HELMEPA Junior celebrates 24 years of action
On November 10, 2017 we celebrated 24 years of operation of the “HELMEPA Junior” Program. It was on November 10, 24 years ago, that HELMEPAĒs Board of Directors, chaired by Basil Phr. Papachristidis and with the sincere, warm support of the late Captain Vassilis C. Constantakopoulos, then Vice Chairman, unanimously approved the proposal to create the educational environmental program “HELMEPA Junior”. It was and still is, the offering of HELMEPAĒs volunteer Members to children aged 5 to 13, in order to enhance the environmental awareness of tomorrow's citizens.
Since then, the Program, with the approval of and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Research and Religions as well as with the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy, has been implemented throughout Greece with a total participation of 99,150 children and 3,604 Volunteer Teachers in 1,361 kindergartens and elementary schools.
Up until today, the young volunteers, under the guidance of their teachers, implemented with great eagerness and enthusiasm 30,000 actions of the Action Plan, which is renewed every year and approved by the State. In and out of the classroom, the children turned their concerns into action for a better environment around them but also for “Planet Earth, our one and only home”. They “adopted” beaches that they cleaned up, produced and disseminated informative material, created artworks from “trash” materials, recycled, staged theatrical performances, located illegal dumpsites and spoke about them to local authorities and media. They learned about the marine environment through simple experiments and games, they discovered the world of shipping and the nationĒs maritime history through visits to Port Authorities and Maritime Museums as well as discussions with veteran mariners.
With the annual Panhellenic Drawing Contests, the children sent 5,200 colorful “messages”, through their imaginative group artworks. Many of these have been presented in special exhibitions organized by the Athens City Museum, the Maritime Museum of Greece, the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Palaio Faliro and the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace, at the Port of Thessaloniki.
In 1998, the Program was awarded the Global 500 Award by the United Nations Environment Program-UNEP while in 2000, the International Maritime Organization-IMO invited two kids members of the program in London to speak to the Plenary of the OrganizationĒs members, then 166 countries and 63 non-governmental organizations. They stated their concerns about the marine environment and made reference to the voluntary activity of Greek children through their participation in “HELMEPA Junior”.
In 2002, the Office of the European Parliament in Greece recognized the children members of the Program and their teachers for their voluntary environmental action, which HELMEPA spread to other countries.
In 2005, children members of “HELMEPA Junior” from the island of Kalymnos, and from the relevant programs of CYMEPA in Cyprus and TURMEPA in Turkey, represented IMO as its Ambassadors in the "World Children's Conference of the UN for the Protection of the Marine Environment". The Conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program in Japan in 2005, Malaysia in 2006 and Norway in 2008.
In 2016, “HELMEPA Junior” received the LloydĒs List Greek Shipping Award for “Achievement in Environmental Protection”.
At the annual meeting of the Board of Children's Representatives of the Program in Athens, the most active groups from all over Greece are represented with their leaders. They exchange experiences and ideas and express their messages to the adult society. At the same time, teachers and parents, as HELMEPA guests, are informed about the children's activities and contemporary environmental issues by the associationĒs staff.
During all these years of the ProgramĒs operation, HELMEPAĒs scientific staff visited public schools in 85 towns and informed students and teachers. The 89 issues of the quarterly newsletter titled “Young Seagulls” in 75,000 copies, informed kids and teachers on the membersĒ activities in various regions and hosted studentsĒ articles addressed to other children and the adult society.
A dedicated website (www.helmepajunior.gr) with approximately 12,000 visits annually, in operation since 2001, provides information to teachers about the Program and developments on contemporary environmental issues besides projecting groupsĒ activities.
HELMEPA, having celebrated this year its 35th anniversary of the voluntary commitment of the Greek shipping family, from shipowner to the last seafarer for Clean Seas and Safe Ships, wholeheartedly thanks all children-Members, their Teachers and their parents. Furthermore, HELMEPA wishes that the thousands of members of the Program of the past and the future contribute towards the protection of the environment urging us all to change our environmental conduct.