Monthly Archives: December 2015

Spiro Latsis

The Cave of Kilkis

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation was established in 2005 to continue the philanthropic work started by the late John S. Latsis. His wife, Henrietta, and three children (Margarita Latsis, Marianna Latsis, and influential businessman Spiro Latsis) form the Supervisory board of the Foundation. Since 2005, the Foundation has provided grants and supported initiatives targeted at meeting the social, educational and development needs of the society.

A single foundation’s efforts alone cannot solve all of society’s problems, which is why the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation works alongside other organisations in planning, managing and funding programmes. On its part, the Foundation has come up with a framework that facilitates easier evaluation of grant requests and points out the need for sustainable and relevant solutions.

Among the target areas the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has focused on is child welfare. Efforts in this area are targeted at improving the provision of social and educational services. From funding pediatric clinics to establishing shelters for minors, the Foundation is keen on providing children with positive experiences as they grow up. One of the key success stories of the child welfare efforts has been the Learning Together programme.

Learning Together

Learning Together was established with a view to enhancing the creative learning process early childhood and primary education. The programme takes proposals from teachers and students who wish to implement participatory activities that make the learning process exciting and innovative. Numerous kindergartens and primary schools across Greece have benefited from the program, including the 8th Kindergarten of Kilkis.

At the 8th Kindergarten of Kilkis, students created a Speleological Society that helped teach awareness on sustainability and preservation of natural ecosystems and sites such as caves. The Speleological Society facilitated more than 100 students from the 8th Kindergarten and 5 other schools to explore the Cave of Kilkis.

During the tour, teachers ensured the students collaborated on various tasks, including research and observation of the environment. The students were also sensitized on issues to do with protection and preservation of natural monuments, not to mention provided a chance to work with computers.

Spiro Latsis

Caves and speleologists

Caves have fascinated man for a long time. As the product of naturally-occurring erosional processes, caves are integral to the evolution of man. In prehistoric times, they provided shelter to man. In modern times, archaeologists have used artifacts found in caves (sculptures, drawings) to make inferences about early civilisations. Religious traditions regard caves as hallowed, thus using them for ceremonies and rituals.

The term speleologist came was introduced as man adopted scientific cave exploration techniques. Early speleologists weren’t professionals, but rather individuals interested in taking a scientific approach to studying caves. A speleologist is not only interested in the visual aspect of exploration, but is interested in producing scientific data. Whether it’s a map, drawing, report, or photos, the speleologist makes sure to capture as much data during their incursions.

From their trips, young children can understand how caves are formed, alongside other interesting facts regarding the depth, types of caves, the common features found, and the kind of animals that can survive underground conditions. At an early age, this knowledge can form the foundation for further interest in topics such as geology, chemistry, biology and survey techniques. At the very least, the young minds can become more attuned to the need for environmental conservation.

Innovative ways of learning

Traditionally, educators are expected to teach about caves in a classroom setting, perhaps with visual material (photos, maps) to aid the discussion. It might be effective, but what a class trip to the actual site brings is a personal, visual experience that no literature can truly capture. For many children, seeing is believing, and a trip to a cave reinforces all that has been taught in the classroom. Seeing the rock patterns, feeling a cave’s features, and generally exploring the site allows students to appreciate the natural processes that lead to cave formation.

The underground world holds a lot of lessons of discovery and adventure to young minds. As self-contained underground habitats, caves hide precious minerals and make an ideal medium for learning about science and nature in general.

Better education

For the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, such initiatives ensure that students have a richer educational experience. It’s in line with the Foundation’s desire to enhance creativity in the learning process. Students and teachers “learning together” ensures improvement in education.

The keys to success are based on the planning and evaluation of the requests. Calls for participation are made at the end of each school year, with the resulting applications carefully vetted for priority, relevance and impact towards improving learning process. Successful applications are those found to address the learning needs and develop new experiences for students.

Learning Together Programme – Macedonians’ Treasure

Early childhood is an important stage of life for any child. It’s the period where they begin to develop their intellectual, physical and social skills. A large proportion of learning takes place at this early age, and its period where children need to be exposed to learning experiences that positively shape their growth.

The learning intensity demonstrated at early childhood requires children to have positive interactions with the environment around them. Whether it’s a parent, guardian, or school teacher providing this, it’s important to lay a good foundation for later success.

It’s with this in mind that the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation introduced the “Learning Together” programme in 2013, to enhance creativity in the primary education learning process. The programme was established to provide kindergarten and primary school teachers across Greece with the opportunity to implement innovative activities for children.

When it comes to enhancing early childhood learning experiences, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation regularly designs and puts into action funding programmes with specific educational objectives for target populations. The majority of the programmes are created to fulfil grant requests made to the Foundation and to assist development in the education sector.

Spiro Latsis

Macedonians’ Treasure

In 2015, one of the beneficiaries of the educational initiatives was the 2nd All-Day Kindergarten of Pella, which was treated to a museum educational program called “Macedonians’ Treasure.” The program was facilitated by the Archaeological Museum of Pella, and saw young children taken through experiential activities and interaction with exhibits that spoke to the culture and history of the area. In this sense, the children could develop the learning skills required to broaden their understanding of history and appreciate the geography and new technology associated with Pella.

During the tour, teacher coordinators ensured children could experiment with the materials and access as much information about the museum. At the end, the children could be said to have visually and artistically recreated the museum in their imagination and made the history of the place their own.

The kindergarten’s tour, alongside many other child welfare initiatives, was made possible through the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation’s concerted effort to make child welfare one of its core development areas. In addition to facilitating educational programs, the Foundation also funds free pediatric clinics, heating fuel programmes, and shelters for minors and at-risk youth. As many child welfare institutions take a step back and rethink strategy, the Foundation is working to establish creative projects that are sustainable and meet the people’s needs.

Carrying on a legacy

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is the non-profit organisation inspired by the philanthropic work of the late John S. Latsis, a successful entrepreneur who made his fortune in the oil, agricultural, banking, construction and shipping sectors of the Greek economy. At the age of 30, he married Henrietta Tsoukala, and together they had three children: Marianna Latsis, Margarita Latsis, and Spiro Latsis.

John S. Latsis’ entrepreneurial dedication was matched by his awareness of the social, economic and development issues surrounding his countrymen. Among his first benevolent efforts was the establishment of the John S. Latsis Ileians Scholarships Foundation that was set up to assist students. The Foundation for the Rehabilitation of Albanians of Greek Descent was another foundation established in the early 1990s to help Albanians of Greek descent settle after opening up of the borders between the two countries.

Around the same time, the late John S. Latsis donated resources to help the communities of Kalamata, Ileia and Grevena recover after earthquakes hit these areas. His efforts to help the community gained him numerous honors during his lifetime, and upon his death in 2003, his family decided to set up a foundation to continue his good work.

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation was established in 2005 with the aim of continuing the community work started by the late family patriarch. The Foundation designs and provides funding to programmes that cover a wide range of fields including health, science, education, social welfare, and the environment. In recent years, the Foundation has worked with other organisations and civil society partners to broaden the reach and effect of its programmes.

Among the primary approaches the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation employs is to allocate grants targeted at meeting community needs, infrastructural development, advancement in academics and research, and efforts aimed at the positive portrayal of Greek culture. A framework to evaluate proposals is in place, and it has criteria to gauge the relevance and sustainability of proposed interventions.

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has worked to support the development efforts of the Greek society, and is constantly seeking new ways to make an impact. By investing resources in projects with sustainable impact, the Foundation is working towards empowering communities to make a better future.