By Heini-Sofia Alavuo
Civic-minded Greeks are volunteering in droves to clean up their country in a campaign being described as “one of the fastest growing civic movements of modern times”.
Last Sunday, people all around Greece joined together to work for a cleaner country and a cleaner planet. ‘Let’s Do It Greece’ is a volunteering campaign which is part of an international community, inspiring people to get active.
Anastasis Stamatis is a Greek civil engineer who just moved home from the U.K. — he has been part of the campaign since the very beginning.
In the southern suburbs of Athens, a group of friends in their 20s were all eager to volunteer and do something for the environmental issues their local community was facing.
After graduation from high school they decided it was time to do something bigger — that is when they discovered Estonia held a nationwide cleanup-day in 2008 under the name Let’s Do It.
Speaking to Greek Reporter, Anastasis said: “For a group of 20-year-olds it was a huge challenge to go nationwide, but we felt the need to get together with people who believe in the same things.
“There are many people who think the same way about environmental issues and we shouldn’t be isolated – it’s important to get connected and make a change.”
The team introduced the event first time in 2012 and it has been held annually ever since.
One day per year, volunteers all over the country go out and participate in environmentally-themed voluntary events in their local communities. These include cleanups, reforestation, painting and fixing public spaces, environmental education and waste management.
In the beginning the event consisted mostly of beach cleanups, since Greece has many miles of coastline and wonderful beaches. Later on, many places also organized forest, mountain and underwater cleanups.
According to Anastasis, the events evolve every year — people start with beaches and slowly shift to other environmental issues.
The core team consists of 25 members, a group of friends who want to volunteer and share a passion for environmental matters. Like Anastasis, many of the team members have continued to work on the campaign from abroad.
“I was doing my best from the U.K.” he says, and describes how other team members are working from Spain, Belgium and Scotland.
“For all of us volunteering is a big part of our lives. Foremost this is a group of friends who want to spend time together and also work on bigger matters.”
A coordinating team of around 80 people all over Greece work to inspire and advise people to work in their local communities — students, professors, teachers, activists and other kind-hearted people who share a concern of the state of the environment.
In 2018 over 1,430 events took place all over Greece, and an estimated one percent of the Greek population was working together. According to Anastasis, the team’s goal is to get five percent of the nation to volunteer by the 10th anniversary of Let’s Do It Greece in 2021.
This year the campaign was targeting the country’s youth, trying to engage as many young people as possible.
“We were in contact with students and universities all around Greece” Anastasis says. In 2018 Let’s Do It Greece also had seven ambassadors, all well-known Greek celebrities, such as singer Alkistis Protopsalti, TV host Doukissa Nomikou and Olympic athlete Lefteris Petrounias.
‘Be the change you are waiting for’
The campaign also has many sponsors, but Anastasis points out that they want to keep things as simple as possible:
“We try to stay zero-budget, and we don’t want to handle any money. In the past there has been dubious incidents with some organizations, so some people stay suspicious.
“We don’t want to take any money from our sponsors, so they participate in different ways: e.g. providing gloves and plastic bags to the volunteers or paying our professional websites.”
Let’s Do It Greece is also a zero-print project due to environmental reasons — they don’t want to print any material, but share it online.
The main goal of Let’s Do It Greece could be summarized in a simple thought: to make people aware that there are others like them.
“We want to show people that they are not alone in helping the environment – if we come together we can bring a big positive change to Hellenic society. Our motto is: ‘Be the change you are waiting for.’” Anastasis states.
Let’s Do It is an international community, currently working in more than 120 countries around the world. Anastasis says: “It is one of the fastest growing civic movements of modern times, working for cleaner planet. The issues we are facing, like the Great Pacific garbage patch, are not only problems of certain countries. We need to work on together.”
World Cleanup Day will be held on Sept. 15 in 2018. One hundred and fifty countries and millions of volunteers will participate to work for the environment for a day.
For more information about Let’s Do It campaigns worldwide, visit https://www.letsdoitworld.org/