A team of four volunteers and two staff from throughout the United States have arrived in Athens as part of a two-week long volunteer program organized by the New York-based Greek America Foundation.
Called Greek America Corps, the program has been sending young North Americans to Greece since 2017 to serve vulnerable populations by supporting the work of established non-profit humanitarian relief organizations.
This summer was supposed to be a banner year for the program, with plans to send dozens of volunteers to locations including the island of Karpathos for a high-volume spay and neuter program for veterinary students. Other locations included the island of Chios for a program focused on teaching and mentoring workshops for abandoned and at-risk Greek children.
The travel restrictions imposed by the European Union forced the cancellation of the original summer programs.
“We didn’t want to let the year go by without a program, so we reached out to our friends at the Greek Embassy in Washington DC and with the help of Endy Zemenides– a long-time supporter of the Greek America Foundation’s work, we were granted special permission for our volunteers to enter Greece,” according to a statement by the Greek America Foundation.
The foundation planned an abridged, two-week program involving intensive street work in Athens alongside Emfasis Foundation, an organization serving thousands of homeless people in the streets of Athens, as well as METAdrasi, an organization that offers various support services for refugees and unaccompanied minors who are in Greece alone.
The group is collecting cash donations to purchase “survival items” that they will distribute to homeless people when they venture out at night time.
The goal of the program is to introduce contemporary Greece to volunteers in a unique way involving philanthropy and service. In addition to their volunteer work, they will also participate in regular cultural experiences and get to know the city of Athens.
The volunteers and staff include Eleni Anagnostopoulos from North Carolina, Darden Livesay from Astoria, New York, Macy Minear from Los Angeles, Angelica Piegari from New Jersey, Basil Armatas from Denver and Vasiliki Radaios from Chicago. The team is already in Athens and has begun its volunteer work.
Although not a requirement of the program, all of the 2020 summer volunteers have Greek heritage.
In order to ensure the safety of the volunteers, and the local populations with whom they will come into contact, a series of health protocols were imposed, including mandatory COVID-19 testing in the United States prior to their departure, testing upon arrival in Athens and a 72-hour quarantine in Athens.
Upon completion of their quarantines, they were hosted at the United States Embassy by Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who spoke to the volunteers at length about the state of U.S.-Greece relations and various humanitarian projects the United States has supported in Greece.
Pyatt Tweeted a photo with the volunteers on the Embassy grounds at the iconic statue of George Marshall that was commissioned by AHEPA years ago. Pyatt congratulated the volunteers for their efforts, and for strengthening Greece-U.S. relations.
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