Continuing Assistance Offered to the Victims of the Wildfires in Greece
Members of the Special Committee of the Greek Fire Relief Fund met on Wednesday, February 6, 2008, to review matters previously discussed and to hear a report from Bishop Andonios, Coordinator of the Fund, on his fact-finding trip to areas of Greece affected by the recent wildfires.
The Committee began its deliberations by thoroughly reviewing a number of assessments on the scope of the devastation and recommendations on how to address the needs which have arisen. These documents have been received from various Greek and American governmental agencies as well as from other authoritative sources. Bishop Andonios reported on the status of the Fund which to date has collected $3,946,989 as well as $28,241 in interest. From this amount, $252,853 had been already distributed to IOCC for an initial Livelihood Recovery Project. The Bishop then highlighted his activities in Greece.
His Grace met with the Metropolitans of Ileia and Mantineia (Arcadia), the Governors (Prefects) of Ileia and Arcadia as well as visited Pyrgos, Zaharo, Tripoli and some of the villages devastated by the fires, including Artemida where 16 people lost their lives. In his meetings with local officials, His Grace was updated on the present situation and the efforts undertaken to assist those impacted by the disaster. He inquired about the needs which currently exist as well as requested from some of the officials a list of projects with which the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America could assist.
Based on the Bishop’s discussions with the Metropolitan and Governor of Ileia, who both thanked the Archdiocese for providing much-needed animal feed during November and December, the Committee approved a $1,652,998 proposal from IOCC to provide additional tons of feed and foraging seed to 2,000 farming families in the Peloponnese who have been impacted by the destruction of pastureland. Indications are that the government may ban open grazing of livestock for two years so as to allow the burned areas to adequately recover. This has created tremendous hardships for local farmers who must now provide fodder for their herds which are confined to small corrals.
This grant not only directly benefits those farmers but will also indirectly help the environment by allowing nature to recover from the devastation. Moreover, it provides relief to the local government agencies which will be relieved of the burden of providing this type of assistance thus allowing them to focus their efforts on other areas of need. This latest endeavor continues a program which was subsidized by the Fund with an initial grant of $252,853 to IOCC in late October of 2007. During his visit to Zaharo, His Grace met with some of the farmers who have tremendously benefited from the program underwritten by Archdiocese.
As a result of His Grace's discussions with key individuals in the affected areas, a number of additional projects were also discussed and as soon as all the necessary information has been collected, the Committee will meet again to decide how the balance of the Fund can best be used to offer the greatest assistance to those affected by the wildfires.