How Greek Diaspora United to Help Greece Wildfires Victims



    On the aftermath of the unprecedented tragedy from the deadly fire in Mati, the devastated town east of Athens, Greeks from all over the world joined forces to help the victims.

    The Greek Diaspora in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and elsewhere went overdrive to collect money and supplies for people that have lost their loved ones and their homes.

    It is estimated that almost three thousand structures have either been completely destroyed or have severe damages from the blaze, while at least 91 people have lost their lives.

    Driven by the love for the Motherland and the Greek philotimo, some cut their Greek vacation short to rush to the scene and help on the ground.

    Among the dozens of volunteers at the donation and distribution center set up in the town of Nea Makri, just north of Mati, we spoke with two Greek Americans who came over to help.

    Moved by the suffering of the people, Eleni Arvaniti said that “the first question that came to my mind is what can I do, how can I help.”

    Eleni Arvaniti (left) and Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks join other volunteers in Nea Makri

    Mati, she says “could be anybody’s village. The tragedy has struck a chord to every Greek abroad”.

    Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks, President and CEO of Earth Friendly Products and maker of ECOS, was also there helping and donating cleaning products for the victims.

    “I would like to encourage other Greeks in the coming weeks to rally. In the coming weeks and months there will be many struggles and hardships that people will face and we should not forget them,” says Vlahakis-Hanks.

    Earth Friendly Products CEO & President Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks (center) coordinating with the Mayor of Rafina Evangelos Bournous (center) and their teams on how to deliver ECOS cleaning products to the fire victims.

    “After a fire of this magnitude, one of the most important things is to clean up after the fire,” she told Greek Reporter.

    “The immediate needs are being met, but people should remember that the rebuilding of this community will take years,” Arvaniti said.

    Volunteers at the donation and distribution center stress that what is urgently needed are some personal hygiene products such us toothbrushes, tooth pastes, gardening products, and, above all, more donations and volunteers.

    Volunteers to distribute aid to the victims and also specialists, such as electricians and engineers to help re-establish electrical supplies to the fire-stricken buildings.

    Watch Greek Reporter’s live from the donation center:

    Donations from Greeks abroad

    Those that cannot come to Greece to help have responded enthusiastically by giving generous donations. The Greek government has set up an official bank account for the fire victims:

    Bank of Greece
    Beneficiary : Ministry of Finance
    BIC / SWIFT : BNGRGRAA
    IBAN : GR4601000230000002341195169

    Dozens of organizations of the Greek diaspora have launched fundraising campaigns, including our own at Greek Reporter. The funds collected by the Greek Reporter will be given directly to the municipalities affected or handed to the victims themselves.

    In the US, the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association (AHEPA), The Hellenic Initiative (THI) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) are among many organizations that have set emergency funding appeals.

    Earlier this week, restaurants throughout the greater Chicago area joined together with the Chicago-based HALC to help raise funds. A long list of Greek-American restaurants participated in the event, donating 10 percent of all proceeds to the victims of the fire.

    In Australia, the Greek Orthodox Community of SA together with local Greek associations established a community relief fund with the Bank of Sydney and Delphi Bank.

    Sister Kaliniki and ‘her children’ of Lyreio Orphanage welcome Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks and Greek Reporter’s Anastasios Papapostolou and Nasos Papargyropoulos at the devastated site of Lyreio.

    The Greek community of Egypt’s Alexandria has offered to host orphan children from the Lyrio Children Foundation that was seriously damaged by the fire.