They Offer Human Dignity through Cloth Remnants
I met her during the premiere of “Amphipolis Project.” She was one of the speakers who spoke about the role and function of KinSEp, which is known as the Social Partnership Business…
Sophia Haitidou, representative , inspirer and vice-president of kinSEp, meaning ‘’co-operate socially’’ Humanstories.gr has invited her to describe her unique story and to tell us how cloth remnants or clothes that are not used can become the basis of “works of art.” She also talks about the work she offers dozens of people who really are in need of it.
Pictures: Dora Topalidou (www.brightside.gr)
If one were to describe Sophia Hitidou one would conclude that she is not only dynamic, smart and creative but that she is also a woman who does her work with passion. These are exactly what she represents. Three years ago she got the inspiration to create kinSEp or “work together socially” to help people in need so that they could get their pride back through their work. The idea was unprecedented in Greece and she describes below…
The Goal of co-operating Socially and the Message “Never Give Up”
“We created kinSEp with a productive and collective aim and its headquarters is in Xanthi. We make useful objects out of fabric that would otherwise have been thrown away. We try to determine how the cloth can be re-used to make handmade objects. Our goal is to provide jobs to members of society who are weak financially,” she says on Humanstories.gr, adding the reason for the creation.
“kinSEp came about after a difficult soul searching. I also had my job before the crisis. However, when the crisis became a permanent part of life, we did not do well and we had problems, but I wanted to make my dream come true. That is, I wanted to create something with social results. I discovered it through the crisis and I am proud of it. I do encourage everyone to continue with their dreams, even in a crisis.
She refers to one person who had greatly helped with kinSEp during its beginning stages: “The journey with social economy started three years ago. During this journey I had a very good helper and partner, Dr. Ioannis Nasioula at the Institute of Social Economy. He offered me his assistance and technological know-how. When we started, almost no one knew about Social Partnership Businesses. This was especially true for Xanthi, a small provincial town.”
The Importance of Partnering with CocoMat
Then CocoMat, a successful business with dozens of branches both in Greece and abroad came into her life. “I was aware I wanted to start kinSEp and that it had to become a viable business. We never believed we would get a subsidy and we never did get one. I relied on my knowledge and experience from previous jobs in the fields of marketing and advertising. I relied on the Social Face of a business. CocoMat has headquarters in Xanthi and they have shown their social face. I felt I could approach them and they would listen to me. They did listen and they were positive and encouraging from the beginning. I knew that whatever steps I would take I would have the viability to give income and oxygen to people very much in need.
“Our partnership started with hearts and it has been doing well. They give us cloth remnants they do not need from the productive process and we make hearts. Then CocoMat takes them and uses them as a promoting tool. Such a small step was critical for us,” emphasizes Sophia Haitidou.
Lives with Dignity because of Cloth Remnants
“Somewhere at this point our conversation became more emotional. When Sophia Haitidou referred to Hristoforos, a man freed from using drugs. He was the liveliest and proudest member of the group. When talking about him Sophia’s face would show warmth. She said,” Hristoforos was one of the founding members and he worked continually to create kinSEp. For us the process of re-using extra fabric plays a dual role. People and effort are needed. Hristoforos took part equally and because of the difficulties he had experienced he gave us the courage to go on.
“There is no social or religious exclusion and this can be proven because we even hire Pomacs at kinSEp. To us, all people are worthy of respect through their work. They can work and raise their families with dignity. Moreover, production at kinSEp is nothing simple and common. We have to inspire workers because they have to believe in what “Co-operating Socially’’ represents. Workers who benefit from my efforts have to pass on the effort. In the beginning no one paid attention to us. We had to find a place and the machinery and we had no money. Our president, Yeoryia Karayiannidou, pensioner from Agrotiki, always liked handmade products and she put in sewing machinery. Hristoforos would cut the hearts or anything else that needed cutting for production. Because of my experience, I was the representative of the Partnership and I advertised it extensively…”
One Can Succeed During a Crisis in Greece
Sophia has had a dream since 1991 when she finished her studies in marketing and advertising: to do something to help society. This happened twenty-five years later. ”I am realizing my dream under difficult conditions and I will never stop. I want to see people who are creative despite difficulties. For example, many of the Pomac women say that by making small hearts many of them use their wages to go back to school. This gives me great satisfaction. It is like I go up a step in an effort at a better life. Even if there is a crisis in Greece, there are still opportunities. One has to be patient, persevering, determined and very confident about what one is doing.
The Goal Partnering Abroad
What is the next step for kinSEp? Sophia Haitidou explains,”Our goal is to become well known all over Greece so that people benefit. Right now it is difficult for people to pay for handmade pieces at their real value. In addition, we are behind in the reusing and recycling of fabric. That is our aim… True to the values of social partnership and the economy we progress through our crew both here and abroad, and they have more technological know how.Our ultimate goal is more work for more people in Greece. We must encourage businesses on a basis of social partnership together with business responsibility.