“HELMEPA Junior” celebrates 25 years of contribution to environmental education
The 25th anniversary of the “HELMEPA Junior” Program was celebrated by kids and adults in an event hosted by Member company Costamare Shipping at their premises, on the occasion of the annual Board of Representatives of children-members of the Program, on Friday 14 December.
Eleven children, 5 to 12 years old, all Members of the new Board, represented the 6,140 pupils that participated in the Program during the 2017-2018 school year and in particular the most active groups in 11 Prefectures of the country. The kids from Ag. Paraskevi in Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Armenoxori in Florina, Afetes in Neochori-Pelion, Gournes in Heraklion-Crete, Zefyri in Attica, Ioannina, Kalamata, Kynopiastes on the Island of Corfu, Lesvos and Rhodes, accompanied by their volunteer teachers and parents, traveled to Athens as HELMEPA’s guests.
In parallel to the children’s meeting, during which the kids talked about their experience in the Program, parents and teachers participated in an anniversary event. They were welcomed by the Director General of HELMEPA, Mr Dimitris Mitsatsos, who spoke about the warm support of the late Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos and his company Costamare, to the “HELMEPA Junior” Program from its initiation in 1993, which is now continued by his Family and invited Mr Achilleas Constantakopoulos to address the audience.
Making reference to landmark events in the Program’s 25 years, such as the Global 500 Award received by the United Nations in 1998, Mr Constantakopoulos expressed his gratitude to volunteer teachers for their efforts and stressed his sincere belief in the highly significant work of HELMEPA towards creating responsible and environmentally aware citizens with substantial knowledge on the marine environment.
Following, the Chairman of HELMEPA, Dr George Gratsos, underlined the fact that information and awareness raising of youth constitutes an important pillar and a prerequisite for the success of the Association’s primary objective, which is to promote safety of ships and pollution prevention through the voluntary training of the human element in shipping.
The Ambassador of Canada to Greece, Mr Mark Allen, honored the event with his presence, on the occasion of the recent support of the Canadian Embassy to HELMEPA’s initiative for the reduction of single-use plastics through the production and dissemination of cloth bags to children visiting the Association’s environmental exhibitions. Mr Allen congratulated all those participating in the Program, referring to them as “guardians of the marine environment”, underlined the importance of such initiatives for countries with an extensive coastline and numerous islands, such as Canada and Greece and briefly presented the outline of Canada’s ocean policy.
A special moment was the symbolic presentation of awards to two volunteer teachers with the longest continuous participation in the Program, Mr. Ioannis Diamantaras from the Primary School of Alinda on the island of Leros and Ms Maria Lampridou from the 2nd Primary School of Nea Smyrni, for their contribution towards raising environmental awareness among youth.
Thanking HELMEPA for this honorary distinction, Mr Diamantaras described his 18 year-long participation in “HELMEPA Junior” as “a beautiful journey of a lifetime, full of emotions, enthusiasm, adventure and many gains”. Especially in coastal and island areas, he said, “it is obvious and proven in everyday life that the Program helps participating children to become responsible and environmentally aware citizens with an enhanced sense of the value of volunteerism, undertaking initiatives and cooperating with others, with respect to fair-play principles”.
Ιn an emotional speech, Ms Lampridou, former Merchant Marine Officer, referred to the difficult transition from the vessel’s bridge to the teaching class and the 17 years of her participation in the Program, which helped her combine her love for the sea with her educational duties. She spoke with warm words about the Program, which nurtures values, ideals and life choices, comparing it with “a nursery in our schools, not only for future citizens concerned about the marine environment and ecology, but also for young people following careers in shipping or generally in marine professions and sports”, while she particularly stressed its positive impact on schoolchildren with special educational needs.
On behalf of the Department for Educational Support for Sustainability of the Ministry for Education, Research & Religion, Ms Maria Kollountzou saluted the event and congratulated all the Teachers for their voluntary work towards sustainable development and environmental protection.
Following, the 11 Teachers presented in brief the environmental activities carried out by their pupils in their respective areas, while the children’s Board announced its collective, powerful message towards the adult community:
“Let’s reduce single–use plastics
if we want to save our seas and planet.
So pay attention because there is no other planet like Earth.
Time is running out, we have reached our limits!”
The event came to a close with the presentation of commemorative certificates and gifts to children and adults, a buffet lunch kindly offered by Costamare and an organized visit of HELMEPA’s guests to the Eugenides Planetarium.