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Volunteering council

Creating intergenerational social connections through volunteering
Athienou / Cyprus
Size of city: 
5 017 inhabitants


Constantinos Kareklas
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The Athienou Municipal Council of Volunteering (MCV) provides for the basic needs of people facing poverty and social isolation. Volunteering is the tool used to connect people and services, with up to 200 volunteers at any one time.
Evolving since 1970, there are currently four programmes: caring for the elderly, community help and entertainment, nursery care, and social welfare support. These activities interconnect different generations, and provide direct and concrete help to those most in need.

The solutions offered by the good practice

The duty of the MCV is to understand, and offer solutions, to the social problems within the community. The Constanineleneion Centre, the Kleanthios Elder House and the Nursery Centre have their own facilities, guarantying high-level caring and treatment in cooperation with specialists of all kinds, with a focus on the psychophysical balance of their members. They combine a dynamic operating model with a fixed program of activities by volunteers, a weekly programme for mornings and afternoons (arts, crafts, gardening, kinesiotherapy, dancing, excursions, involving in social activities of the city, common events and celebrations, fulfilment of religious needs), daily preparation of healthy food for everyone in the elder house, the nursery centre and the elementary school. They offer in-house day-care for people in need (cleaning, bathing, hospital transfer, etc.) on a semi-volunteering basis. The central room of the Constantineleneion is open to events, lectures, and social gatherings for the members of the community. The MCV also offers solutions for a sustainable environment. The volunteering activities include maintaining a solar panel park, a botanic garden, a vegetable garden, and green spaces. The Ministry of Health has certified the Kleanthios House as a rehabilitation centre, offering day-care to adults unable to recover at home after an illness or accident. Supported by the governmental authorities, these services can be provided for free.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

Volunteerism is the tool to enhance the MCV of Athienou's efforts to reduce poverty. Its horizontal integration works as follows: The governing body of the Council is composed of representatives of organised groups within the community. Any citizen can be a member and/or volunteer and offer services depending on their skills and professional expertise. The MCV also employs certified staff, dedicated to providing professional support. Funding comes from individuals, private companies, organised groups and local and/or national authorities. Vertical integration begins with the volunteers working for MCV, in close collaboration with the municipal authorities. The MCV is under the District Coordinating Council of Volunteerism, which is under the National Coordinating Council of Volunteerism, the National Welfare Office and the Ministry of Labour. With regards to territorial integration, the MCV of Athienou covers the Athienou Municipality and is part of a national network of Volunteering Councils. These efforts also include activities towards environmental sustainability. The MCV members are highly aware of environmental issues and have set a strategy that includes renewable energy sources.

Based on a participatory approach

The total number of volunteers exceeds 200 at any given time. The Municipal Council of Volunteerism is composed of 48 members from local organisations and approved by the volunteers. There is a close collaboration with the Welfare Office of the Ministry of Labour, where a budget and sustainability report is submitted annually for additional governmental funding. As an approved rehabilitation centre, the Kleanthios programme submits reports to the Ministry of Health. It has recently been audited by the Human Resources Development Authority of the Ministry of Labour, in order to be approved as a Professional Training Centre. The president of the Council is the mayor of Athienou. Every programme has an 11-member Coordinating Committee. The president of the Committee is also a member of the Council. Many of the volunteers provide their expertise for the programmes. The Kleanthios programme employs a staff of 30 nurses, caregivers, cleaners, and cookers. The services of the Kleanthios (elders) is in collaboration with the Konstantineleneion (adults), which employs an additional 4-member staff. There is a high number of permanent sponsors, including 14 private companies, the local municipality, many identified and anonymous individuals, and more than 60 occasional sponsors.

What difference has it made?

MCV has made a drastic difference in Athienou. The Kleanthios programme hosts 43 elders, and provides care and nursing services, nutrition advice, entertainment, and events organised by volunteers. Some elders enjoy daytime services. In collaboration with the Konstantineleneion programme, home-care services, presently used by 20 adults, are also available.
Food service is provided for afternoon schoolchildren, nursery school children and others (25 people). In collaboration with the public and private healthcare sector, the programmes provide medical services for the community, and help individuals communicate with the State Welfare Office.
The Nursery Centre, which hosts 75 small children, offers high-standard nursery services at the minimum possible fee.
Supported by the authorities, services can be provided for free for individuals fulfilling strict standards. The Welfare Office funds approximately 10 individuals, and the Welfare Council programme, which also sets standards for individuals to receive any service free of charge, an additional 10.
Volunteers offer activities on a weekly basis: educational classes, excursions/walks, lectures, gardening, movies, church-going, celebrations, events by local organisations, etc.

Why should other European cities use it?

The MCV is a good example of social integration. In recent years, challenges such as the economic crisis, climate change and demographic changes have affected the whole of Europe. Every country and every community faces social challenges, and there is an urgent need to find ways of effectively and efficiently tackling them.
Our view on volunteerism is a cost-effective way of helping ease the impact of these challenges upon the European population, by promoting goodness and improving the quality of life of socially excluded individuals or vulnerable groups.
The basic element for the success of these practices in other European cities is basically active people with a strong sense of belonging, and the excitement of being generous within the boundaries of their everyday life. Over the years, this element alone has created an entity with a higher multilevel organisational structure, which has the support of local and national authorities.
Such practices can be adopted anywhere in Europe that have groups of people keen on practising volunteerism. Furthermore, many authorities are willing to support the effort on a local and national level.