eLearning Industry Participates In Shedia’s Invisible Tours
To truly evaluate our impact as companies and employees, we need to see beyond the milestones and profit-making pursuits, acknowledging that our day-to-day work has tangible effects in and out of the workplace. Using our platforms, we must concentrate our efforts to support socially vital causes and ensure that our impact brings positive change to our communities. Here at eLearning Industry, we have ingrained this aspiration into the fabric of our operation and, through our annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, we have created a roadmap specifically geared toward community support and outreach.
However, we will not use this article to review how we designed and implemented a successful CSR program. Through this article, we wish to shine the spotlight on a social welfare organization’s work, Shedia, whose commendable efforts have significantly aided socially vulnerable communities. We will start by sharing our experience of Shedia’s Invisible Tours—the CSR activity we participated in—as a testament to our effort to raise awareness and offer a helping hand to our peers.
eLI’s CSR Program: The Invisible Tours By Shedia
Shedia is a well-known Greek street magazine that provides reintegration opportunities to socially vulnerable individuals. Its main objective lies in empowering, educating, and creating employment prospects for fellow citizens experiencing poverty, income inequality, marginalization, and homelessness. The magazine is named after the Greek word for “raft,” as Shedia provides people in need with a source of income, a supportive community comprised of others with similar experiences, and a platform to share their stories with the rest of the world.
Like many other street magazines and papers from around the world, Shedia also organizes the Invisible Tours initiative to shed light on these major societal issues. This social project offers guided walks around central Athens led by people from these marginalized communities, who share their lived experiences and shed light on the city’s most vital social infrastructure facilities and services.
As the tour began, we also learned that Shedia provides its vendors with more than a job. There are clubs (a soccer club, an acting group, and a petanque club) that encourage socialization and artistic expression, empowering their members to rebuild their lives through recreational activities. Our tour guide, specifically, was a man who has participated in theatrical productions at notable stages in Greece through Shedia’s acting group. Residing at a homeless shelter, he currently works as a vendor for the street magazine, occasionally leading the Invisible Tours.
As we mentioned above, the Invisible Tours guides are current or former homeless individuals. First-hand acquainted with the social welfare institutions of the city, they provide information about each facility’s services along with unique insights based on their own experiences.
However, this tour is more than a series of stops at various social welfare institutions. One learns that any inconspicuous building in the gritty Athenian neighborhoods can be connected to thousands of human stories that are very rarely given prominence. Homeless shelters, day centers, soup kitchens, and food banks are located around the urban grid of Athens, and anyone can pass them by every day, unaware of their weight on thousands of our peers’ lives. Because, along with the tangible impact of these social welfare initiatives, every stop of the Invisible Tours also holds profound personal significance to these members of our community.
As such, the tour becomes a platform where each guide shares their unique perspective and experience of the city, narrating their life story and sharing the events and circumstances that completely altered the course of their lives. From recession to personal loss, their stories enmesh with the derelict surroundings as they describe their journeys and the occurrences that brought them where they are today.
The realization that there’s a significant dichotomy between the “visible” and the “invisible” parts of a city comes at the end of the tour, which concludes at the heart of Greek tourism in the city center. A mere turn at a corner and, from the beaten alleys of Athens, you reach the neatly laden cobblestone paths of the historical downtown. It becomes apparent that while it’s easy to think that we truly know our way around a place, there are always cracks where reality peaks through. This reality, while ever-present in the outer rim of central Athens, is rarely given the spotlight. Places laden with significance to our fellow citizens go unnoticed by casual passersby. Yet, for these people of our community, the invisible Athenian districts are part of their everyday lives, full of landmarks that have helped them persevere.
The impact of Shedia extends beyond the magazine’s pages. Shedia provides a platform for expression, empowerment, and reintegration for socially vulnerable and marginalized communities. Other than a street magazine, it is a social hub that welcomes people from every background, helping them rise despite hardships and fostering a sense of belonging and purpose. If you wish to support Shedia’s work and its vendors, you can take part in one of the Invisible Tours or pick up the magazine from a street vendor during your next visit to Athens. You can also make a direct donation or, if you reside in Athens, become a volunteer.
Corporate social responsibility shouldn’t be treated as a trend; it’s a commitment for organizations to evaluate their broader impact and to make conscious decisions and action plans to give back to their community. An authentic CSR initiative isn’t a mere activity that happens once every business year but an ongoing effort.
Infusing a human element into our rigid business practices and using our platforms to raise awareness about causes that are vital to our communities should be a priority for everyone. The ways we as employees and companies can help our fellow human beings are many. Because offering a helping hand doesn’t cost a fortune but it’s worth one. You only need determination and kindness to start.