has developed rescEU, a fully funded program whereby if a member state requests aid and support, the rescEU force must respond, allowing Greece to receive an abundance of international support during this time of crisis.

Community Resilience

In the face of adversity, stories of resilience and unity have emerged from these impoverished areas. Communities have come together, supporting one another and demonstrating the strength and determination to rebuild their lives and neighborhoods. The unity and solidarity shown by communities within Greece during these fires continue to inspire people worldwide, aiding efforts in the donation of supplies, offerings of shelter through the use of their own homes, and helping with the cleanup and rebuilding process, particularly when it comes to the natural restoration of vegetation and forests as many people residing in the lower classes within Greece rely on pine trees to fund their livelihood and agricultural work. 

This is shown in this first-hand account regarding the burning of pine trees in wildfires from 2022 due to lack of government intervention in fire prevention: “Because they did nothing to protect the forest. They let it burn. They let us burn,” said resident Giorgos Anagnostou. Since the 2022 fires and thousands of accounts similar to the one above, Greece has developed plans to monitor wildfires with drones, along with temperature sensors in high-risk forests so that future wildfires are more contained and cause less destruction.

Rebuilding Efforts

The rebuilding efforts in these impoverished areas are crucial for long-term recovery. With the support of organizations and volunteers, damaged homes are being reconstructed, infrastructure is being restored and plans are being made to help communities regain their livelihoods. Current efforts from volunteers both locally and internationally have been instrumental in providing support to those who have lost their homes and in helping communities recover from the devastation caused by the fires.

Creating Sustainable Solutions

Due to the fact that Southern European countries often have scorching and dry summers, they are often prone to wildfires, with European Union officials acknowledging that the severity of the situation will only increase as the years go on due to the alarming rate at which climate change is occurring, with higher temperatures igniting more fires across the globe. The fires in Greece have particularly shed light on the need for sustainable solutions in these surrounding areas, especially within impoverished areas, to limit the damage caused by any possible future fire. Efforts are being made to address the underlying issues contributing to impoverished communities’ vulnerability, such as improving access to education, health care and economic opportunities.

Hope for the Future

While the fires have caused immense devastation, there is hope for a brighter future. Through collective efforts, these communities can rebuild more robust and more resilient than before. It is an opportunity to address the inequalities and create a more inclusive and supportive society. With mass destruction came the acknowledgment from the European Union of a more immediate and decisive plan to be ready to deploy and fund forces when needed, with the current response aiding Greece with special programs, aircraft, equipment and hundreds of firefighters, resulting in around one-fifth of firefighters fighting against the fires in Greece being from the E.U. force.

The fires in Greece have significantly impacted impoverished areas, but there is also hope amidst the challenges. The support and aid received, coupled with the resilience of these communities, are driving efforts to rebuild and create a better future. Together, we can make a difference and help these communities thrive again.

– Ellis Nicoll
Photo: Flickr

Smart Farming in GreeceFrom poor soil to inadequate levels of precipitation, Greek farmers face major drawbacks in their fields. The struggles of Greece’s agricultural sector can harm the economy and cause major food insecurity among families, but farmers are finding hope in high technology and its recent emergence in farming practices.

Greek Farmers Are Struggling With Crop Outputs

Greek farmers struggle with Greece’s dry and rocky land and lack important resources, such as water for their crops. The result is a low crop output, and many farmers have left the agricultural sector for higher-paid jobs. As of 2023, agriculture represents only 4.1% of Greece’s GDP. This is half of what it was in 2003. 

Low Crop Output Causes Food Insecurity and Harms the Economy

Although it does not have a high contribution to Greece’s GDP, the agricultural sector of Greece is quite essential, as it still accounts for a third of total exports from Greece, with fruit and cotton among the top exports. The big issue here is that Greece imports significantly more food than it exports. This economic crisis is related to the food insecurity that many poor families face. Therefore, addressing the economic aspect of the situation might target food insecurity among impoverished populations as well. 

How Does Smart Farming in Greece Help?

High-technology farming apps can provide farmers with practical information, such as microclimate data, humidity data and soil nitrogen levels. This is highly advanced quantitative information that cannot be deduced by the naked eye alone. With this high-speed data, farmers can stop their overuse of resources, such as fertilizer and irrigation. This allows farmers to save their money on soil and water, benefitting both themselves and the environment. This is especially useful for Greece’s agricultural sector since it has been low on water. 

As well as reducing costs, smart farming apps can improve both the quantitative and qualitative value of crops. In one account, a farmer was able to use up to 40% less fertilizer on his field and save around €9,000. This can both increase farmer finances and reduce food insecurity. 

Gaiasense is an example of one of these applications. Continuously recording and analyzing data from fields, it provides the necessary technological tools for farmers and addresses the threats that might affect crop production. Every few days, a satellite image enters Gaiasense, providing information about crop production, no matter the location. Gaiasense sensors within representative points of Greek agricultural lands and farmers’ crops take quantitative measurements from the air, soil and crops. With easy smart farming tools such as Gaiasense, farmers can easily record their work, the new technology they applied, and the results of the harvest without needing to be experts in technology.

Why Farming Apps Are Making Slow Progress in Greece

Although they have proven themselves to be extremely beneficial for both farmers and citizens who depend on a bountiful output of crops, smart farming apps are making slow progress in Greece. This is due to an overwhelming preference for old-fashioned methods, seen as the safer route to crop production. Yet, these methods do not seem to work well in Greece’s agricultural sector, and a new age of high technology might be necessary to conserve materials and boost crop production.

Additionally, Greek farms are typically family-owned businesses or involve rented fields. This makes investments in new tools and practices less appealing to the average Greek farmer. Low productivity has also been attributed to the small plots of land that are typically used by Greek farmers. Smart farming apps could provide the gateway to larger fields, as farmers will be able to save money and afford larger plots of land. Although farming apps might seem like a large investment, the equipment that is used is not expensive and doesn’t involve any specialized digital skills. 


Although there is slow progress, smart farming apps might be the gateway to begin fixing Greece’s economy and helping affected citizens out of poverty. With the advent of new problems comes a need for new strategies and technologies to fix those problems, and smart farming apps seem like the smart option for Greece’s agricultural sector. 

– Sophia Holub
Photo: Flickr

Sports in Greek Refugee CampsA number of humanitarian organizations provide opportunities for migrants to play sports in Greek refugee camps. Families often have to live in extremely dehumanizing and mentally taxing conditions in the camps. Lesvos, one of the encampments helped by the programs, is situated on the eastern Mediterranean migration route. When refugees began arriving on the island in 2015, Lesvos residents welcomed the refugees with open arms, and the island earned the Nansen Refugee Award and a nomination for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. 


More and more refugees came to the island due to the open environment. Conditions quickly became overcrowded, and refugees lacked access to basic necessities. Some call the island a European “open-air refugee prison.” Refugees must stay on the island while the government reviews their refugee status, and the government has rejected all demands to create new refugee camps, resulting in a packed and underserviced area. Some have waited for years for a decision on their asylum case as they continue to live on the island with their families. 

In 2022, about 1,500 asylum seekers were living on the island. They live in makeshift camps with barely any access to food, shelter, medicine and education for their children. The EU has failed to establish a sufficient allocation system to relieve the pressure on Italy and Greece, leading to overcrowded camps like Lesvos that can only offer limited aid. Four other Greek islands are also home to makeshift refugee camps. 

The Katsikas camp is another underserviced camp helped by Yoga and Sport and Soup and Socks. The Katsikas camp is the largest refugee encampment in the Epirus region of Greece, which hosts more than 3,000 migrants. In 2020, the European Commission published its New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which focuses on returns and deterrence of migrants rather than improving human rights standards in existing refugee camps or preparing new camps to elevate the pressure off of overcrowded camps like the one in Lesvos. Authorities especially dehumanize migrants in Katsika. The camp has slowly adopted the structure of a prison.

A Beacon of Hope

In 2022, the government built 3-meter-high walls around the camp, and the camp director announced a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., with migrants needing permission to leave and enter the camp during those hours. Security cameras have been installed all over the camp to surveil the migrants. Interviewed migrants indicated their disapproval of the wall and expressed a sense of alienation and separation from the surrounding Greek community.

As such, these humanitarian organizations’ work is instrumental in maintaining morale and allowing refugees a brief reprieve from their harsh reality. Becoming passionate about a sport offers a brief diversion from the stressful conditions of the camp. Sports in Greek refugee encampments may start as a way to find joy in the encampments. Still, it can also become a lifelong commitment, with some refugees expressing a desire to make a career in the sport by joining a more advanced professional athletic team or becoming teachers of the sport. Habibi and Sports with Refugees (HSR), led by Soup and Socks in partnership with Yoga and Sport, has a tremendous impact on refugees in the Katsikas camp. HSR allows refugees to choose different sports, including yoga, running, swimming, martial arts, dance and climbing. 

Another program initiated by the organization in 2016 called Habibi-Works gives refugees in the area a chance to develop their creativity by running a maker space facility near the encampment. The makerspace features a media lab, a metal and wood workspace and a sewing atelier. The program allows the refugees to explore the arts and develop technical skills that could be useful in their future careers.

Final Thoughts

Bringing sport to Greek refugee encampments and allowing the refugees to explore creative outlets are incredibly impactful methods of raising morale and giving a sense of community to the often-alienated migrants. By fostering connections, promoting self-expression, and offering an escape from the challenges they face, these initiatives play a vital role in creating a more supportive and inclusive environment for migrants.

– Tatiana Gnuva
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Greece
Although many generally consider Greece a developed country and it ranks as number 28 for quality of life according to U.S. News, the recent rise in poverty rates is of increasing concern. Here is everything to know about poverty in Greece.

Current Poverty Statistics

The World Bank reported that the most recent poverty headcount ratio for those living below $2.15 a day in Greece was 0.7% in 2019. Moreover, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) report titled “Poverty Watch 2022 Greece” found that poverty rates in Greece are on the rise. In 2020, the EAPN reported that 17.7% of the population received wages below the poverty line, coined “income poverty” and rose to 19.6% in 2021. The Poverty Watch report listed three indicators of poverty: income deprivation/poverty, access to seven of 13 basic goods and the labor intensity of a household. The report found that 29.5% of the population (3,092,300 people) is at risk of poverty, 14.8% experience material deprivation of basic goods and 13.6% of adults (individuals aged 18 to 64 years old) live in low-employment households.

In the same report, the risk of poverty for children (individuals aged 0-17) was 23.7%, a 2.3 increase since 2020’s finding of 21.4%. Moreover, nearly every one out of four children lives in households at risk of poverty, suggesting that poverty in Greece affects children and is “severe, recurrent and worsening.”

While the pandemic can take the blame for just about any rise in poverty rates since 2020, Greece’s inflation is a recent growing catalyst of dangerous poverty rates. The World Bank estimates that for every single 1% increase in food prices, more than 10 million people end up in “extreme poverty.” In Greece, the EAPN reports that food prices were up by a startling 30% in May 2022. Furthermore, the cost of wheat, a staple grain, rose by 50%. This means that not only do the increasing food prices in Greece imply expensive groceries but with a 30% growth, as many as 30 million people could be facing extreme poverty.

Relief Programs

Here are some influential relief programs currently operating in Greece to reduce poverty.

  1. Diotima: The Diotima Centre is a nonprofit that focuses on supporting and empowering women through free services. Diotima specifically focuses on equipping “vulnerable” women with support and skills to prevent and cope with gender-based violence. In supporting such groups, Diotima helps unlock an entire working class, effectively helping women find independence in every aspect, including financially. 
  2. Terre des hommes (Tdh): Terre des hommes is an organization that provides child protective services to deliver justice to children. Focusing on asylum seekers and refugees, a large portion of Greece’s poor, Tdh provides essential needs, such as food and clothing, as well as legal and psychosocial support to child victims.
  3. Emfasis Foundation: The Emfasis Foundation is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that aims to support and relieve homeless people. Emfasis helps individuals through counseling, humanitarian help, support of specialists and more. Essentially, Emfasis’ priority is to build relationships with individuals in need, while accommodating their needs and equipping them with a skill set to succeed.


While Greece may not have the most startling poverty rates, there are still many people at risk of extreme poverty. However, with continued support from organizations like the ones mentioned above, poverty in Greece is on track to reduce.

– Micaella Balderrama
Photo: Flickr

wildfires-in-greeceIn July 2022, Greece experienced a heatwave that led to several wildfires in the nation. The impacts of wildfires in Greece go beyond the destruction of the environment — these wildfires impact livelihoods, destroy homes and push people further into poverty. According to the World Bank, in 2019, 17.7% of Greece’s population lived under the national poverty line.

Increasing Incidents of Wildfires in Greece

Beginning on July 23, 2022, Greece endured a heatwave predicted to span at least 10 days with temperatures expected to hit about 107 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas. The same day, Greece endured four wildfires, which led to emergency evacuations of hundreds of citizens. The wildfires led to the destruction of homes, businesses and hotels. Several other wildfires preceded these wildfires in multiple areas of the country.

Greece saw 30 wildfires in the first quarter of the year, a massive uptick from the nation’s average of four in the same number of months. These wildfires led to the damage of almost 2,500 acres of land compared to Greece’s average of about 92 acres. Many people have also faced hospitalizations as a result of the fires.

Impact on Poverty

The wildfires in Greece have affected the entire population in one way or another and the poorer population face disproportionate impacts. Impoverished people do not have sufficient resources to easily rebuild their lives after losing their homes and possessions to wildfires.

Wildfires in Greece also impact the livelihoods of people, which further increases the risk of poverty. For example, in 2021, the Greek area of Evia experienced wildfires that destroyed the pine trees that people relied on for their livelihoods.

Giorgos Anagnostou provides a first-hand account of this to NPR. He is a pine resin producer and lives in a village where the majority of people survive by collecting pine resin, which they later sell for use “in everything from paint to pharmaceuticals.” In the aftermath of the wildfires, pine resin producer Thanasis Agiasofitis told NPR that he and others “will likely have to move to find work.” A 70-year-old farmer, Kostas Christodoulou, lost 400 sheep in wildfires last year. He survived by hiding in a small cave.

World Impact

To address the wildfires occurring in 2021, in the first week of August 2021, Greece along with several other Mediterranean countries requested help from the European Union (EU) to assist with the rampant forest fires. The European Union deployed nine airplanes, almost 1,000 firefighters and 200 vehicles to provide assistance to Greece.

In 2022, the EU set up a response “designed to lead to a permanent Europe-wide cooperation program,” according to Bloomberg. The aim is to scale-up efforts to address wildfire seasons in Europe overall. On July 2, 2022, the EU sent more than 200 firefighters from six European countries to Greece to assist with controlling the fires.

Looking Ahead

Aside from the impacts on the well-being of Greek citizens, wildfires in Greece are causing the country and the country’s people severe economic losses. Through the support of the EU, firefighters from across Europe are stepping in to assist Greek firefighters on the frontlines to prevent further losses.

Alex Peterson
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Migratory BirdsThe Migratory Birds is a newspaper that 15 Afghan refugees founded while working with the Network for Children’s Rights Center in Athens, Greece. The paper’s mission is to report the situations and the lives of refugees within the youth center. Refugees have always lacked a voice in the media, which led to Migratory Birds’ goal of providing them with one. Operating out a youth center in Athens, many journalists spanning many different countries and origins are coming together to share the stories of those whose hasn’t been shared before.

Refugee-Led Initiative in Greece

Migratory Birds, a bi-product of the Young Journalists program, which, “boasts a bi-monthly circulation of 13,000″ is the only still standing initiative in Greece that refugees are reading, according to The World.

Each issue of Migratory Birds has articles that consist of first-hand accounts about life as a refugee. This, among others, includes love poems refugees write and recipes for traditional dishes from the author’s home country. The local distribution route of Migratory Birds goes to refugee camps and various humanitarian organizations all throughout Greece.

Founding Voices

Mahdia Hosseini, 28 and Fatima Sedaghat, 16, are the founders of Migratory Birds and work at the Network for Children’s Rights Youth Center in Athens, Greece. These two met in a refugee camp called Schisto, which is also located in Athens. They, along with 13 other refugees, founded the newspaper because they wanted to change the way the mainstream media represents refugees and migrants, The World reports.

The main motivator behind the project was the fear that refugees felt when talking to journalists. A fear that came from not having their stories shown to the world in a proper manner. The goal of the publication is to “empower the social integration of adolescent and young refugees and fight xenophobia.” The publication dedicates itself to the principles of journalism, promoting conversations across a variety of cultures and helping young people express themselves.

Operating from a youth center based in Kolonos, a neighborhood within Athens, the mission of Migratory Birds is to share the truth regarding the lives of refugees in the Schisto camp, “their fears and frustrations and hopes and dreams,” according to The World.

First-Hand Accounts

Hosseini has a desire to show the world who refugees truly are because she feels that most people don’t possess a true understanding of refugees. “I think we needed to be heard and for people to understand us, I mean refugees and migrants,” she said to The World.

The freedom of speech, an essential right to all but especially to these aspiring journalists was an opportunity provided by Migratory Birds. The newspaper gave these refugees something that wasn’t available in their home countries. Abdul Rashid, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan and a member of Migratory Birds said that he’s happy that he gets to write about what he experienced during migration without fear, The World reports.

Morteza, who is a member of the Young Journalists team, described the way that mainstream media often covers refugee stories. “Eventually what comes out is often the story of the ‘miserable refugee.’ I think this is unfair. That is why I participate in the Newspaper ‘Migratory Birds.’ We write our own stories, we get to know the world and we give people the opportunity to get to know us better,” he said.

The Problem

Exactly how does the media represent refugees? Social psychology defines the “identifiable victim effect,” as people interacting differently with words and images that depict the struggles of a single person rather than groups of people.

Western media commonly represents refugees as “anonymous, faceless masses.” The result of this depiction is the audience feeling detached from the hardships the subject has to face. According to The Conversation, a recent study showed pictures of refugees to almost 4,000 Europeans. After showing them images of large groups or images where they cannot identify the individual, viewers showed increased desensitization of the refugees at that point. Some of the responses from the test subjects revealed that they felt refugees are a crisis in the countries that they journey to.

Migratory Birds seeks to share the whole truth regarding the lives of the refugees living within camps in Athens, Greece. Due to a lack of a proper voice in mainstream media, Migratory Birds took the mission of providing them with one onto themselves. By bringing together journalists that come from various backgrounds and cultures, the publication desires to give refugees proper and genuine representation, so the world can know what life as a refugee is truly like.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Greece
Greece has significant potential when it comes to sustainable energy, with plenty of wind, water and sun to go around. The Greek government is implementing creative solutions to rapidly propel the advancement of renewable energy in Greece.

Green Energy in Greece

For years, Greece has lagged behind other European countries in terms of renewable energy, sticking with coal as a primary source of power. While other nations installed wind and solar farms, Greece’s primary energy producer, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) insisted on burning coal for decades, causing carbon emissions to skyrocket past what they otherwise could have been. Fortunately, in the past few years, Greece and the PPC are taking steps toward renewable energy.

Overcoming Socioeconomic Obstacles

When switching to renewable energy, many nations struggle to balance the tightrope that is the free market, as dramatic sanctions on companies can have very serious economic consequences that personally affect citizens. Generally speaking, the people of Greece have supported the switch to renewable energy, but the issue is not without nuance. There is often a battle between what is affordable and what is environmentally friendly and the stakes are high for low-income families who cannot afford a higher cost of living.

As such, there are obstacles to the implementation of renewable energy in Greece. The coal industry is an enormous employer and shutting down coal energy means thousands of job losses and bankrupt businesses. Residents of the Mesohora village opposed the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the area as the dam would inevitably cause the area to flood, requiring residents to move elsewhere.

Combating Aftereffects

These foreseeable issues are not impossible to overcome and Greece is prepared to deal with them in creative ways that ensure the best outcomes for the citizens, the economy and the climate, giving hope to other nations struggling to strike a similar balance.

Perhaps the best example of this is the auction program that the European Union approved in November 2021. Greece is allotting roughly €2.27 billion to offer as incentives to help renewable energy producers. This idea is not new and often faces criticism because of the way it disrupts market competition.

However, this program solves that issue by awarding money through an auction system. Companies must compete against each other to receive this subsidy and receive judgment based on how efficient and affordable their results are. Therefore, the only companies that receive aid will be the companies that present the best and most well-balanced ideas regarding renewable energy.

At the beginning of the partnerships, the winning companies receive a set “reference price” that is a rough reflection of what the country can afford to pay. If the newly selected companies can keep their costs below that reference price, the government will pay them the difference. If their prices rise above the reference price, the company must compensate the government with the difference between prices.

This way, the government always pays the same price for renewable energy, but the companies have the motivation to keep costs as low as possible, while simultaneously having a stable market to work with.

Additionally, the Greek government has introduced subsidies for low-income families that allow them to receive free electricity from solar power plants. It is also investing money toward minimizing the effects that energy switching will have on citizens’ livelihoods.

Current Energy Situation

The transition to renewable energy in Greece is seeing success. In early April 2022, Greece opened the “largest double-sided solar farm” in all of Europe.

Interestingly, the farm construction stems from the company Hellenic Petroleum, the largest oil refinery corporation in the country, now headed for greener pastures. The solar farm will provide power to about 75,000 households, representing a significant move toward renewable energy.

For years, the PPC was adamant about using coal, but this is no longer the case. The PPC is well on its way toward clean energy. Important to note is the fact that fossil fuels are unequal — different fuels produce different amounts of carbon dioxide. For every megajoule of energy produced, high-caliber coal generates roughly 2.6 times more carbon dioxide than natural gas generates.

Low-quality coal, such as the lignite coal Greece uses, produces at least four times more carbon dioxide than natural gas does. Even though switching from one fossil fuel to another may not sound like an exceptional solution, for Greece, it could significantly reduce carbon emissions.

Therefore, the PPC is using gas as a stepping stone on its path to neutralizing emissions — the corporation plans to primarily use gas by 2025 and completely eliminate its use of coal by 2028.

Looking Ahead

Greece met its 2020 goal of renewable energy use with renewables accounting for around 22% of its total energy use. According to the country’s National Energy and Climate Plan, the nation expects to generate 61% of its energy through renewable sources by 2030. By 2050, Europe has a plan to be carbon-neutral with net-zero emissions. Renewable energy in Greece is certainly on its way to success. Despite the seemingly insurmountable economic challenges that are commonly tangled up in the renewable energy issue, the message is clear: it is possible to implement renewable energy so that everyone can have access to it.

– Mia Sharpe
Photo: Piqsels

Greek Freak For the past several seasons in the NBA, there has been a bright, blinding and rising star who has continued to awe and engage hearts across the world year after year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. But what makes the “Greek Freak” so incredible is not only what he has been able to do on the court, but also his experience and devotion to those off the court and back in his home country of Greece through the AntetokounBros Academy.

The Antetokounmpos’ History

In 2019, Antetokounmpo and his brothers began this basketball academy to support young adults and children from underprivileged socioeconomic groups. The academy provides its participants with the opportunities to get involved with sports and to sometimes just get a hot meal and some rest. As of 2021, the AntetokounBros Academy has helped several hundred kids get onto the basketball court and impacted many more lives through community outreach.

The Antetokounmpos grew up in difficult circumstances as “stateless” Nigerian immigrants in Greece. Since they were young, Giannis and his older brother Thanassis began hawking things like sunglasses on the streets to help their parents pay for living expenses. The family would often go without meals for several days.

These circumstances are not uncommon in Athens and in Greece as a whole. Since the financial crises of the late 2010s, Greece has struggled to bounce back after major economic hits. This has resulted in Greece experiencing the third-highest poverty rate in the European Union. In 2015, the European Parliament reported 45% of children in Greece were living without basic goods and services.

Addressing the Problems

In the light of this hardship, the brothers have stated that they believe basketball brought them where they are today. The community it gave them and the time they spent at basketball camps –which provided paid meals or free clothes– were incredibly helpful for them as they grew up.

Athens is the largest metropolitan area with the densest concentration of people in Greece. It is also the hometown of the Antetokounmpo brothers. As such, the AntetokounBros Academy is a program that promotes community involvement for the youth of Athens to get involved with sports, specifically basketball. A Eurostat study found that “4 in 10” under the age of 17 are at risk of “poverty or social exclusion,” and the situation for the people of Athens specifically is extremely dire.

Over the years, the academy has also come to serve as a community center and help center; it takes in and develops young players and coaching staff from all around Greece, with a particular interest in people from communities that are struggling socioeconomically.

Considering the Impact

The AntetokounBros Academy has set out to inspire charitable work through basketball and outreach in the local community. The academy does everything from hosting food drives to collecting donations worldwide — with help from the Greek Freak himself of course. It hosts tournaments, provides mentoring workshops and scouts talent.

The AntetokounBros Academy has partnered with the Onassis Foundation, Nike, EuroHoops and the NBA to bring about awareness. The organizations also work to show the world the results that such a program can bring to the members of a community while combatting some of the symptoms of poverty.

As Konstantinos Papaloukas, Managing Partner of EuroHoops, an integral partner and benefactor of the academy, said in a statement, “With the Initiative of AntetokounmBros Academy we give opportunities to children to change their lives and fight for their dreams.”

From sharing a pair of basketball shoes with all four of his brothers to becoming a champion and Finals MVP just this last NBA season, the Greek Freak, together with his brothers, understands more than most about the burdens of circumstance and the incredible impact of help in every person’s life.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

Charities in GreeceMore than a decade after the 2008 economic crisis, Greece retains high unemployment and poverty rates, especially compared to its EU neighbors. Of the 10 million people living in Greece, more than one-third of the population lives in poverty. Furthermore, Greece must manage an aging, ailing population that increases annually as refugees arrive. As a result, dismantling systemic poverty in Greece is a multi-front battle requiring a multifaceted response. Several charities in Greece aim to reduce poverty among Greece’s most vulnerable populations.

5 Charities in Greece

  1. Echo100Plus. In 2012, a group of mostly Austrian friends “with strong ties to Greece” founded Echo100Plus. Echo100Plus works to secure international aid to support Greece through a worsening social and economic crisis. The organization identifies and partners with local NGOs, then bolsters them with necessary resources, staff and funding. Currently, Echo100Plus is focusing on Greece’s growing refugee population, a group primarily made up of those fleeing civil war in Syria and other countries. Many refugees migrating to Europe make their way across the Aegean Sea, often traveling through Turkey to Greece. Refugees arrive on Greece’s islands in need of basic goods and services like food, shelter and clothes. Echo100Plus supports refugees on Greece’s islands by providing them with basic essentials.
  2. The Smile of the Child. This organization was “founded in 1995 by 10-year-old Andreas Giannopoulos,” with the mission to see every child smile by addressing many threats to the welfare of children, such as violence, health problems and poverty. The organization runs Day Care Homes where families living in poverty can receive services to fulfill “the basic needs of their children.” The organization also runs 15 support centers throughout the country that provide medical and psychological support and helps families secure their basic material needs. The Smile of the Child employs social workers and psychologists who specialize in helping families in poverty. The centers also aim to open communication between family members and teach parents how to take proper care of their children. The charity’s services are free to every child in Greece.
  3. Lifting Hands International. With a focus on providing aid and relief to refugees worldwide, Lifting Hands International started its first project in Northern Greece. Its refugee center, a “buzzing hive of education and healing,” operates only 100 meters from refugee camps in Serres, Greece. There, refugees can take classes in language, arts, music and more. The center also distributes aid like fresh fruits and vegetables and hygiene products. By giving refugees not only the necessary products for survival but the necessary skills to thrive, Lifting Hands International allows refugees to escape poverty in a new environment.
  4. ActionAid. An international organization with roots in Greece, ActionAid has been fighting poverty since 1972, working in and with communities to improve lives and livelihoods. In Greece, ActionAid provides dynamic teaching and weekly training programs to impoverished youth at aid centers in Athens and Thessaloniki. ActionAid also helps organize campaigns for women’s rights both in Greece and globally, putting pressure on Greek and global governments to make the political decisions necessary to elevate vulnerable populations out of poverty.
  5. Hellenic Hope. Another one of the charities in Greece is Hellenic Hope, which focuses on helping more than 686,000 Greek children living in poverty. It provides children with necessities like food, medicine, educational opportunities and emotional support. The charity sponsors several projects throughout Greece. For example, a partnership with the American Farm School gives underprivileged high school students in Northern Greece access to top-tier “educational and commercial activities.” Hellenic Hope also sponsors “medical and pharmaceutical support” to Greek children experiencing poverty through a program titled Filoi tou Paidiou that provides care and assistance to uninsured children and families.

Overall, these charities in Greece show a commitment to helping impoverished Greeks in several crucial aspects, enabling disadvantaged citizens to rise out of poverty.

Zoe Tzanis
Photo: Flickr