Dozens of our supporters from the United States and Canada descended upon Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, during the weekend of March 11-13 to kick off our fundraising and awareness campaign for Greece’s LGBTQI+ Helpline 11528 – By Your Side.
We kicked off our “Circle of Support” at an event chaired and hosted by the Honorable Dean Trantalis, Mayor of Ft. Lauderdale, with dozens of attendees who pledged thousands of dollars in support.
This is the first time a Greek diaspora organization has launched an LGBTQI+-focused initiative in Greece, where suicide rates among these teens in crisis are among the highest in Europe.
Our newly formed “Circle of Support” is being led by co-chairs Ari Theodoropoulos of Chicago and John Pavlides of New York City. The two young men are forming an exciting initiative that will ultimately help save lives.
Aris Theodoropoulos, left, and John Pavlides, right, shared their personal stories during our March 12 event.
The kickoff event in Ft. Lauderdale included a special video greeting from Alex Patelis, chief economic advisor to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who congratulated our efforts and expressed his support.
“We need your help. We encourage you to support in any way you can, whether it’s financial support or emotional support,” Patelis said. “Let’s all move forward together to promote LGBT rights in Greece and build a bridge between the Greek-American community, the United States and Greece.”
The 11528 helpline is used by more than 1,000 people annually and is staffed by psychologists to help young Greeks in crisis with sexual and gender identity issues. The line also provides support to teachers, parents and family members on how to approach such matters.
Suicide rates amongst LGBTQI+ teens in Europe are staggeringly high, with estimates in countries like Greece, Italy and Spain — where the church plays a significant role in affairs — considerably higher.
Greece’s helpline has helped thousands of people overcome crisis situations and is a critical social welfare organization that requires more than $100,000 in annual funding. The funds are necessary to secure professional psychologists to answer phone calls and host face-to-face sessions with people in need of support.
Thanos Vlachogiannis, the helpline’s project manager, says that support from the Greek America Foundation couldn’t have come at a better time.
“Sadly, in conservative countries like Greece, where religious influence and homophobic attitudes are prevalent in society, funding is hard to obtain and organizations like ours must receive support from a variety of sources like the Greek America Foundation,” Vlachogiannis said, adding that “We are especially excited to work alongside a diaspora organization for the first time.”
We also invite you to organize a fundraising event with others in your community. Facebook and Instagram fundraisers are also a great virtual option and allow you to channel the power of your network. Please email us if you have an idea and wish to discuss it further.
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To read more about our initiative, visit the dedicated page on our website.