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The SNF Travels to Laconia

Apr 03, 2019
The Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), Andreas Dracopoulos, and SNF representatives traveled to the prefecture of Laconia to visit partner organizations active in the region, learn about the progress of grants, and examine potential new partnerships.

As part of the visit, the SNF first stopped in Sparta and met with representatives of the Sparta General Hospital and the Archaeological Museum of Sparta. They also met with Metropolitan of Monemvasia and Sparta, Efstathios, and former government minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis to discuss an ongoing grant to make internationally renowned Spartan mosaics publicly available. The trip concluded with a visit to the village of Vamvakou, where a coordinated effort for the revival of the village has been launched in recent months at the initiative of the SNF.

While the Foundation’s grantmaking activity extends to every corner of Greece, there is a special bond between the SNF and Vamvakou—and, by extension, Sparta and the wider region of Laconia—since it is the ancestral hometown of Stavros Niarchos, the founder of the SNF. Following its grantmaking mission, the SNF has repeatedly supported organizations increasing access to healthcare, education, and cultural services for residents of Laconia. As part of supporting the area, the SNF has made grants to the international Spartathlon ultramarathon for more than ten years. The race carries a special symbolic significance for the city of Sparta and the Hellenic spirit.

The SNF’s recent visit to the prefecture of Laconia was made in this context, aiming to create new, and extend existing, partnerships wherever possible.

The visits began at the Sparta General Hospital, where the SNF’s Co-President, Andreas Dracopoulos, met with staff to discuss the hospital’s current needs and explore the prospect of cooperation to strengthen the work of doctors and nurses and, by extension, enhance hospital services. The SNF team subsequently visited the Archaeological Museum of Sparta. The discussion there focused on the challenges faced by the Museum and the ways in which the SNF would be able to support its work and possibly help expand its operations.

As part of the visits, the SNF also met with former minister Ioannis Varvitsiotis, president of the nonprofit organization “Friends of the Mosaics of Sparta.” In 2015, the SNF approved a grant for the construction of a museum to display the mosaics that were uncovered after excavations during the 20th century in Sparta. With the collaboration of local and national institutions, the completion of the Sparta Museum of Mosaics is expected in 2019. The SNF hopes that the Museum of Mosaics will lead to further appreciation of the city’s archaeological wealth.

Ioannis Varvitsiotis has stated: “A range of excavations, made while building new houses, have revealed in Sparta more than 1,400 mosaics that are secured by the archeological service. In the basement of the building that was brought down in 1880, in the plot where the new Museum of Mosaics will be built, one of the most important mosaics was discovered, picturing the abduction of Europe by Zeus. In the museum, this mosaic will be presented together with a small number of selected mini mosaics. The promotion and presentation of the mosaics of Sparta should be further examined. This museum, thanks to SNF’s valuable help and personal efforts, will mark the start of this promotion.”

Then, Andreas Dracopoulos visited the Metropolitan of Monemvasia and Sparta, Efstathios, and they had the opportunity to discuss issues that concern the prefecture. The Metropolitan personally thanked the SNF’s Co-President for the venture to revive the village of Vamvakou, as well as for contributing to the promotion of projects related to the wider region.

The final stop of the visit was the village of Vamvakou, 900 meters up the slopes of Mount Parnon. In Vamvakou, we met with the team of five young people who have established the “Vamvakou Revival” Social Cooperative Enterprise, which aims to revitalize the village. The team gave us a warm welcome, guided us through the village with a smile, and together we had the chance to discuss further ideas. From the very beginning, the team has had the full encouragement and financial support of the SNF. This coming summer, the village will be ready to welcome its first visitors that will enjoy outdoor activities. The long-term goals of the project are creating jobs and ensuring comfortable living conditions, aiming for Vamvakou to be inhabited by young people, families, and children in just a few years. 

SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos, said, “Our trip to Laconia, where we met with many different people driven by vision, filled us with optimism about the possibilities on the horizon for this place—prospects for upgrading health services, highlighting cultural monuments and, of course, economic growth for residents. On our end, we commit to continuing to do everything we can in order to build bridges between people and projects with vision and potential.”