On the occasion of the start of the joint University of Ioannina - Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Albanians of Greek Descent (IAOA) programme funding scholarships for Albanian students of Greek descent, a special event took place on Tuesday, June 19, 2007, in the G. Mylonas Ceremonies Hall of the University of Ioannina. During the ceremony, scholarships were conferred on undergraduate and postgraduate students studying at the University of Ioannina campus. Additionally, during that same ceremony, ethnic Greeks students who completed the two-year vocational training programme offered by the IAOA at the facilities of the Vocational Training Centre in the border village of Pogoniani, Epirus received their diplomas.
Present at the event was Deputy Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs George Kalos, who conveyed a message from the Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs Marietta Giannakou, expressing the Ministry’s unconditional solidarity with the joint activities developed by the two Foundations, since it is the fixed and constant policy of the Greek State to assist ethnic Greek and foreign pupils and students living and studying in Greece, while supporting all efforts to swiftly include them in the knowledge society.
Subsequently, he congratulated both Foundations on taking this initiative and underlined the significance of their collaboration, since both sides contributed to the creation of a new educational event that would assist, along with everything else, the University of Ioannina, which he characterized as one of the greatest intellectual institutions of Greece, in collaborating with other European educational institutions. He also did not neglect to underline both Foundations’ dynamism, variety of activities, and their tremendous social contribution to the social whole.
The University of Ioannina Rector Gerothanassis pointed out that this was a special occasion, because, for the first time, scholarships were awarded to Albanian students of Greek descent, demonstrating that the IAOA is admirably continuing to build yet other bridge allowing the two nations to communicate and is benefiting the social whole. He expressed not only his profound gratitude on behalf of the university community to all those who are ably continuing the benevolent work of the late John Latsis and to the Latsis family, but also his confidence in the long-lasting and effective collaboration of the two Foundations.
The Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Albanians of Greek Descent, as its President, Vangelis Chronis, mentioned, constitutes part of the network of Foundations established by the Latsis Family in Greece and abroad. The establishment in 2005 of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, which finances the operation of the other Foundations, was the start of a new series of activities on the level of the new parent Foundation, as well as on that of the subsidiary Foundations.
The IAOA University Scholarship Programme is incorporated into the framework of these changes and new activities. The Foundation, adapting to the new demands and specific needs of ethnic Greeks, apart from the vocational training offered up to now at the training centre in Pogoniani, is enriching its programme with new activities concentrated on tertiary education, opting for a steady partnership with a regional and dynamic institution like the University of Ioannina. The programme is aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students of the Schools and Departments located on the University of Ioannina Campus, who are Albanians of Greek descent. The purpose of the scholarships is to award the performance of the students in question and provide them with financial support.
Mr. Chronis also referred to the IAOA’s constant contribution to raising the living standards of ethnic Greeks and creating hope for their future via educational initiatives and multiple forms of financial assistance, especially during its first years of operation, with an emphasis on social welfare. Its founder, the late John Latsis strongly believed—a belief shared by his wife and children, who continue to demonstrate the same affection and zeal in support of the Foundation’s initiatives—that a successful combination of welfare activities is needed, impacting a large section of society and spreading social benefits proportionally.
The Foundation’s Board of Directors has already decided to include among its portfolio of activities certain humanitarian initiatives in the ethnic Greek areas, as well as targeted activities in tertiary education in Albania, and more specifically, in schools and departments teaching Greek-related subjects, for example, the Department of Greek Language and Literature, at the University of Gjirokastër, and the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Tirana. Moreover, as already underlined by the University of Ioannina Rector during his speech, one of the University’s primary goals is an educational and scientific collaboration with the University of Gjirokastër.
The IAOA President also pointed out that this year the Pogoniani Vocational Training Centre ran two-year study programs in automobile body repair, plumbing, hairdressing, and cooking-confectionary. To this day, the training centre has welcomed over 1,000 students and pupils. 23 more young people are now added to the school’s list of graduates, receiving their respective diplomas from Deputy Minister Kalos, Rector Gerothanassis, and IAOA President Chronis.
Also present at the event were the His Eminence Metropolitan Theoklitos of Ioannina, the members of the IAOA Board of Directors, the Greek Consul in Gjirokastër and the Albanian Consul in Ioannina, representatives of the Ioannina Prefecture authorities, as well as those of the neighbouring municipalities, representatives of the Regional Directorate of Primary & Secondary Education in Epirus, the university officers, and other members of the university communities of Ioannina and Gjirokastër, as well as representatives of ethnic Greeks living in Albania.