Australia has been a mecca for immigrants for more than a century and like the United States and Canada, it’s a place tens of thousands of Greeks have settled and created their own communities. The thriving metropolis of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, boasts the third largest Greek population in the world— after Athens and Thessaloniki.
Numerous efforts have been underway via the church and smaller organizations to give back to the people of Greece during the economic crisis, which has turned into somewhat of a humanitarian crisis for many people in Greece.
The Hellenic Initiative, launched a few years ago in the United States by a group of concerned businessmen and women led by Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris (himself a Greek Australian) sought a substantive way to give back to Greece.
The movement has now landed in Australia and is already making waves Down Under in their efforts to help their compatriots in Greece.
More than 150 leaders of the Greek-Australian community met in Sydney in April to discuss how to mobilize Australian support for The Hellenic Initiative, which launched in Athens a few years ago with former U.S. President Bill Clinton as an honorary figurehead and supporter.
“It was energizing to see so many of my fellow Greek Australians coming together to join an international movement to support Greece,” said THI Chairman & co-Founder, Andrew N. Liveris. “I was equally excited to see that passion in the room towards the need and ability to have a real and lasting impact on our ancestral homeland. THI is proud to see its Australian chapter come to be,” Liveris concluded.
Michael Printzos, the program director of the Australian Hellenic Initiative returned from a trip to Melbourne where he said he raised almost $2 million in support. Of that amount, $200,000 came in direct cash support and the remainder in indirect support from 20 companies, including ANZ Bank, including offering 40 six-month paid internships for Greek graduates.
One not-for-profit program Australian-Greek money helps is “Boroume” literally meaning “we can”, that coordinates the virtual foodbank by linking businesses in Athens that want to give surplus food to charities.
Founders Alexander Theodoridis and Xenia Papastavrou said they started in 2012 linking just one bakery with surplus food at the end of the day to a charity and now have established 300 “bridges” between food outlets to charities and providing 6500 meal packages a day.
Boroume began with 10,000 euros from Australia’s Greek community and that support continues.
“Who are clientele? The neo-poor people who were middle class, both parents working, two children and all of a sudden they lost their jobs, they had a mortgage to pay, it doesn’t take long,” Theodoridis said.
But support won’t come only in direct donations to charity. The Hellenic Initiative has bigger plans.
“One way of looking at it is feeding someone fish and at the same time trying to make them fish for themselves so it’s the more long time sustainable solution to start a business and hire people than to have soup kitchens all the time in the center of Athens,” Printzos said.