Diogenes is a non-profit organization which aims to provide support to the most vulnerable members of our society who are experiencing homelessness and social exclusion, to support themselves and improve their personal, social and economic well-being.
The core aim of “Shedia” social tours is to energize the person who acts as a guide, to create new opportunities for people who experiencing homelessness and social exclusion to support themselves, to provide education, training as well as employment opportunities to act as a stepping stone towards social (re)integration. In addition, "Invisible Tours" aim to inform, to raise social awareness, mobilizing -in this way- the general public in our common quest to end poverty and social exclusion.
Citizens, concerned about the number one social issue, poverty in its most extreme form, homelessness. Residents of Athens and the region, overseas visitors, school students (from 15 years old) and students, teachers and academics, social scientists, employees, families and any person wishing to come close to the source of that social issue and look for a different perspective on daily life - possibly a start mobilization in volunteering - through the acquaintance with our homeless fellow citizens and solidarity and support organizations.
Since September 2014 until today.
"Invisible Tours" is a social initiative of the Greek street paper "Shedia".
It is an alternative social tour in the center of Athens, led by people who are experiencing homeleness and social exclusion. Participants are introduced to some of the most important social and solidarity organizations of the city that provide services to the Greek capital's destitute population, such as soup kitchens, homeless shelters, social clinics, day centers, drug rehabilitation centers, grassroots initiatives etc.
The guides share with visitors/participants useful information about the services provided by each institution, but most importantly they share their own personal experiences and feelings about dealing with homelessness. It is a unique insight into life in the streets, the social and solidarity services available, and the human map of a city that tries to cope with the challenges of the struggle against poverty and social exclusion.
Since September 2014, more than 4,300 visitors have attended the "Invisible Tours". Among the visitors there are more than 80 schools, private and public departments of Universities and Technological Educational Institutions, universities abroad, voluntary organizations, as well as groups of social scientists/researchers, as well as employees who wish to experience life in Athens crisis from the perspective of the guides themselves.
After each tour, we ask the guests, if they wish, to send us their impressions/ comments in an effort to improve ourselves constantly. Indicatively, a recent testimony:
"Thanks to Lambros, who was our tour guide yesterday, I saw a different Athens that might give some hope. Listening to the story of Lambros, I realized that very easily in some misfortune of life I can find myself in the same position, the homeless. A big thumbs up to Lambros and "Shedia" street paper that awakens us. " April, 2016
Regarding the guide himself the "Invisible Tours" becomes more motivated to support himself, to be more active and to seek better conditions of life, he becomes more extroverted, regains confidence and could join easier in a training and job search framework to make more steps towards social reintegration.
Moreover, within the tours he/she secures a minimum income with dignity to cover basic needs, in addition always to the selling of the "Shedia"street paper. Out of the participation fee (€ 5 or € 8) 50% is direct income to the guide. Until today, “Invisible Tours" ‘ guides have shared in a total of more than 9,000 euros.
The tours start at "Shedia" ‘s offices in Metaxourgeio. They follow a walking route that goes from Vathi square, Socratous, Piraeus, Menandrou, Zinonos, Deligiorgi, Sofokleous and Athinas streets, enter in the neighborhood of Psirri and end in Varvakeios Market in Monastiraki.
As part of the organization and functioning of the initiative "Invisible Tours" many organizations and institutions that share the same concerns and want to enhance the efforts to bring the person – guide even closer to society have assisted the project.
From the very first beginning the Association of Licensed Tourist Guides voluntarily stood by the guides’ side, embraced with its experience the initiative and helped to push from the beginning to professional bases. During the period of training of the "Invisible Tours" guides, the association's members, professional guides themselves, walked the city with “Shedia”‘ s people and helped in mapping the route followed. Moreover, they provided significant utilitarian tips to the guides on how to manage their visitors, the way to address to the public, information transmission, how to move in the city and everything you need to know to carry out their task as possible closer to professional level elements.
Organizations and Social vulnerable groups solidarity and support organizations (Praksis NGO, Medicines of the World, rehabilitation programs etc.) and the Municipality of Athens cooperated with "Shedia" as part of the information collection. All information given during the tour is provided by the source itself and are constantly updated.
All employees of "Diogenes ΜΚΟ" are an important part of the "Invisible Tours". Before each tour, a representative of "Shedia" conducts a detailed introduction in relation to the organization, the history and philosophy and explains the reasons why this initiative is implemented, and of course the social benefits for both for the person-guide himself and society in general. Moreover, they reply in detail to all possible questions of visitors - encouraging at the same time to express all of their questions also to the guide during the tour - and explain how the street papers worldwide work, and in relation to all actions and initiatives of the Greek street paper.
During the "Invisible Tours" really important is the contribution of our volunteers. Very often there are visitors from abroad and the tours are made upon request in the language they demand. Our tour guides have English language knowledge and can respond to the tours’ need, however, we believe that we should support them to avoid the stress of the exact rendition of their personal story which many sometimes distracts from their narrative. That is why, as with other languages, we believe that the presence of someone who is to assume the role of the interpreter is required to handle the needs of our visitors from wherever they come from. In this part of the tour, the presence of volunteers is extremely important. Until today there have been tours in English, German, Italian, Spanish and French language, with always the assistance of a volunteer as an escort interpreter.
"Invisible Tours" join the circle of social programs of "Diogenes ΜΚΟ" a non-profit organization, established in early 2010 to support, through a wide range of activities, the efforts of homeless and socially excluded people to integrate or reintegrate in society. The provision of support services aimed at combating poverty and social exclusion is the main purpose of "Diogenes ΜΚΟ" and is implemented in and by the social tour program.
At the same time, it is understood that, with the activation chance of our own fellow citizens here take the guide’s work, their personal experience is indeed an important social and educational tool for everyone regardless of age, social or professional position and experience and, of course, for the organisation itself.
Furthermore, through the "Invisible Tours" "Diogenes ΜΚΟ" has managed to create a strong core of volunteers who regularly offer their spare time to support the guides both as escorts and interpreters (13escorts and 11interpreters), while they come closer to the organization and express their intention to support other activities too.
Finally, avery important benefit is the financial support for the organization of the participation fee (5€ concession, for students or 8 € for adults) 50% is direct income to the guide, while the remaining 50% relates to the operating costs and communication of the program but also to pay the corresponding taxes. If there is unallocated balance it is utilized for the needs of the "Kick Out Poverty" campaign and the Greek homeless football team.