FIRE RELIEF INITIATIVE FOR NORTHERN EVIA - Stavros Niarchos Foundation

FIRE RELIEF INITIATIVE FOR NORTHERN EVIA

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More than a year has passed since major fires in northern Evia destroyed thousands of acres of forest. Along with the natural wealth of the forest, which acted as a green lung for the region, an inexhaustible toll of losses was taken by fire: houses, animals, and crops burned too. In an area where the forest is inextricably linked to all aspects of inhabitants’ lives, the economic and psychological effects have been profound.

Just a few days after the fire was extinguished, we announced a fire relief initiative for northern Evia totaling up to €15 million. To be able to contribute as effectively and efficiently as possible, we organized a series of visits and discussions with the local community to better understand the situation and hear from residents themselves about the problems they face on the ground and their real needs.

Forest fires, such as the one in northern Evia, are not unusual events at the global level. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that we will be seeing similar disasters more and more regularly in the near future. The effects of a fire on this scale are not only irreparable for the environment, but create a chain of consequences for the local community, for the mental state, the economic wellbeing, and the day-to-day life of inhabitants,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “When you cannot prevent catastrophic events, you have to do something to mitigate their consequences, to understand the needs and act very quickly to help, within your capacity, where and however you can, on many different levels. Our aim was immediate relief, to the extent of our ability, but we hope that it addressed crucial issues and that its impact will be long-term.” 

Following the completion of a grant evaluation process which remained open for more than a year, and in collaboration with around a dozen local and international partners on the development of a number of programs and activities, SNF’s contribution has reached a total of €3,578,000. Many of the programs are in progress now and will continue in the coming months. They are expected to be completed in the next few years, having, we hope, offered substantial help to the people impacted by fire and contributed to the recovery of the local community.

The initiative has focused on three main axes: 1. supporting professionals and the local economy, 2. providing psychological and social support, as well as boosting the morale of residents of northern Evia, and 3. strengthening forest firefighting and flood prevention. The purpose and content of each of the individual grants are explained below.

Supporting professionals and strengthening the local economy

One of our main goals, in coordination with the collaborating nonprofit organizations, was to provide direct support to the professionals who make their living from the forest and live off the land in northern Evia, giving them what they need to continue their profession and remain in their homeland. To achieve this, we focused on primary needs, such as providing equipment, implementing training programs, and creating new jobs.

Specifically, in collaboration with the nonprofit New Agriculture New Generation, we focused on providing support to beekeepers, resin producers and forestry workers, and stock farmers, while, in collaboration with Desmos, Istorima and the Nautical Club of Limni we concentrated on creating new jobs.

Aim of Grant Project Description Implementing Organization
Support for beekepers Implementation of educational programs for the recovery of lost bee colonies. The trainings, in which 100 beekeepers took part, were completed in November 2021

New Agriculture New Generation

Creation of a pilot beekeeping park in the private Noel-Baker Forest. Already operational, the forest hosts the beehives of 25 beekeepers.

New Agriculture 
New Generation

Purchase of professional equipment. In December 2021, a fermenter for the preparation of bee feed was delivered to the Kypseli Beekeeping Cooperative of Istiaia, offering a vital solution to help beekeepers sustain their bees during winter. The daily feed production capacity of the fermenter covers the needs of 20,000 beehives for members of the Cooperative and for surrounding areas.

New Agriculture 
New Generation
Support for resin producers and forestry workers Replacement of technical and safety equipment. Since mid-April 2022, 271 forestry workers have each received chainsaws and safety kits including protective suits, gloves, boots, and glasses. New Agriculture 
New Generation
Support for stock farmers Implementation of an educational program on animal welfare, breeding, and nutrition. The program will be attended by 307 farmers and is expected to take place within the next month.  New Agriculture 
New Generation
Provision of animal feed and transport of feed storage containers. Feed delivery started in April 2022 and was completed in August 2022. A total of 682 tons of feed were delivered.  New Agriculture 
New Generation
 in collaboration with the Animal Farmers Cooperative
  
Support for Farmers Creation of educational programs to strengthen rural entrepreneurship and the agrifood sector. In July 2022, 100 farmers in the municipalities of Mantoudi-Limni-Agia Anna and Istiea-Edipsos took part in the first cycle of agripreneurship trainings. Following an evaluation process, the accelerator program, which includes advisory support and financial assistance for up to 20 participating farmers, was launched at the beginning of September 2022. The program will be completed by January 2023. New Agriculture 
New Generation
 in collaboration with ActionAid
Support for households Support for domestic food production. In November 2021, more than 27,000 livestock were delivered to 2,507 families along with around 39 kg of feed. In parallel, families were offered more than 350,000 seeds for summer and fall planting, with the summer seeds delivered in June 2022 and the fall seeds in September 2022 New Agriculture 
New Generation
Creation of new jobs Recruitment of 10 new professionals. Professionals from or relocating to northern Evia will be employed by nonprofit organizations or government agencies in the region to support the local community. Following completion of the selection process, the professionals will start work in December 2022 on a 12-month contract  Desmos
Recruitment of 8 new researchers to record oral histories by residents of northern Evia, in order to preserve collective memory. The training of the researchers took place in September 2022, and they will now work with the organization for six months, from October 2022 to March 2023.  Istorima
Support for the unemployed Skill-development program for unemployed people. People who were unemployed before the fire were joined by those who lost their jobs because of it, including those working in businesses that burned or tourism businesses that were significantly affected by the situation. To support them, a skill-development program was designed for a total of 120 participants. The program is currently in the planning phase and is expected to start in March 2023.  ΑctionAid
Support for marine sports tourism Provision of equipment for the Nautical Club of Limni, including two Optimist sailboats, one Laser sailboat, four windsurf boards, five stand up paddleboards, and four kayak paddles. The equipment will help the Nautical Club to expand its sports activities, offering more sporting opportunities to children in the area, and to attract tourism from outside the region. The equipment was delivered in September 2022.  Nautical Club of Limni 

 

Psychological and social support for the residents of northern Evia

There is no doubt that such an all-encompassing disaster has traumatized the community of northern Evia as a whole. People have seen their land and a lifetime’s work destroyed in just a few days. We knew we needed to stand with these people, both adults and children, to help them not only heal their wounds, but also nurture hope for a better tomorrow. We aimed to help both by providing psychosocial support and by offering resources that contributed to the strength and outlook of the community. In this effort, we are collaborating with ActionAid, ARGO Federation of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health Organizations, Science Communication (SciCo), PYRNA, and TO PERIVOLAKI

Aim of Grant Project Description  Implementing
Organization
Creation of an Open Community Center in the Mantoudi-Limni-Agia Anna Municipality and the procurement of two mobile units Implementation of educational programs on mental health issues, including addiction, physical and psychological abuse, and more. Three training sessions have already been completed with 30 young people and 10 additional training programs are planned, covering different topics through the end of 2023. ActionAid in collaboration with ARGO
Individual psychosocial counselling sessions via a mobile unit. Since the launch of the program in May 2022, 50 sessions have taken place, meeting the needs of a total of 150 people in the region. The individual sessions program will be completed in February 2024. ActionAid in collaboration with ARGO
Creation of Child Medical Center in northern Evia  Support for children and adolescents in northern Evia through the design of educational programs for both first aid mental health services and medium-term response to the consequences of the natural disaster on their mental health. The Center will be staffed with mental health professionals.  TO PERIVOLAKI 
Learning and entertainment opportunities for primary and secondary students Delivery of free educational material to five primary schools in the region. The equipment, which includes a 2P educational kit, gives students the opportunity to get to know the concept of active global citizenship. Mr. 2P, a puppet embodying the global citizen and his travels, helps children discover what is happening in the world and why. Equipment has already been delivered to 200 students. In October 2022, equipment is expected to be delivered to a further four primary schools and 190 students.  ActionAid
Implementation of 8 arts and science workshops for high school students. A total of 150 kids participated in the workshops, which took place in May 2022. In October 2022, another round of 8 workshops will take place, followed by similar workshops throughout the school year outside school hours. ActionAid σε συνεργασία με τη SciCo
Launch of the Mobile School of the Forest. The Mobile School toured 7 villages in the region during July and August 2022, offering environmental education and awareness-raising activities to 117 children. In September 2022, 15 activities were carried out in 10 different villages. The aim is to reach more than 1,000 children in 25 different villages by the completion of the program in 2024. ActionAid
Organization of summer camps. At three summer camps in Limni and Strofilia in June and July 2022, 190 primary school students from 25 different villages had the opportunity to participate in 28 arts workshops and 28 STEM workshops.  ActionAid in collaboration with SciCo

Launch of the Books on Wheels program. During the 2022-2023 school year, small, mobile, thematic lending libraries will travel to 25 primary schools in northern Evia, giving about 600 students the opportunity to read books on a wide range of topics, from our relationship with the environment and the forest to their emotions and emotional management. The aim of the program is to help children develop a love of reading, gain awareness of their own thoughts, and develop critical thinking skills.

PYRNA


Strengthening forest firefighting and flood prevention

After a fire on such a scale, experts’ attention—and by extension ours—focused on the catastrophic consequences that an extreme flooding event could cause during the winter in the areas around the burnt forest, and the possible ways of dealing with it. At the same time, responding to a request, we helped bolster local forest firefighters’ capacity with personal protective equipment, in collaboration with the Association of Volunteer Forest Firefighters and Rescuers of Elymnia, the Association of Volunteer Forest Fire Fighters of North-Central Evia, and the Association of Volunteer Forest Protection & Rescue Forces

Aim of Grant Project Description Implementing Organization
Swift water and flood rescue training for volunteers


Provision of training for volunteer forest firefighters and rescuers. The educational program, which included theoretical and practical training for 20 volunteers, was completed in March 2022.

 
Association of Volunteer Forest Firefighters and Rescuers of Elymnia
Procurement of protective equipment for volunteer forest firefighters and rescuers. In total, 12 packs of protective equipment, such as specialized uniforms, gloves, and more, were delivered in July 2022.  Association of Volunteer Forest Firefighters and Rescuers of Elymnia
Support of forest firefighters Provision of protective equipment and firefighting materials to forest firefighters and rescuers. In October 2022, 40 packs of fireproof clothing, 15 helmets and 20-liter fire extinguishers, as well as two water pumps for use by transport vehicles are expected to be delivered. Association of Volunteer Forest Fire Fighters of North-Central Evia
Provision of protective equipment to forest firefighters and rescuers. 20 packs of fireproof clothing, helmets, and boots are expected to be delivered in October 2022. Association of Volunteer Forest Protection & Rescue Forces

The next chapter for northern Evia is already here, with the forests showing signs of new growth. Through more than a year of activity by SNF in the region and by keeping our call for relief grant requests open for the same length of time, we have sought to assist, to the best of our ability, in this enormous effort. Alongside the organizations we collaborated with, we are glad to have helped support residents, professionals, unemployed people, and children—wherever there was need. The credit for northern Evia’s recovery goes to its residents, most of whom have not allowed themselves to be driven from their homeland, but have stayed and have continued to persist in the face of adverse conditions to rebuild their lives.