Friday, 28 September 2007

"Breath of Fresh Air": Greek Americans' gift to Hellas

SAE/USA leads reforestation, collaborates with "Plant Your Roots in Greece" foundation

The U.S.A. Region of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE) has launched an intensive campaign to reforest areas in Greece that have been devastated by recent fires. The council works through local units of government but has also issued a plea to the Omogeneia for financial support of this effort.

Initiatives are already under way. The first involves tree planting in Parnetha and Hymettos where recent forest fires were among the most destructive in the country. Among SAE's partners in this effort are the Athenian Associations of New York, Chicago and Boston.

The second effort, in partnership with the Magnesia Association “Argonauts,” focuses on the municipalities of Afeton and Meleon (Pelio) which suffered an immense ecological catastrophe.

The third is in support of certain districts on the island of Crete, Chalcidiki and other areas.

“Unfortunately, the destructive fires are continuing in Greece on a daily basis,” according to Theodore Spyropoulos, Coordinator of SAE/USA and President of the Plant Your Roots in Greece Foundation. “It is our sacred duty to participate in the reforestation of our native country.”

It is expected that similar efforts will be undertaken in other parts of Greece that have been hit by forest fires or have demonstrated a need for reforestation. “We welcome the cooperation of all "ethnikotopikous"organizations, federations, individuals and companies that wish to take part in planting trees at their birthplace in Greece.”

The not-for-profit “Plant Your Roots in Greece” was founded in 1991 in Washington and was announced at the 1994 Convention of the Hellenic American National Council in 1994 in Chicago. The foundation joined ESE during Greece's recent devastation from forest fires and has been very active in the US and in Greece where it established a Greek branch in 2004.

The goal of the foundation is a three-prong effort to raise awareness of Greek American tourists in Greece:

To develop an interest in ecology and to contribute to the Greek environment with tree planting, even if it means planting one tree during each visit to Greece.

To strengthen links of Greek Americans with the parent country.

To understand and practice volunteerism since trees are always planted in cooperation with local units of government, the Archeological Service and groups of volunteers (students, athletes, boy scouts, hunters and firemen.)

When you plant a tree in Greece or when you fund reforestation it is as if you light a candle in our native land to honor your ancestors,” Mr. Spyropoulos states. “Our philosophy combines the Ancient Greek principle of respect towards nature with the Olympic idea of volunteerism. In essence we seek to strengthen man's kinship with both society and nature.”

Due to the generosity of American Hellenes and philhellenes the foundation has planted trees in several Greek regions. The foundation also adopted the devastated area across from the Temple of Poseidon, at Sounion, with five reforestation drives between 2000 and 2005. With the special permission of Lavreotikis municipality, a sculpture with the names of donors, created by international artist Angelika Korovesi, was placed on an isle facing the Temple of Poseidon.

Trees have also been planted in these areas: Vouliagmeni (1999), Samos� Pythagoreon (2002), Ancient Olympia (2002), Delphi (twice in 2003 and 2004), Kalavryta (2002), Ano Viano, Crete (2005), Maniaki in Messenia (2005), Patra (2005), Achino in Serres (2006), Strymoniko in Serres (2006), Arta (2006), Samothraki (2006), and two plantings in the Archeological park of Dion in Pieria (June and September of 2007).

The foundation has also submitted a proposal to Education Minister M. Giannakou seeking a cooperative relationship between “Plant Your Roots in Greece” and student-age youth in Greece.

“Donors may dedicate trees to someone's memory or to honor a living individual,” states Mr. Spyropoulos. “There are many U.S. companies that undertake to create a small forest to be donated as a gift by an individual or a group. It is a gift to planet earth where we belong. We hope that the mass media will promote our initiatives and urge the public to participate in this worthwhile endeavor.”

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