By Stamatina Mylonas
On Saturday July 20, the National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) hosted their annual beach clean up, which saw North American University students of Greek descent pick up plastic and trash pollution on beaches in and around the Athens area.
The organisation is focused on tackling the ever increasing issue of plastics and other non-biodegradable trash pollution in our environment. With climate change becoming more severe and threatening to our environment and overall health, events like this set a positive and sustainable example for what we can achieve when we work together.
The National Hellenic Student Association partnered with Ethelon, Poseidon Dive Club and The Hellenic Initiative to make the event possible.
GCT spoke exclusively to the chairman of NHSA, Konstantinos Oranitsas about the event and the idea behind it.
What was the motivation behind organizing such an event?
The event started with an idea from our Atlanta convention in 2017. The convention theme was the environment and sustainability. One of our speakers was from Ethelon, one of the largest volunteer organisations in Greece. Together we partnered to create the beach clean up and received sponsorship from The Hellenic Initiative.
How many years has NHSA been hosting this event and was it successful from the start?
This is the second annual beach clean up. So it started last year and the plan is to continue it for years to come. The event aims to get young professionals and students from the diaspora to come together with Greeks to do something good for the environment. Last year was very successful with over 50 volunteers and hundreds of pounds of trash collected.
How does NHSA choose where beach clean ups are most needed?
NHSA works with Ethelon, and other environmentally focused organisations. Last year was iSea and this year is Π3. Together we select a beach which has a collection of trash that might otherwise go uncollected.
Who is generally involved in these types of events? Can anyone get involved?
Anyone is welcome, however, it is geared towards young professionals and students. The goal is to bring people from the diaspora to help their homeland.
Any ideas for similar events in Greece and the US in the future?
NHSA hosts bi-Annual conventions in various cities through North America. We also have a scholarship and do charity fundraisers each year. The beach clean up will take place each year, however, that is our main volunteer event for the year.
How can the community help in ensuring the future of such events?
The community can help ensure the future success of this event by participating and taking a small part of their vacation to volunteer. They can also promote the event and raise awareness of what we are doing. Lastly, sponsorship for such an event is always greatly appreciated.
Dimitris Kallianis from Poseidon Dive Club also spoke to GCTon how his organisation got involved and what it means to him.
How did you start working with the NHSA?
The collaboration with NHSA started last summer with Alexandros Thomopoulos, who organised the first event in Saronida.
What do you think about the work the organisation does?
The organisation does an excellent job in Greece and abroad, and the cooperation we have is flawless with the whole team.
What can we do to make sure that such events will again be held in Greece and abroad?
The response from around the world this year is big enough. I think the world is starting to become more and more aware of the environment and is showing increasing interest.
In an era where climate change is the largest threat not only to our health and environment but also to our security, any effort to clean up and save our environment is honourable and commendable. Thank you to everyone who was involved, you are truly making the world a better, safer place!
Whether you are also visiting Greece this summer or another holiday destination, try to be mindful of what trash you are leaving behind. Whenever possible try to recycle. If you’re up for it, you could even help by hosting your own mini beach clean up as you walk along the beach. Any little thing we can do to help will eventually add up to become a bigger and better impact.
*Watch the video here of last years clean up-
*Images sourced from the National Hellenic Student Association