12/04/2017 - 13:57

Perth initiative gives to Greeks

12/04/2017 - 13:57


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The Hellenic Initiative Australia has launched a campaign inviting people travelling to Greece to volunteer while they holiday.

Perth initiative gives to Greeks
Alex Theodoridis (left) with The Hellenic Initiative Perth directors Nick Mitaros, Lee Verios and Evan Nicholas at the Kailis Bros luncheon earlier this month.

The Hellenic Initiative Australia has launched a campaign inviting people travelling to Greece to volunteer while they holiday.

Co-founded by prominent Australian businessman and Darwin-born Dow Chemical Company chief executive, Andrew Liveris, the Hellenic Initiative is a global program supporting recovery and renewal in Greece via philanthropy and economic development programs.

The Australian arm was established in 2015 to join the international movement, and has assisted 12 Greek graduates complete six-month paid internships in Australia, including with Cox Architects in Perth.

Wyllie Group chairman Lee Verios is among the Hellenic Initiative’s Perth directors behind the new ‘holidaying with a purpose’ campaign.

The campaign connects travellers with Greek not-for-profit organisations Boroume and Desmos, which redistribute goods and services for crisis relief.

“We saw that Boroume was relying on volunteers that were coming from all over Europe and the US, but no one from Australia,” Mr Verios told Business News.

“We married that idea with our need to find new ways people could contribute without necessarily making a financial contribution.

“Anyone can participate; you don’t just have to be Greek Australian.”

In July Mr Verios and his wife will take part in the volunteer program alongside other Australians.

The first Perth family to take part in the campaign earlier this year contributed a couple of afternoons of their time to Boroume, collecting unsold fruit and vegetables at Athens farmers’ markets.

“People can spend as minimum as one hour to collect and transport food,” Mr Verios said.

“It also gives people the opportunity to meet real Greeks when they are in Greece, rather than just being tourists and seeing it superficially.”

Boroume co-founder Alex Theodoridis was in Perth earlier this month to discuss his Athens-based charity at a luncheon held in Leederville by one of THI’s major sponsors, Kailis Bros.

Mr Verios said that Boroume redirected more than 7 million food portions last year.

The innovative food savings program has enlisted major Greek supermarket chains, companies and restaurants, and distributes an average 19,000 food portions each day.

“One of the big challenges we face is when we raise funds to send to Greece there is a deal of scepticism about what happens when the money gets to the other side,” Mr Verios said.

“You want to make sure that your funds are being used correctly; it’s all about creating trust and credibility in the organisations you are dealing with, and Alex exudes and satisfies all of these things.”

While in Australia, Mr Theodoridis addressed more than 300 people at the Hellenic Initiative Australia’s Brisbane gala dinner, following the successful fundraising event held in Perth in 2016 and Melbourne the year before.

Since 2015, THI has provided almost $80,000 grants in support for Boroume and Desmos to expand their scope of operations.

Mr Verios said THI’s internship program, part of the organisation’s strategy to help economic development, was becoming even more important as Greece entered its eighth year of recession and was calling on local businesses for support.

“Standard unemployment is 25 per cent, but for youth under 20 it’s more like 50 per cent,” he said.

“So this is a little effort to give some of these graduates hope for the future to get worldwide experience and take that back to Greece.”



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