When a devastating earthquake hit the island of Lesvos in June 2017, the Greek America Foundation Board of Directors had just settled into their biennial meeting in New York City. One of the first items of business was to pass an emergency resolution to undertake a fundraising campaign to provide support the people who lost their homes.
Less than a month later, a delegation from the foundation traveled to the devastated village of Vrysa in the Vatera region of Lesvos to see the damage firsthand and meet with local officials to determine how almost $45,000 of funds raised could be used most prudently and effectively.
We immediately began a food support program to offer monthly stipends to earthquake victims in the form of vouchers from a local super market for families who were registered with local authorities as homeless and in need.
Furthermore, we wanted to help the youngest victims— the children— to provide support and smiles. We accomplished this by donating school supplies and book bags, as well as hosting the holiday party— complete with Vasilopita and toys for all of the kids from the village.
To date, funds donated have:
– Provided school supplies and book bags for 37 school-aged children
– Supported 40 families from Vrysa who lost their homes with monthly stipend for food between $80 and $120 per month, depending upon family size, in the form of vouchers from a local super market
– Hosted a holiday party and Vasilopita cutting celebration for 50 children from the village and their parents where each child received a gift certificate from a local toy store
Vrysa Back to School
Greek officials worked hard to bring pre-fabricated buildings to create a temporary school for the dozens of elementary school students from Vrysa. The original school building was destroyed during the earthquake. The Greek America Foundation sponsored book bags for the kids, filled with pencils, notebooks and other supplies.
Vrysa Earthquake Victims Food Voucher Distribution
Food vouchers valued between $80 and $120 are distributed to 40 families by our partners on the ground, Iliaktida, a Greek non-profit that has extensive experience with disaster relief work on the island. The organization has worked with the local government to ensure that families receiving the vouchers are those most in need.
Iliaktida manages the voucher program monthly, requiring registered families to appear in person to pick up their vouchers and sign that they have received them. Our message to Iliaktida has been to maintain the utmost of transparency and meticulous record keeping to ensure that those in need get the food vouchers.
Vrysa Holiday Party Hosted by the Greek America Foundation
We hosted a party in early January to put some smiles on the faces of more than 50 children and their families during what may have been a traumatic time celebrating their first holidays away from their homes. Again, with the support of Iliaktida, we arranged for gifts for the children and the party was stocked with Vasilopita and all of the traditional fix-ins.