St Euphemia College’s ‘Changemakers’ documentary to premiere in Finland

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Sydney Greek Orthodox school, St Euphemia College (SEC), has announced that a documentary following the Changemakers 2022 project will premiere in Helsinki, Finland on Saturday, November 25.

The short documentary, titled Changemakers, was created by filmmaker and former The Greek Herald journalist, Chris Spyrou.

Mr Spyrou said he was looking forward to the premiere.

“Changemakers was a year-long school project and an almost two-year production from the day I first hit record to the day we submitted the film,” he said.

“For it to be premiered in a country that is world-leading in education is such a meaningful nod to the students of SEC who demonstrated that age is no barrier to philanthropy and   change for the better can occur when we band together for a common cause.”

st euphemia college changemakers
Some of the students and staff who worked on the Changemakers 2022 project by St Euphemia College. Photo: Chris Spyrou.

Changemakers will be screened at the Helsinki Education Festival International (HEFFI), after being named a finalist in the best education documentary category earlier this month.

St Euphemia’s Director of Learning, Matthew Panayotopoulos, Head of Religion, Chrisovalanti Spyrou, Head of Administration, Dr Tony John Papagelis and Chris Spyrou were invited by HEFFI to attend the premiere and will be partaking in a tour of Finnish schools during their visit.

They will be visiting Alppila Upper Secondary School, Etu-Töölön lukio, and the Valimotie School, where they will discuss the Changemakers project and interview teachers and students about what makes Finland a world leader in education.

“Finland has a world leading education system with 99 per cent literacy rates across the nation. The insights and experiences from this trip will be invaluable and transferable to our practices as educators from Australia,” Mr Panayotopoulos said.

What is the Changemakers Project?

In 2022, the students of SEC in Sydney caught the attention of the Australian Prime Minister and the United Nations as they set to transform two shipping containers into libraries for two struggling communities.

One shipping container was delivered to an under-resourced school in rural India. Gyan Ganga is a school in the city of Sambhal without access to quality education, clean running water and electricity. Some students travel up to three hours by foot to attend classes, with one teacher being responsible for over 200 students.

A partnership formed in February 2022 between SEC and online learning platform UpSchool.co to facilitate the transformation and delivery of the library for Gyan Ganga by the year’s end.

st euphemia college changemakers
One shipping container was delivered to an under-resourced school in rural India. Photo supplied.

In March 2022, the students of SEC also sourced another 20-foot shipping container that would be transformed and delivered to Lismore South Public School. The rural area in New South Wales had been largely impacted by floods.

“Our students began to see problems around them as opportunities to make a difference,” Mr Panayotopoulos said.

“So when they heard about the floods in Lismore, they felt compelled and responsible to reach out and do something. That’s how the Library for Lismore came to fruition.”

st euphemia college changemakers
In March 2022, the students of SEC also sourced another 20-foot shipping container that would be transformed and delivered to Lismore South Public School. Photo: Chris Spyrou.

Head of Religion at SEC, Mr Spyrou added that “students really rolled up their sleeves and immersed themselves in the project.”

“From priming and painting the container to building shelves and writing and publishing books to send to Lismore, they took ownership of their learning and showed exactly how to love thy neighbour,” Mr Spyrou said.

st euphemia college changemakers
St Euphemia College students became immersed in the project. Photo: Chris Spyrou.

St Euphemia’s Head of Administration, Dr Papagelis said the project saw “student engagement and creativity” skyrocket.

“It was not uncommon to see students sacrifice their lunches and invest their time before and after school to get involved,” Dr Papagelis said.

For the remainder of the year, the students raised awareness of their dual-project and called their community to action by penning letters, curating galleries, staging performances, and partaking in an international student conference with members of the United Nations.

st euphemia college changemakers
Students raised awareness of their dual-project through fundraisers. Photo: Chris Spyrou.
st euphemia college changemakers
Canterbury-Bankstown McDonalds made a $5,000 donation. Photo: Chris Spyrou.

“Armed with the support of local and national businesses, members of Parliament and experts within our community, our students discovered that their voices and hands had the potential to bring real world change,” Mr Panayotopoulos said.

Over $30,000 was raised by their efforts, with help from major sponsors and donations by John Holland and Laing O’Rourke, Canterbury-Bankstown McDonalds, AFL Team – GWS Giants, Entertainment Park, Dulux, and JAS Transports and Sheaffe Motors.

st euphemia college changemakers
Staff from Entertainment Park. Their Christmas Appeal saw 200 Christmas presents sent with the library to Lismore. Photo: Chris Spyrou.
st euphemia college changemakers
Bake sales to raise funds. Photo: Chris Spyrou.
st euphemia college changemakers
AFL Team – GWS Giants also made a donation to the Changemakers project. Photo: Chris Spyrou.

These funds facilitated not only the delivery of both libraries by Christmas 2022, but aided the students’ 2023 project in sponsoring a school in Sierra Leonne. To date, $20,000 has been raised and delivered to that community.

st euphemia college changemakers
The final Lismore library.
Angelo Tsarouchas Skits and Wits tour

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