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VOLUNTEERING FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE FORESTS
On Saturday, 9 May 2009, in the presence of more than 300 invitees from across Greece, the results of the PanHellenic survey on the topic of ‘Volunteering for the Protection of the Forests’ were presented, at a special Conference held upon the initiative of and with funding exclusively from the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation and the Eurobank EFG Group, in the framework of their joint ‘It Is Our Duty’ Programme (www.inekathikonmas.gr).
The One-Day Conference was held at the headquarters of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation in Kefalari, in the framework of the series of events 'Pallas Athena Forum', and it gave the opportunity to members of volunteer forest protection organisations from across Greece and Volunteer Firefighters of the Hellenic Fire Service to participate in an open and creative dialogue with the leadership of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection and the Hellenic Fire Service, as well as with representatives of the Ministry of Rural Development and Food and Local and Regional Government.
Approximately 160 organisations and 1,000 individual volunteers participated in the survey; this is the largest sample ever used in a survey on such topics in Greece. According to the survey results, the majority of volunteers involved in forest protection/firefighting activities believe that volunteerism is not sufficiently developed in our country, and they identify its main weaknesses:
In his speech, Mr Vangelis Chronis, General Manager of the Latsis Group and Member of the Executive Board of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, said that:
“Volunteerism obviously plays a prominent role among the set of initiatives that we have designed in the framework of the ‘It Is Our Duty’ programme. In 2008, we implemented an extensive programme aimed at supporting 140 volunteer organisations involved in forest protection and firefighting activities in 41 Prefectures of our country. This programme, which is now more targeted, will continue in 2009; indeed, Individual Protection Means and Operational Equipment will be provided free of charge to a significant number of volunteer organisations, which were selected after members of the personnel of WWF Hellas conducted on-site visits. Our contribution to the country’s volunteer movement and the programme we have designed include, of course, the individual Volunteer Firefighters of the Hellenic Fire Service. In order to support all these conscientious citizens, who devote their time and energy to protect our forests, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has offered 3,000 fire uniforms, thus meeting one of their most urgent needs at operational level."
“The initiative, which we are carrying out today, concerns the role of volunteerism in the protection of the environment and comes as a natural continuation of our actions up till now with respect to the environment. We believe that the concept of volunteerism has not been publicly discussed in our country to the extent it should have been. However, this does not mean that the Volunteer movement is insignificant in our country,”
added Mr Michalis Vlastarakis, General Manager of Eurobank's Branch Network, who also noted that "Εurobank EFG is one of the first Greek companies to gradually introduce Corporate Volunteerism in its organisation, in the framework of its social face. By carrying out specific initiatives, it promotes the concept of volunteerism and solidarity among its more than 24,000 employees in Greece and abroad.”
After describing the existing framework of operation of the Volunteer Organisations of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection and the new initiatives that are currently being undertaken to modernise this framework, Mr Margaritis Mouzas, General Secretary for Civil Protection, closed his speech by saying that:
“Volunteer activities are based on mutuality and solidarity and create new networks and standards, thus expanding the already existing social capital. Today, volunteers are a great example of benevolence and social sensitivity, and all of us –but most importantly the State– have a duty to protect and promote the value of volunteerism in the best possible way. In line with the needs of modern society, the General Secretariat for Civil Protection has identified the completion of the System of Volunteerism as one of its priorities and aims at making the best possible use of the excellent volunteer workforce.”
In his speech, Lieutenant General Athanasios Kontokostas, Chief of the Hellenic Fire Service, referred to the revision of the current legal framework and, in particular, to the amendments and additions advanced by the Hellenic Fire Service, in order to give a new boost to the further development and promotion of the concept of Volunteer Firefighters and volunteerism in general.
“Our goal is to make even better use of our country’s volunteer workforce, and we will do everything we can to achieve this goal, by including a greater number of teams in our operational plan, as well as by providing training to these teams,”
he stated. He also proposed the establishment of a joint committee made up of representatives of the Hellenic Fire Service, the General Secretariat for Civil Protection, volunteer organisations and other relevant organisations, in order to adopt a more comprehensive approach to volunteer training.
The following persons also participated in the One-Day Conference and gave speeches: Messrs Manolis Karlas, Prefect of Samos, Nikos Hardalias, Mayor of Vyronas and President of the Association for the Protection and Development of Ymittos (SPAY), Dimitris Spathis, President of the Organisation for the Management of Parnitha and Special Adviser to the Minister of Rural Development and Food, Dimitris Stergiou-Kapsalis, Mayor of Penteli and President of the Association for the Protection and Restoration of Penteliko (SPAP) and Konstantinos Liarikos, Environmental Programme Manager, WWF Hellas.