Zathay Social Cooperative was the first social enterprise on the island of Samothraki in Northern Greece. What started with two little shops and continued to be a place of exchange had to be closed in 2017 – but some of the members took it as chance to switch the focus to non-formal education and the topics Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection. Project manager Maria Pitiakoudi tells agorayouth about the organisations‘ story and the islands‘ connection to southern Germany.
Agorayouth: Tell us a little bit about Zathay Social Cooperative in Samothraki: What is your work about?
Maria Pitiakoudi: Zathay Social Cooperative was founded in 2015 – initially by five close friends, then two more friends were added. We founded the first social enterprise of the island in order to create our own business based on solidarity, cooperation, fun and sharing. The opportunities to find a job here are limited so we needed to create our own opportunities. The first three years we made a contract with the municipality and we started to run a coffee shop and a mini market where we promoted local products in the Camping of Platia. The business was successful, we had a job, an income and we managed to give a job to eleven other unemployed young locals.
The shops were transformed in a hot spot for alternative tourism, a place of meeting and exchanging, an open space of expression of every kind of art, a working desk for professional nomads and a scientific and educational meeting point. We organised and hosted for example wellness seminars, art festivals or music events. Also, we supported summer universities, educational seminars and discussions for various social and environmental local pressure. We promoted solutions for recycling, waste and water management. Unfortunately the municipality never renewed our contract even though our business was a great success and it could thrive further due to political local pressure. So it was a bitter end for our creativity. But we never stop to dream and create, so we transformed the obstacles into new adventures.