Lefteris Arapakis is a bright young man on a mission to revive the fishing industry in Greece, while educating unemployed Greeks in the complex science of fishing.
Together with George Tsiolis and with the generous support of The Hellenic Initiative, Arapakis established “Enaleia,” in 2016. The school’s aim is to help fishermen ply their trade in a more efficient and eco-friendly manner as well as teach fishing skills to jobless Greeks. The school aims to attract more people into the fishing sector by creating conditions for ongoing sustainable fishing in the future.
“We teach our students not just how to fish, but also how to fish so fish can exist tomorrow,” says Arapakis, speaking to Greek Reporter.
Students receive all the necessary knowledge and skills they need by attending a completely specialized and tailor-made training program. The program combines distance learning, lectures, workshops and even on-the-water training by professional fishermen.
After they finish the online course, students actually go fishing with experienced fishermen, so they can practice what they have already learned in theory. Enaleia then connects them with potential employers.
“Fishing methods in Greece are completely obsolete. We are still hurting the environment,” Arapakis states with feeling.
As the numbers of fish off Greece and in the Mediterranean overall are in a steady decline, it is urgent that sustainable fishing methods be introduced to the sector – and be stringently adhered to.
“We teach them how to earn more money while catching less fish. We teach them how to collect plastic from the sea and how we can create hundreds of different products from this material,” the young fisherman-turned educator explains.
“So, we try to give fishermen a new mentality,” the 23-year-old adds.
Supported by The Hellenic Initiative, Arapakis is managing to do what the Greek state has failed to do for many decades — to revive a profession that is gradually disappearing and to re-educate new fishermen on best practices.
Arapakis, from a family of fishermen who have been in that line of work for over five generations, was the first one who didn’t follow the tradition and instead went to college and studied economics and management.
“All the fishermen I knew helping my father were telling me that there was no younger generation to take over the fishing sector,” he says.
Given that the unemployment rate in Greece during that period was 29 percent, Arapakis decided to connect with and train unemployed young men “so we would create new jobs.”
Since then, professional fishermen throughout Greece have endorsed his initiative.
“Our goal is not to teach them how to catch one fish. That will feed them for one day. Our goal is to teach them how to fish, so they can eat for a lifetime,” he explains, giving the old proverb an entirely new, ecological meaning.
Arapakis, with help from the Hellenic Initiative and others, dared to create a business that not only reinforces one of Greece’s most important primary sectors, but equally importantly, also has a positive social impact.
The Hellenic Initiative was founded in 2012 by members of the global Greek and philhellene communities who felt compelled to respond to the worsening economic crisis and inspired to help shape Greece’s long-term recovery.
Since 2012, the Hellenic Imitative has committed or distributed $4.6 million in direct crisis relief and $8.7 million in the areas of Economic and Entrepreneurial Development in Greece.