Ecogenia: For Young People, for the Environment, for Greece

The organization has big plans for the future. It will train for disaster preparedness and relief efforts. Think about the fires that have ravaged parts of Greece. It plans conservation efforts and will mobilize sustainability efforts in local communities and environmental villages across Greece. “Is Greece actively composting? Efficiently recycling across the mainland and on the islands? How can we help our islands, for example, to make sure that tourism, which is a big driver of the Greek economy, does not leave them more vulnerable every year? And how can we better manage all that trash which is generated every season by millions of tourists who visit every year, and make tourism sustainable? We need to protect our vast natural resources,” Spagakou says. “And we need to use them to our advantage,” adds Papazoglou.

While Ecogen has already attracted the attention of targeted people in Greece and the diaspora, the organization is constantly looking for new partners and backers who want to help make their vision a new reality for Greece. In doing so, they are bringing a very collaborative approach to the third sector in Greece, fostering synergies with other nonprofits and working to help elevate the nonprofit culture in the country by mobilizing more resources to amplify the great work being done by other organizations in the climate and sustainability space.

In addition, They will be collaborating with youth exchanges across Europe through the European civic service collective, which will mean hosting young people from other countries in Greece and sending young Greeks to other civic service programs in Europe so that they can network and learn from each other. Papazoglou says: “We want to teach young people that service to society, to their country, and to their communities and villages is both personally gratifying and will make a long-lasting difference. We are promoting high-impact practices.”

Each cohort group, no matter the project, will have two weeks of training. The first will be on sustainability and civic engagement. The second week is specific to the project they will be working on. Additionally, students will have one day a week of professional development on a variety of topics. Ecogenia also plans to continually engage a growing alumni base, and to help plug them into green jobs, actual employment, wherever and whenever possible.

Ecogenia is young and vibrant. It represents a new Greece, a Greece that lives up to its potential, which includes becoming a world leader, an example to follow in fighting the climate crisis. It is why Ecogenia was invited to a climate summit as part of the prestigious Athens Democracy Forum last October at the Hotel Grand Bretagne in Syntagma Square. Democracy only works if its citizens participate. The act of voting is only a small fraction of our obligations as citizens of any democratic country. People must participate in order to enact any changes they may want to see.

To Spagakou’s earlier point, Greece can no longer lean on its identity from antiquity, whose people created democracy and a participatory society in the first place which is so many millennia ago, but should draw from it as inspiration. The very notion of citizenship came from their ancestors – it’s in the DNA of Greeks from whom they can draw a line to what they do today.

Like Socrates, who considered himself a citizen of the world, Young Greeks should consider themselves the same while doing something for their countrygiving hope and direction to other youth around the globe.

Ecogenia is the perfect place to begin.

This article was previously published at ekathimerini.com.

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