THI Board Chairman Andrew Liveris addresses guests at THI’s 10th anniversary celebration at Zappeion Hall in Athens.
ATHENS – On a glorious evening on July 11 The Hellenic Initiative (THI) marked the 10th anniversary of its founding, as well as a decade of support and bridge-building between the Hellenic homeland and the global Hellenic Diaspora.
Beneath a near-full moon in the open-air rotunda of the beloved Zappeion Hall in Athens, Hellenes and Philhellenes from around the world led by THI Board President George Stamas and THI Board Chairman Andrew Liveris celebrated not only an anniversary, but their love for Hellenism and Greece. The guests did not want the wonderful cocktail reception with delicious food and graced at the start by the music of a string quartet from the Greek Youth Symphony Orchestra to end.
THI is the global non-profit organization that unites Diaspora Greeks and Philhellenes to address current crises and invest in the future of Greece. Since 2012, THI has committed or distributed $6.6 million in direct crisis relief and $11.7 in economic and entrepreneurial development assistance.
THI Board Member Nikos Stathopoulos thanked the event’s sponsors and THI’s international ambassadors – Giannis Antetokounmpo, Arianna Huffington, and Princess Tatiana. He also introduced on-screen and in-person greetings and congratulations, including those from President Bill Clinton.
The former president noted that THI was born when Greece was in the midst of a deep economic crisis, adding that it has been an important partner of the Greek people helping to recover, create prosperity, and address major social challenges like the pandemic.
Clinton emphasized that the common denominator of all these actions is the urge to strengthen Diaspora ties and Greek-American friendship.
When Stamas spoke, he declared to applause, “if you are throwing a birthday party and you can’t have the Acropolis, how about the Zappeion? Since our founding, ten years ago today, there are many people across to globe to whom we owe thanks for our success… I’d like to start with our staff.” He spotlighted “Peter Poulos, our retired Executive Director… and Michael Printzos” – THI’s Program Manager. “These two, from Day 1 made our job as a Board look easy.” He then pointed out THI’s new executive director Tina Courpas, whom he congratulated for that evening’s success.
Stamas added, “there are five people in Athens who from Day 1 dedicated themselves to our mission… without them I think we would be nothing…they are still with us today…they are not just captains of industry, but esteemed philanthropists” – Achilles Costantakopoulos, Jeremy Downward, Nikos Koumettis, who also addressed the guests and introduced the video presentation of Panos Madamopoulos-Moraris of ReGeneration, George David, and Marianna Vardinoyannis, who spoke by video.
Liveris then took the podium to share his memories – and his vision for the future, words echoed in an article he published the next day in the Athens newspaper Kathimerini: “It was nearly 10 years ago when I flew to Athens together with U.S. President Bill Clinton and a group of friends, united for a common cause. At the time, Greece was in crisis and a newly elected government was in power. Greek society at that time was polarized to the extreme and there was much at stake. Greece was in the headlines globally and everyone I knew was asking me about Greece and its future. At the time there was no clear sense of direction and yet Greeks felt an urgent need for action.”
Liveris continued, “so, it was almost 10 years ago to this day that my good friend George Stamas and I were compelled to establish The Hellenic Initiative. Our mission is simple but profound: Unite the global diaspora and philhellene communities to support Greece… When we reached out to fellow Greek diaspora leaders with this vision, they answered with a big ‘yes’ and joined the cause.” He concluded, “The Hellenic Initiative is just beginning and we look forward to what the next decades will bring.”
Stathopoulos brought the program to an inspiring close by noting that, “the occasion of THI’s 10th anniversary is a celebration of the last 10 years, but more importantly it’s an opportunity to look forward to the next 10, to plan ahead and see whether we can accomplish more than we have to date.”
On behalf of the Board, Stathopoulos declared that THI’s goals are: “scaling our impact…scaling our organization, scaling our fundraising apparatus, and developing projects in Greece which can move the needle… we are focused perpetually on the present moment, but more importantly on building our future” – the New Greece, in the words of several speakers at the event –there are also plans “to expand THI’s global reach” from its current 30,000 to many more members of the five-million strong Hellenic Diaspora.
The reception was part of the two-day ATHINA22 celebration with included the 6th annual THI Venture Fair competition before international investors for Greece’s top startups. The cocktail reception at the Skyfall lounge featured breath-taking views of the Acropolis and its environs for THI’s New Leaders young professionals group, and was their first event in Athens – with more to come.
THI’ newest endeavors include the exciting Connect the Dots virtual mentoring project and the Plant a Tree in Greece program, which hosted a volunteer tree planting on July 12 on Mt. Ymittos. Members and supporters of THI and We For All gathered to water a portion of 2,000 plants and trees planted earlier this year to combat the horrific wildfires of summer 2021.
“It’s important for people to realize that you don’t just plant a tree and it takes root by itself,” said THI Director of Community Development, Artemis Kohas. She added, “there are people out there weekly watering and weeding the trees, making sure that the initial investment is seen through to the end, and that’s what we were doing today” – perfectly illustrating THI’s overall philosophy and the secret to its success.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska's official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails.
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