Dynamic Groups of Women Effect Change in Provincial Areas
19 May 2020

“Never doubt the power of a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens to change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

At SNF, we are continuously inspired by the opportunities that our work presents to witness this quote in action. Indeed, as we focus a significant part of our grantmaking activity on individual grants in support of community-level and grassroots organizations around the world, we get to see first-hand their unique potential to ignite bottom-up change, promote social inclusion, and make a difference in their respective contexts.

Two of these organizations, the Ladies Union of Drama and the Merciful Agios Ioannis Charitable Association, originate and operate in Drama, Northern Greece —a region still struggling with particularly high unemployment and poverty following the economic crisis that began a decade ago. Although distinct humanitarian organizations, serving different localities in Drama, they share the common characteristic of being headed by highly dynamic groups of local women who are demonstrating the power and potential of women in provincial areas to effect change.

Having been at the forefront of food aid and poverty reduction efforts in Drama since the peak years of the economic crisis, including with SNF’s initial support, the Ladies Union and Merciful Agios Ioannis were well placed to quickly adjust and expand food distribution and emergency relief for some of the most vulnerable in their communities as COVID-19 hit Greece. And as they work to mitigate some of the direct impact of COVID-19, they continue to look forward through investing in the education and empowerment of Drama’s younger generation in creative ways.

In particular, once COVID-19 lockdown measures are eased and conditions allow, the Ladies Union is looking forward to again filling its classroom in the town of Drama with the young voices of Greek, Roma, and refugee children learning to sing opera. With the support of a new SNF grant, this is part of the Union’s initiative to bring the Royal Opera House of London’s Create and Sing Carmen program to Greece. The educational program is an innovative way for children of diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds to learn music, movement as well as English, while working together to produce and ultimately present the famous opera Carmen.

In the small village of Choristi, on the outskirts of the town of Drama, Merciful Agios Ioannis is preparing a new Social School program. The program is scheduled to start in the beginning of the next academic year in September 2020, under the dual objectives of enhancing the learning and developmental processes of children and strengthening the supporting role of parents from under-resourced villages. Founded on cutting-edge international research finding that involving parents from poorer families in their children’s education can reduce dropout rates and improve achievement, the program is designed to complement the school curriculum through information technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence classes, as well as arts and crafts, strategic games, and thematic workshops for parental support and guidance.

Elianna Konialis,
SNF Program Officer