NEW YORK – Noted Greek philanthropist Marianna V. Vardinoyannis was honored and was the featured speaker at a joint presentation of the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce (HACC) and the Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation (HACF) at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Ballroom on December 7.
HACF President Nicholas Kourides introduced Vardinoyannis’ brief but inspiring talk, “The Greek Crisis and the Impact Through the Eyes of the Children.”
Vardinoyannis was deeply touched by the huge turnout on a Monday night deep in Christmas shopping season. She thanked everyone , especially HACF President Nancy Papaioannou, and declared “Thousands miles away from Greece and yet I feel like I have never been closer to my country. This is because I stand among you, among people who purely keep Greece in their hearts, being in fact its best representatives.”
She noted that “Crisis can produce societies of indifference or societies of solidarity. Societies of exploitation or societies of compassion. And it is us who will live our mark in this challenging era,” and highlighted “those in Greece who by hundreds help the poor and the refugees, providing food and medicines.”
Asking what hope the refugees could have for the future, Vardinoyannis said “I believe that this hope lies on our hands, on each one of us,” and said that “As a minimum contribution on our side, our Foundation recently launched the Refugee Child Medical Assistance Program called WE CARE,” and described its work and collaborators.
She is optimistic about Greece, founding her beliefs on the bedrock of Greek history.
“Greek people have been proved to be great fighters throughout the centuries,” she said, and reminded that after “the poverty that followed the Second World War and the civil war, the Greeks who emerged contributed to the progress of our world, like many of you here today: great scientists, successful businessmen, Nobel Prize Laureates and most of all happy and creative individuals.”
Vardinoyannis then drew more inspiration from the “780 children winning a second chance in life” fighting against cancer through the ELPIDA Association she established.
“I am convinced that collective action and the power of true faith can bring the big [change to the world] that we all dream of…So, let these children be our source of inspiration through their unbelievable courage and strength. Let them be our symbols of hope as the everyday heroes who remind us that everything is possible.”
Papaioannou, who is also President of Atlantic Bank, said presenting Vardinoyannis is “one of the proudest moments of my life” and called her an example for all of us of philanthropic efforts to bring the world together to good things for needy people.”
Archbishop Demetrios thanked and congratulated the organizers for what he called a beautiful event and a “wonderful opportunity to hear someone who is a real ambassador of happiness and care for children throughout her whole life…we are thankful to God for persons like her.”
He then cited an early Christian text, the Didache, and called Vardinoyannis a person who does not merely loves her neighbour as herself, but more than herself,” especially the children.
Kerry Kennedy founder and President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, which the following day presented Vardinoyannis with is prestigious Ripple of Hope award, told the guests, “I don’t know anyone who more embodies loving others more than herself.”
Koubarakis, speaking on behalf of the Consul General, echoed Kennedy and added “I cannot imagine a more fitting person to present this crucial topic than Miss Vardinoyannis.”
Earlier in the event, which was preceded and followed by a reception, Kourides described HACF’s mission, which is “to organize and promote high quality and relevant educational and cultural programs…for persons interested in the legacy of Greece.” He also acknowledged the dignitaries, including Greek UN Ambassador Catherine Bouras, Amb. George Iliopoulos and Manos Koubarakis, Consul General and Consul, respectively, of Greece, Ambassador and Mrs. Loucas Tsillas, Amb. Andrew Jacovides, and Princess Alexandra of Greece.