CASE STUDY: Agia Skepi, Cyprus

“Agia Skepi” is a therapeutic community founded in 1999 with the purpose of offering a  structured rehabilitation programme to adults and especially young people who struggle with  long-term substance abuse. The community is located in Nicosia, Cyprus in a land of 50 acres  owned by the Holy Abbey of “Machaira” (religious/church organisation). The programme  targets long-term depended substance users, regardless of national origin, religious status,  sex, pregnancy status or gender identity. The objective is to help users address their  dependence and provide them with the necessary skill-set for social reintegration. The  programme also offers mobilisation services as well as counselling and support to users not  enrolled in its programs and their families. Agia Skepi currently runs four (4) programmes: the  Therapeutic Community, the Counselling Center, the Family Programme, the Reintegration  Programme and the Women’s Programme. Since 1999, the therapeutic community has served  around 700 people and has recently established a separate Center for adolescents. Based on  the information provided, more than 75% of the members who complete the programme, are  able to rebuild their lives away from substances.  

Agia Skepi is registered as a private non-for-profit organisation1 and all services provided are  free of charge. The organisation is financially supported through the “Association of Friends  of Agia Skepi”, a separate legal entity established to provide financial assistance and support  to the programme by undertaking fundraising initiatives and actions. Agia Skepi also receives  financial aid from and collaborates with the Cyprus Ministry of Health and National Addictions’ Authority. The programme has been recognised by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs  and Drug Addictions (EMCDDA) since 2009 and today, Agia Skepi is the largest rehabilitation  community in Cyprus and a member of the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities  (EFTC).

Topic  Description
Title  Agia Skepi bio (‘αγία Σκέπη bio’)
Location  Nicosia, Cyprus (national impact level)
Time  2011 – present
SDG No  1, 2, 3, 8, 10
Brief Description  “Agia Skepi bio” is a social entrepreneurship action in the field of  organic food products developed to support the members of Agia  Skepi, a therapeutic community offering a structured rehabilitation  programme to adults and especially young people who struggle with  long-term substance abuse. The objective of the action is to engage  the community members in a real work environment and help them  develop a range of skills as well as the work mentality that are essential  for the successful social reintegration.
Beneficiaries  Members and graduates of Agia Skepi’s rehabilitation programme with  emphasis on young people.
Impact  Creation of new jobs for community members 

Provide equal opportunities for reintegration to a group of people  that usually experience social exclusion. 

Vocational training and development of required skills to help the  members enter the workforce.


Social Innovation  The enterprise is innovative in that through their employment,  substance abusers are reintegrated into society, while producing  income for the enterprise thus making it financially sustainable and  independent.
Constraints  Lack of skills and knowledge of the community members in the field  of farming 

No external financial support to implement the action Claims that the action constitutes unfair competition and that the  action takes advantage of the community members since they are  not being paid for their labour. 

Law in relation to social enterprises in Cyprus has only been  approved in early December 2020.

Sustainability  The initiative is running for nine years (since 2011) and the team  aspires that “Agia Skepi bio” will soon be considered as a social  enterprise, after the approval of the Law in relation to the social  enterprises in Cyprus in early December 2020. The objective is to 

continue supporting young people who have managed to fight their  dependence on substances, by providing them with the necessary  skills to enter the workforce and reintegrate into the society. 



This is a best practice example, which can be replicated in other cases  where people from a specific group facing difficulties can be trained in  order to become economically productive within the social enterprise  ecosystem. The requirements might consist of the following: i) raising  awareness about the potential benefits to society from such social  initiatives/enterprises; ii) offering a complete set of skills and  competences to the target groups concerned; iii) providing the legal  framework and supportive environment for these initiatives/enterprises  to flourish.
Lessons Learned – Conclusions It is evident that young people who struggle with long-term  substance abuse rarely have any working experience and usually  those people are not treated equally in terms of job opportunities  and usually face social exclusion. The action aims to decrease this  inequality by creating new jobs and helping the community  members develop the necessary skills required for social  reintegration. 

Like other social entrepreneurship models, “Agia Skepi bio” is attractive to consumers – by spending money on a basic need  (healthy nutrition), they are supporting the societal mission of Agia  Skepi and the effort of the community members for rehabilitation  and social reintegration. The impact of “Agia Skepi bio” is major  and still growing. Its success is evident to the extent that lots of  people, who did not previously consider buying organic products,  support now the initiative due to its societal impact, with the