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OPINIONS

The Donations of The National Herald and the Need for an International Congress of the Hellenic Diaspora

Many of the members of our Community must be anxious or even terrified as they think about the number of days that have passed since the first of April. Many have not yet paid their rent or mortgages, their insurance, their children’s tuition fees – because they simply cannot.

And I have no doubt that the number of desperate Greek-Americans facing serious health issues and financial problems is much larger than we know or can imagine.

They/we are a proud people and they are hiding their needs. They/we are, I would say, more proud than they should be in these times of such shocking crises.

The needs are enormous so we cannot deal with them by ourselves. Only the states can help them get all the assistance they need – but there is much we can do individually and collectively.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) recently made a huge donation of $100 million with a special emphasis on Greece. Such acts do not replace the state, they complement it.

Although most of us are not able to donate these types of sums, we can learn from the example of the SNF and the seriousness with which they deal with their donations, in the innovative, inspiring way in which recipients are vetted and selected.

They make us very proud as Greeks.

And as I have noted many times, the founder of the SNF was an expatriate. Currently, the heart and mind of the SNF, its Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, is also an expatriate. He lives in New York.

The National Herald, which just celebrated its 105th anniversary since its founding, operates, as is well-known, a Fund for the Neediest.

This is because this newspaper does not simply function as a journalistic organization.

It is the flesh of the Hellenic Diaspora. It’s her voice and serves as her reference point. It is also a place Hellenes turn to to get help for the various problems they face.

A few days ago, we urged Greek-Americans with financial needs to reach out to us.

Today, we are happy to say that thanks to this Fund, we can offer a little help to two particularly vulnerable groups, the children and the elderly.

Specifically, the St. Michael’s Home for the Elderly and the schools of St. Demetrios of Astoria, St. Nicholas in Flushing, and the Cathedral School in Manhattan.

We would very much like, always with your help, to extend our solidarity to other schools as well.

I emphasize that this money is yours – the Greek Diaspora’s. These are your contributions to the Fund for the Neediest of The National Herald.

Thank you for your responses. Thank you for giving us the opportunity through the years to act on your behalf to help students, people with various needs, etc., and now, during the current crisis, to help our schools and the homes for the elderly.

We would also very much like to be able to help Hellenes living in other countries. I know from my visits to several expatriate communities during my tenure as Deputy Foreign Minister with Responsibility for Hellenes Abroad that the needs are enormous.

One would therefore expect that the Greek state, and in particular the relevant organ, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, would have already developed an international initiative to help expatriates and their institutions in despair around the world.

One would expect at this particular time – and why not – that it would arrange for special flights to Greece for sick expatriates who do not have the financial means nor the access to the proper facilities in the countries where they live so that they can be treated for the coronavirus.

Recently, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis addressed through The National Herald a message of support to the Hellenes of the USA, and especially of New York.

And he did well to do so.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to be activated to offer much more help to the members of the Diaspora who are in need. The Ministry’s role in the issues that the Diaspora faces should not be diminished even further.

It is in such moments of crisis that the need for the Hellenic Diaspora to govern its own affairs becomes more painfully and strongly felt. There is a need for an International Congress of the Hellenic Diaspora – we can give it whatever name we want – with headquarters perhaps in Washington, DC, or Paris, or London, which will take care of the expatriates and all the children of the Diaspora of all ages and which will represent us in conjunction with the governments of Greece and Cyprus, as well as with the governments of other countries where Hellenes live.

This would be the final test of the determination and possibilities for Hellenism abroad. And of its courage.

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