SAN DIEGO, CA – Volunteerism and Philanthropy took center stage at the 41st Folk Dance and Choral Festival (FDF) in San Diego, CA, perfectly fitting the theme of this year’s celebration “All for One” by showcasing the work of the Samos Divers Association(SDA) and the philanthropy of the Diakonia Project.
SDA President Alexandros Malagaris offered a passionate presentation of the nonprofits’ work and the importance of volunteering especially now that the world is going through an international turmoil.
Malagaris, who grew up on Samos, said “my love of the ocean and the desire to deliver it clean to my young kids have been a great motivation in my work with SDA.”
SDA was created in 2010 and now has 75 members, though only 10 of qualify to participate in rescue and recovery missions.
Team members have to train for a diver certification program to qualify. “We are the only certified volunteer public safety rescue divers in Greece. We are able to donate our time because most of us have their own businesses and flexibility with our schedules,” he said.
SDA is now a registered Civil Protection Volunteer organization with the Civil Protection General Secretariat of the Ministry of the Interior of the Hellenic Republic. There are two components to the club’s activities. First, environmental protection that focuses on cleaning the ocean from the debris that sits on its bottom.
Each Spring, SDA cleans the Panagia of Kotsikas Monastery beaches and sea beds, making them safe for the church’s youth summer camp. In their rescue and recovery missions SDA has collaborated with the Hellenic Coast Guard, firefighters, and local police authorities.
The civil war in Syria has forced refugees to flood the Greek islands in an effort to escape to Europe. “The slave traders pack the small cruisers with double and triple the capacity of the boat while they charge more than a thousand euros each person. But Samos’ terrain is rocky and without our help, the Coast Guard would not be able to rescue the refugees. Their assistance however makes our work a lot easier after we have collected them. To this day we have made 68 missions and rescued 990 people. Unfortunately, we have also recovered 43 people,” Malagaris said.
SDA’s contributions have been recognized with numerous awards among them a commendation by Archbishop Ieronymos and the award “Islands of Quality in Volunteerism” by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
The organization exists because of the members’ love and dedication to its mission but assistance is always welcome. “We are very pleased that we receive help from a variety of sources. One of our strongest supporters is the Indianapolis Fire Department which provides training and equipment.
The Holy Cross Church in Belmont has also supported us,” Malagaris told TNH. “FDF Management should be proud of their accomplishments. The love they exhibit for our cultural heritage, the authenticity in choreography and costume design and their commitment to philanthropy is highly commendable.”
Malagaris message at FDF to the children was that “any contribution that you make no matter how small it is, it counts. Believe that each one of you can change the world even if you just offer your fellow citizen in need a blanket or a cup of soup. You can make the world a better place in small increments.”
That message was reinforced by the work of the Diakonoia Project, with total participation of the FDF family that helped package 41,000 meals to benefit Feeding Children Everywhere, a national nonprofit organization working to combat childhood hunger in the United States.