Money. A small and simple word with several meanings, a resource that can improve or destroy life. Money in our society is the means by which we buy things in order to survive, from food to houses and sometimes to weapons. Many people get a job so they can buy food and everything else they need to survive. Survival, a complex and multi-dimensional process. Many of us work just to get money so that we can leave our homes and travel safely to our destination in order to survive. On the other hand, money can be seen as a corrupting force, something that turns good people into bad. A common saying, particularly by some religions, is “Money is the root of all evil.” It can lead to greed as people seeking money might act unfairly towards others and harm them.
Different people therefore have different motivations for earning money. Some have to work at several jobs in order to afford higher education, while others use money to bring up their families, take up hobbies or save the lives of children.
Money also gives you the means to control situations and other people. It lets you buy weapons and get others to do whatever you tell them. It is said that ‘everyone has a price’ and indeed many people have done terrible things just for the promise of money. It is true that a simple lack of money can have a devastating impact on one’s livelihood and decimate whole nations of people after a war.
Living without money in Athens as a refugee is not easy either. I have seen half-naked people selling clothes for drugs, teenagers providing sex for food, or stealing from others just for a few euros. My phone got stolen the other day and, since I could not afford a new one I wasn’t able to talk to my parents as much as I would have liked.
How do other people see life without money in Athens? First, I asked Nefeli, a volunteer at Velos Youth Center. “Money is not the most important thing in life, but life without money is difficult. When I don’t have it, I prefer to spend time with friends,” she said and added, “I understand that having money makes things like accommodation, food and other necessities, easier. But, money and happiness are two different things, money can’t bring happiness.”
Then I asked Hammedullah, a 20-year-old refugee from Afghanistan who has been in Greece for two and a half years, about his experience without the refugee cash card. “I had no source of income, so I had to ask for money from my family in Afghanistan. They had been sending 100€ every month for more than a year. This made things more difficult for my family because they had to ask for money from others. I spent that money on food and transport,” he said.
Living without money is difficult, especially for refugees. Nobody will give us a job if we don’t have documents. Even if we have them, we have the language barrier. The UNHCR is now giving us 150€ per month, but it is not enough to buy food and clothes. Either way, we have to be patient, whether we have money or not.