Elisabeth Chatzigakis: ‘We fight for the preservation of social justice’

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By Ilias Karagiannis.

With continued planning and improvements, Elisabeth S. Chatzigakis has given a new life to the Chatzigakis Foundation and increased its visibility in Greek society.

Recently, the General Secretary of the Foundation was in Kastellorizo with her team. There, she understood first-hand the connection that exists between the Greek expatriates on the island and Australia.

“During our visit to Kastellorizo we had the opportunity to visit the Folklore Museum and other parts of the island abound with history. We were surprised when learning of the mass movement of people from Kastellorizo in 1915 to Australia,” Elisabeth tells The Greek Herald.

“We did not imagine that the numbers were so large, nor that the connection of the Greeks of the diaspora with their island remains so strong to this day.”

“We were especially lucky because we met two Kastellorizians from Australia – Mary, who shared with us stories from the time when her grandfather and others from his generation moved to Australia, regularly sent money back to the island and created associations with Greek names in Australia to keep the feeling of the homeland alive.

“We also met Rahm, a Greek Australian who was with Chedwa… to create documentaries on the island and record facts about the life of his ancestors there.

“Rahm supported the foundation’s actions and together with his partner recorded with their camera our initiatives in Primary School and kindergarten with the aim of spreading our mission in Australia. So here is a tangible example where the power of private initiative is transformed into a collective effort that intersperses networks and builds new bridges for the preservation of the cultural heritage of our country and the strengthening of social solidarity.

“Apart from the very dear friends we have in Australia, who have been living in Melbourne for about 10 years, we feel a special connection with all the Greeks of the diaspora as we are united by our love for our homeland.”

The program and the children of Kastellorizo:

Elisabeth explains to us what programs the Chatzigakis Foundation runs on the Greek island.

“The Education and Environment Program was piloted in May in Trikala, Thessaly, the birthplace of the Chatzigakis family. In September, a new series of programs were inaugurated, which extends to six border islands for 2022-23. It is based on three axes:

a. Education- educational games and activities related to the environment, sustainability and climate change are carried out;

b. Enrichment of school libraries – through targeted donations to promote reading and free and equal access to new books;

c. Environment – interactive initiatives in nature such as open tree planting and the creation of school gardens in collaboration with the local government, institutions, social groups and associations.

“The main objective of the program is social change through the support of local communities. More specifically, we focus on the promotion of circular and sustainable practices in everyday life, the empowerment of creative and experiential educational experience, the protection of the environment and the effective interaction with local communities.

“The Education and Environment Program is implemented with the valuable support of good friends and supporters such as Dioptra Publications, Coco-Mat, The Tribe in Action and EF93. The program is under the auspices of the South Aegean region.

“The days in Kastellorizo were very exciting for the children as they saw on the remote island an initiative designed for them.

“The children welcomed us with enthusiasm and excess energy. We were particularly impressed by the zeal shown by both the students and the teachers of the Primary School and the Kindergarten, as well as the parents and the Municipality of Megisti, since they participated in the whole range of our actions, from reading new books and educational games on the cyclicity in materials, such as sewing and painting sheets of fabric, to tree planting.

“At Chatzigakis Foundation we fight for the promotion and preservation of social justice. We focus on education, as we believe that the education system should be open, inclusive and provide equal opportunities since only in this way can it be a lever for social mobility and alleviation of inequalities.”

The goals of the foundation:

The Chatzigakis Foundation hit 14 years of history this year. We asked Elisabeth if she is happy with the way things have turned out.

“Completing 14 years since its foundation and counting Conferences, Events, Awards and Scholarships as well as dozens of donations to institutions, organisations, schools and kindergartens throughout Greece, the initiatives of the Foundation acquire an even more strategic and multidimensional character,” she says.

“We have a restrained pride in what we have achieved, as we still have a lot of work to do.

“A young woman has occupied a key position and from this she can be the tangible example of the change and deconstruction of stereotypes that even today cause “suffocation” in our society.

“I feel grateful that I grew up in an environment where the values of selfless contribution, solidarity and humanism were passed on to me from an early age and later transformed into actions through my many years of involvement with volunteering and the support of various organisations over time. Thus, I shaped my identity as a young woman and an active member of civil society. From then until today, my main concern has been and remains to offer selflessly to the community, with emphasis on vulnerable social groups: women, children and especially little girls.

“Through my role at the Chatzigakis Foundation I can do it a more organised way and more strategically, through programs aimed at motivating, inspiring and encouraging young girls to take initiatives and chase their dreams above and beyond any stereotypical “ceiling”

“So if through my own action I can be a role model even for a little girl, this will be the greatest recognition for me.”

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