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Walking with the Elders

Edited on

31 January 2020
Read time: 2 minutes

Each year, on a bright summer day, the people of Athienou are “Walking with the Elders”. Together with the afternoon breeze, citizens gather at the Kleanthios Elder House to accompany the elder through the main streets of Athienou to the main municipal park.

Volunteering Cities, volunteerism, good practice, intergenerational, Athienou

Community groups, school children, officials with bright colour shirts, people of all ages, are there to join their elder friends in the walk. Those with mobility problems are treated with a wheelchair; some volunteers will enjoy pushing them on a free ride. Participants form a cheerful parade of different people with a common passion to offer to the community. At each step of the way, people passing by and people at the local coffee shops stand on the pavement to salute.

At the destination, an event for the day takes place. The front seats are reserved for elder citizens; officials this day seat at the back. The event begins with a short greeting; no long boring speeches are allowed. Tenants of the Kleanthios Elder House, together with their teacher, present the results of their music-therapy sessions and everybody sings along. Next, there is a “Tsiattista” session. “Tsiattista” is a form of improvised traditional couplets that sometimes takes the form of a competition on who is going to improvise the best, most ingenious couplet. Our veteran “tsiattistes”, people who sing “tsiattista”, take the floor and dedicate their lines to the volunteers. Towards the end, local cultural clubs take the responsibility to entertain the people.

This year the URBACT banner was also there. Volunteerism in Athienou has been approved by URBACT as a European Good Practice and Athienou is now the proud Lead Partner of the “Volunteering Cities” URBACT Transfer Network. The unique blend of participation and excitement of the volunteers that can be found in the community makes a true impact on policy from the bottom to the top, where organised volunteers in Athienou include all the necessary community spheres in the decision making process.

As a Good Practice Lead Partner, our foremost goal is to pass across the border these bright summer afternoons. This is what the URBACT Secretariat saw in Athienou. This is why our seven Partners, from the wide of the European continent, are so excited. Of equal importance is also the transfer of the process of participation, and the process for collective decision and ownership of the volunteering actions. Moreover, the interaction with our Partners and the broadening of our volunteering activities, is teaching us new standards and experiences that can be adopted to make our Good Practice even better.

The day ends with a walk back to the Elder House. Everyone enjoys a warm emotion in their heart; a thrilling sense of happiness coming from that pleasure in the eyes of the elder. It is the moment that you know you have a functioning society with a future perspective to amend and sustain its success. It is the moment where participation makes you feel connected, useful, part of the community. After all, this is what volunteerism is.