This Grant project was completed in 2022 .We continue to showcase this project’s outcomes on our website because we are proud of the impact it has made and the lessons we learned from it. While this grant project has been archived, we think you might be interested to read on….
As inhabitants of the Cyclades, brimming as it is with flora and fauna, we are acutely aware of our intrinsic interdependence with nature. But this innate understanding is not being passed down to our younger generations, something which is no doubt a consequence of the digital and consumerist age, which distances us from interacting with nature and its myriad benefits.
The Cycladic ecosystem is home to plants which are rare, unique, and endemic. Others have healing effects and others are key ingredients of local culinary culture. Their preservation is a priority not only for the preservation of the rare nature itself, but also for local prosperity and culture.
The concepts of a natural “garden” and preserving the natural habitats our ancestors have passed down to us are of great importance for the prevention of soil erosion (which can subsequently lead to irrigation crises and flooding).
At CPF, we are especially aware that in order to rekindle the link between nature and humans we must begin with re-teaching ourselves and our children the same natural practices that our ancestors were so acutely in tune with. CPF has already supported the creation of a botanic garden in Paros Environmental Park.
By turning the schools into examples of environmentally friendly practices, and introducing nature into the direct environment of children, we aim to educate and inspire the community and its future leaders.
What does the project deliver in practice?
With the help of partners KANAVA HOTELS & RESORTS, the “greening” of local schools began in 2019 with the creation of botanic gardens in selected islands, starting with Kimolos and Naoussa of Paros.
We helped create small botanic gardens of endemic plants in local schools that will be preserved with the support of children, parents, teachers and other local associations. These gardens demonstrate an effort to showcase the local ecosystem as something we need to protect and preserve.
We also supported the organisation of seminars and environmental education programs about the added value of the native plants, their role in the ecosystem and how to preserve them.
The project in Kimolos was carried out with the cooperation of the NGO “GONIMI AGONI GRAMMI” who conduct educational projects in areas where children do not have access to the same cultural and educational opportunities that they do in cities. The program included presentations and interactive activities with other external experts, such as the Bee Camp, and MedCulture.
We would like to thank Mr Giorgos Petrakis & Mrs Kalliopi Grammatikopoulou for the kind donation of the native plants and their general support to the project.
The project in Paros was carried out with the cooperation of NAIAS, the Nautical Club of Naoussa Paros and the Friends of Paros Park association. It included the creation of a botanical garden with the most emblematic plants of the Cycladic flora and it was constructed together with the students and their teachers, so that it became their own affair, asset and responsibility. That is why we organised gardening and maintenance sessions on a regular basis with the school classrooms.
As in any “proper” Botanical Garden, we installed signs with the common Greek name as well as the scientific name of the plants, identical with the signs being prepared for the Botanical Garden in progress inside the Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros.
Additionally, we piloted the installation of an efficient composting system in the school that will provide organic fertiliser for the garden! Using the garden as a platform, connect the school children with similar initiatives across the Cyclades, with local farmers and beekeepers and also with environmental education groups and projects from anywhere in the country.
The most important outcome of this project is to familiarise young islanders with the native flora of the pilot islands and through this to help them understand the intrinsic value of nature and the importance of the island’s ecosystem health and stability. The impact in the local community can be quite high, since the project will become known and “enter” into numerous households. Young children are the professionals and decision makers of tomorrow, and only environmentally aware citizens can steer a community towards sustainable policies and practices.
In 2021 and 2022, the Greening Schools grant project was scaled up into a CPF-led Program entitled ‘Greening Schools: Revegetating the Cyclades’, which you can read about here.
This CPF Program is co-funded by the Helidoni Foundation. It spans across 4 islands, involving schools, educational centres, cultural and environmental organisations. It engages parents, teachers, active citizens, local authorities, private enterprises, and creates meaningful cooperation among them.
This Program has been instrumental in greening the schoolyard of the Foinikas Kindergarten in Syros, installing worm composting systems in two schools in Antiparos and Syros, and one more in the recently established Environment and Sustainability Education Center in Ermoupoli, Syros, one of the only two public education centres in the Cyclades.
Through this Program, we also offered technical expertise for composting in a Vocational High School in Amorgos in collaboration with CPF’s partners on the island. Last but not least, we used this Program to support the revegetation of a remote area of the Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros and facilitate a beach clean.
A bit about the organisation
The Helidoni Foundation, founded by Dimitris and Sarah Georgakopoulos in 2019,
provides grants and program-related investments to charitable, educational, and scientific enterprises in Greece.
Bearing the Greek name for the swallow, a bird that has symbolised rebirth, hope, and good fortune since ancient times, The Helidoni Foundation aims to promote renewal and progress by nurturing philanthropic and social impact ventures from ideation to viability.
Latest updates and Lessons learned
As activities were not implemented last spring, as we were hoping, and since the school year has come to an end, we now consider the grant closed. However, this grant remains in our archive as having been hugely successful, and we would like to initiate it again in the future, when we have the capacity to do so.
From the beginning of the Greening Schools Programme it was already obvious to us that one important aspect of our contribution would be mentoring as well as making the extra effort to solve administrative issues and liaise with several stakeholders. The educational system on the islands faces many challenges but also has enough flexibility to allow for change and to embrace novelty, as long as the appropriate stakeholders come together and collaborate.
So, our role at the CPF has been multifaceted, much wider than simply the provision of financial and technical expertise. We had to be flexible and understanding, to navigate through Greek bureaucracy, and compensate for our beneficiaries’ limited experience by providing generous consulting and mentoring for more than a year.
Regenerating the local ecosystem in the north of Paros, where the Paros Park is, relies heavily upon human resources and their timely availability to perform the tasks necessary to ensure the long-term survival of plants. Our aim for the future is to find a way to facilitate and sustain long-term change in this.