Monthly Archives: January 2016

Spiro Latsis

Learning Together Programme – Diversity and Solidarity

One of the issues modern educators have to face is teaching children to be sensitive to culture and diversity. From an early age, students need to learn how to interact with people who come from different backgrounds and culture. They also need to learn how to respect the differences – otherwise they risk growing up with prejudices about other people. It is by teaching children the importance of diversity that a community can hope to raise a generation of mutually accepting individuals.

In line with this theme, the 3-seated Primary School and Kindergarten of Mikrokampos, Kilkis undertook a program that helped students develop the attitudes and awareness of the community’s diversity. The aim of the program was to help students develop cohesion and appreciation amongst themselves. Through presentations, theatrical performances, role playing sessions, discussions and involvement of psychologists, students were able to study the histories of individuals who made a contribution to society despite their diversity. For the students’ own benefit, the programme incorporated elements of sign language – crucial for communication with students with hearing disabilities.

The practical nature of the activities served to draw up the students’ interest on the topic of diversity. They understood that it was acceptable to be different, and that every individual had characteristics, which made them unique. Where individuals are given the opportunity to work on their uniqueness, the society thrives. In contrast, marginalizing people by nature of their diversity leads to a hostile environment that denies society a chance to tap into the creativity and talent of its people. For many students, the big takeaway was that it took mutual effort to look beyond individual differences and cultivate meaningful relationships.

The diversity programme was facilitated in large part by the generous funding efforts of the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation. Established in 2005 by the family of the late John S. Latsis, the Foundation has worked tirelessly to enhance creativity and innovation at all education levels. In 2013, the Foundation introduced the Learning Together program, which was aimed at providing kindergartens and primary schools’ teachers with the opportunity to present proposals on innovative educational activities.

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is run by a Supervisory Board comprising of family members. Henrietta Latsis (wife to the late John S. Latsis) serves as the President, with Spiro Latsis, Margarita Latsis, and Marianna Latsis (the couple’s children) serving as Board members. The Foundation’s approach to providing grants ensures that requests touching on emergency relief, community and infrastructure development, and academic research, among others, are prioritized.

Spiro Latsis

Appreciating Diversity

The human race is diverse in many aspects: Race, religion, gender, nationality, class, and lifestyle. Human beings differ in so many ways, yet at the basic level have the common feature of belonging to the same species. Diversity makes individuals unique, and ensures every person has their story to tell.

Appreciating diversity means respecting other people. A society is strong when it values the differences of its people. Being aware and accepting that people will view life, communicate, and define their environment in a different manner is a crucial element to a strong society. Committing to provide services to people regardless of their background ensures that people live in harmony and are happy to contribute to the growth and development of the community.

One way that educators have adopted to teach diversity has been to tackle the issue at early childhood. Naturally, children are curious and will want to define their identity by expressing what is different about others. Thus, children are more naturally inclined to raise questions regarding visible characteristics like skin color or dress code. For the most part, such questions bear no intent to cause offence and the child is simply making an observation. It is up to educators and parents to use such opportunities to convey an accurate message about backgrounds so that children can appreciate that diversity makes a person exceptional.

A good response in such a situation would first acknowledge that the child’s observation is valid. The educator/parent can then explain the reason behind the observation and most importantly, stress the importance of awareness and acceptance.

Some people fear diversity because it represents a deviation from the norm; change that might take time to become comfortable with. Others perceive diversity as a threat to their own power, as evidenced by people who challenge participation of marginalized groups. If left unattended, these fears can breed resentment and hostility. Tackling these fears through education helps to make for a better world.

Promoting cultural competence and acceptance can sometimes be challenging and take some time to implement. Apart from teaching awareness from an early age, educators are encouraged to take a proactive approach towards improvement. Identifying and countering negative influences at home, school, and in the society ensures efforts made have a positive and lasting impact.

Spiro Latsis

Learning Together Programme – Waste Management Recycling

For centuries, humankind has practiced waste management techniques that suited the times. Early man dug holes and buried waste. It was effective in that era, since most of the waste was organic and the populations were previously smaller. The effect to the environment of such measures was minimal.

In modern times, burying waste doesn’t cut it. The amount of waste produced in residential areas, businesses and industrial parks surpasses that of ancient civilisations, and a good portion of the waste is not organic. Additionally, new forms of waste (like nuclear waste) have emerged that are dangerous to the environment and human beings. To enable the efficient management of waste, it is imperative that awareness start from an early age.

Through the Learning Together programme, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is working with various stakeholders and teachers to educate children on the benefits of proper waste management. The Foundation funds initiatives that focus on enriching the learning process for kindergarten and primary school students, with the applications being submitted at the end of each school year. In 2015, the Primary School of Kimeria, Xanthi was fortunate to have its idea for an environmental program approved.

The environmental program saw students from all the classes participate in activities that illuminated waste management and environmental pollution at the home and school levels. Students were made to understand how uncontrolled waste posed a threat to the environment, and how (through teamwork), they could make better use of waste. Experiential activities that required student involved were used to convey the issue.

The mission

In the educational sector, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation has worked to support initiatives that enrich the educational process through special funding programmes. Learning Together has been one of the ways through which kindergarten and primary school teachers across Greece can submit proposals to implement educational activities that benefit their young charges.

The Foundation has a supervisory board that is responsible for overseeing the activities and collaboration efforts undertaken. It was established to continue the benevolent legacy of the family head, the late John S. Latsis, who himself was a wealthy Greek businessman with interests in oil, agriculture, banking and shipping. He endeared to help the less fortunate in society, and his efforts were taken up by his family after his death in 2003. His wife, Henrietta Latsis, sits as the president of the supervisory board, with the other members being his son, Dr. Spiro Latsis, and two daughters, Marianna and Margarita Latsis.

In providing funding, the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation prioritizes proposals that meet the needs of citizens, improve infrastructure, develop communities, and build social awareness. Waste management and environmental conservation falls in line with these priorities, as proper waste management is an important element of a clean and healthy society.

Spiro Latsis

Waste management

On a basic level, waste management refers to the process associated with the collection and disposal/recycling of waste matter. In modern times, the term transportation has been added for the fact that many urban areas require waste to be collected and taken to sites located away from the area. Waste has to be managed effectively to avoid its adverse effect (pollution) affecting the environment and human health.

In many places, the management of waste has been left in the hands of local government authorities. Methods of disposing waste include use of landfills and incinerators. Landfills are especially reserved areas – many of which have served their purpose (like abandoned quarries) – where waste is stored and treated. Incinerators, on the other hand, involves burning of waste materials, and is the most practical method of disposing of hazardous material such as medical waste.

Awareness

Educating communities on waste management is important to the continued health and security of society. For many of the students, knowledge of how to dispose waste at home and school helps them keep the environment clean. For example, poor disposal of food waste can lead to vermin infestation, and with it spread of diseases. Broken bottles left unattended are a health risk, crumpled papers and other school waste that is not disposed properly makes compounds look untidy, not to mention make a breeding ground for insects.

The need for good waste management goes beyond the need to reduce the health risks. A community that fails to embrace good practices can find itself at an economic and social disadvantage. The visual of a dirty environment is enough to deter visitors to a new place, while smelly waste disrupts the economic activities of a community. For residents and businesses, poor waste management becomes a hurdle to prosperity and growth.

Sustainable and appropriate methods of dealing with waste such as minimization, recycling and waste processing are continually being adopted in many communities. While complete waste elimination may not be feasible, these approaches deal with waste in a manner that is economically favorable and protects the environment.