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The Green Unit: Psychosocial Rehabilitation through Work in Green Spaces

Some of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) grants that have the greatest and most direct impact for people in need are the most straightforward.

One such grant helped secure a new means of transport for the “Green Unit” psychosocial rehabilitation program at the Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki.

The Psychiatric Hospital of Thessaloniki has been providing services in the field of mental health since 1971, and the the Green Unit psychosocial rehabilitation program is one of a variety of programs the hospital runs. The program allows people to take on jobs and engage in tasks such as maintaining green spaces, seasonal pruning of trees and shrubs, and harvesting olives and other agricultural products. The participants also engage in educational activities such as visits to seasonal exhibitions and greenhouses, as well as hospital activities such as cooking and cleaning.

The Green Unit is one of a few programs in Greece that prepares participants to reintegrate into society after having gained practical experience. Supporting people who face everyday stigma and marginalization with meaningful activities that give a sense of validation has been one of the greatest achievements of this program.

The Green Unit has been running for two decades thanks to competent and dedicated volunteers who provide participants with skills that can be used for later employment. The volunteers understand the importance of helping people living with mental illnesses, and they are willing to take a chance on helping them to reintegrate back to society. It is through the efforts of people like this who struggle against social exclusion and stigmatization that societal attitudes will eventually change and conditions improve.

Getting to know the director, the team, the volunteers and the participants made clear the importance of a grant for a new truck. The Green Unit’s activities rely on being able to transport both equipment and people. For a decade, the Hospital had been using a donated truck, but this was no longer a safe option. Though straightforward, the request was both a necessity for continuing the program and had the potential enhance its overall quality.

Having seen the importance of the Green Unit program in rehabilitation for the people who take part, we are glad that we were able to assist in a small way in supporting this very vulnerable population.

Panos Vazaios
SNF Program Officer, Athens