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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 7 January 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 7 JANUARY 2017 19 GREECE taurant owners to encourage them to offer meals to people that need it most. Once we collect the funds from the concert, together with the International Foundation for Greece, we select the schools that will receive our assistance and start deliveries in December. How hard was it to collect the funds and encourage people to donate towards this cause? The project is now well known among the Greek community in Brussels, but of course, it’s always difficult to collect money. Some people think the crisis is over just because Greece doesn’t feature in the front pages of the world media any more. This perception is entirely incorrect. I always invite those people to come with me and visit the schools so that they can see for themselves that the situation remains rather dramatic. There are hundreds of schools that struggle to purchase fuel. I saw the empty tanks. How did the Greeks of Belgium welcome the initiative? Brussels has a large and very well-organised Greek community of around 20,000 people. People here and in Greece are well aware of our initiative, therefore we receive a tremendous amount of support from the Greeks living in Belgium, as well as from many Belgians and foreigners living in Brussels. How many schools did you visit in Greece and what was the reaction of the Greek people? I initially organised a press conference in Athens on 12 December and the majority of the artists that performed in the Brussels’ concert on 22 October (Lavrentis Machairitsas, Vassilis Lekkas, Alexandra Gravas, Petros Bouras) attended. That’s always a very emotional and passionate moment for everyone. The artists describe their experiences from Brussels, their reasons for participating in the initiative and the feel- ings they brought back home from their time in Belgium. Then, together with the president of the International Foundation for Greece, Aspasia Leventis, we flew to Alexandroupoli where we started fuel deliveries. Overall, we travelled 400 kilometres in one day, going through from Alexandroupoli to Kavala and distributing fuel to eight schools. So far we have visited one school in Avanta (near Alexandroupoli), three schools at Stavroupoli near Xanthi, two in Paranesti (between Xanthi and Drama) and two in Nevrokopi (just south of the Bulgarian border). I could never even attempt to describe and one could never fathom the emotions and reactions we experience at every school that we visit. Meeting with the school principals, the teachers, the students and their parents is such an amazing and moving experience that it fuels the soul with more energy to get back on the road and collect more funds for those people who need it the most. You have written two books on Greece. You have set up a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to assist the country in a time of turmoil, you own a house in Folegandros and you are always very complimentary towards our country. It seems like you have an endless love affair with Greece. Is that true? I love Greece. I have always loved this country ever since I set foot in the harbour of Katakolon in the spring of 1969. It is a relationship that has been building up over all these years. My project for the schools is just a small token of appreciation for everything that Greece has given me and my wife, who is Greek, throughout the years. We both visit Greece as much as we can and stay at our little house in Folegandros, a beautiful little island in the Aegean. The truth of it is, my love for Greece first started 45 years ago, and it hasn’t stopped since.
24 December 2016
14 January 2017