SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — The Hellenic Initiative (THI) has worked to bring crisis relief to Greece. The core focuses are easing food poverty and increasing crisis relief. All while funding economic and entrepreneurial development applications through donations. Since 2012, the organization distributed approximately $6.6 million in direct crisis relief and $11.7 million in economic and entrepreneurial development in Greece. THI Executive Director Peter Poulos spoke with The Borgen Project about how THI works. He said, “to support NGOs that were working to relieve pain and suffering as a result of the financial crisis.”
The Hellenic Initiative During COVID-19
THI remains committed to providing crisis relief in Greece that calls on Greek diaspora communities to support THI recommended organizations and grants. T
It has “put almost 2,500 people to work in permanent positions in Greece” since early 2020. THI also created the New Leaders group in the same year. The goal was for young Greek professionals to donate time and expertise towards the THI donor base.
Hope Genesis is a nonprofit focusing on reversing Greece’s increasing birth deficit rate. CEO Elina Sbokou stated in an interview that the organization first started in 2015. She said, “we started realizing that the pregnant women were fewer every year” while visiting the islands every May. Sbokou stated that “the Hellenic Initiative was one of the first international organizations that helped us.”
It has worked to promote fertility awareness and collaborate with 25 hospitals across Greece. The organization provides fertility and pregnancy medical services across six islands in the Dodecanese, Greece (Arkioi, Kasos, Chalki, Leipsoi, Tilos and Patmos). They received help with a THI grant of $30,000 finalized in November 2019. Sbokou also found that the organization is aligned with the core values of THI. Hope Genesis Project Manager Eva Papadaki explained how the organization covers “all the expenses regarding their pregnancy and all their exams, their recommendation, their transportations, medical centers in Athens and other areas.” Hope Genesis assists with legislative policies regarding working mothers and women’s empowerment.
Doctors of the World (DOTW)
SInce 1990, Doctors of the World (DOTW) has worked to provide health care and accommodation centers for unaccompanied minors and refugees across Greece.
DOTW Greece Operations Director Anastasios Yfantis stated in an interview how “we started to work closely with Hellenic Canada and the Hellenic initiative Australia to enhance their efforts and ensure access to dignified healthcare services and social protection after the pandemic declaration.” Since June 2020, the THI Australia Public Health Project has helped people access medical services in the Athens Open Polyclinic. THI Canada helped DOTW Greece by co-financing DOTW medical and psychosocial support to the elderly during COVID-19.
Through the initiation of a 24-hour accommodation shelter for COVID-19 protection in Athens, Greece, DOTW Greece has been able to house 55 homeless people per night during the pandemic. Yfantis said that “we provide personal protective equipment to thousands of people living in shelters.” Along with implementing health care mobile units, DOTW has been trying “to promote the primary health care model” because it is accessible.
Action for Migration and Development
METAdrasi is a nonprofit founded in December 2009 that supports refugees and asylum seekers in Greece where other NGOs have not. Since the 2015 refugee crisis in Greece, METAdrasi has worked to sustain accommodation facilities for unaccompanied children. With THI support, it has placed focus on Chios, Samos and Lesvos, Greece.
METAdrasi founder Lora Pappa told The Borgen Project that the organization worked with THI support to provide help to children. Pappa said it created a dormitory for more than 60 refugees and homeless children in Athens in April 2021. During the initial impact of the pandemic, it also implemented an interpretation services line to translate hospital and other facility requests into 43 languages. In addition, 1stop4homless Athens day center and a mobile unit provide personal care and necessary provisions for homeless unaccompanied minors. Pappa said that the METAdrasi started a Help Desk to advocate for equal access to vaccines for refugees and migrants.
A Look Ahead
THI has continued the New Leaders Group in chapters across the U.S. while searching for more organizations to support. THI raised approximately $3.8 million from a November 2020 virtual gala and a December 2021 New York gala. This makes it the most successful fundraiser in all the Greek diaspora. With a clear plan, THI continues to provide crisis relief in Greece.
– Evan Winslow