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Raising Funds and Awareness for Thassos Island
by Stella Mandehou*
In the early morning hours of September 11, 2016 a dry thunderstorm caused 4 wild fires on the island of North Aegean, Thassos. In the span of a few hours, hundreds of lightning strikes hit the island’s mountains followed by no drop of rain, but strong winds that spread the biggest fire that the island has seen since the wildfires of the late 1980s.
The scale and speed of the fires demanded such a large emergency response that almost 300 military, firefighters, emergency workers and locals joined forces for over 4 days against nature’s rage. It is believed that the wildfires had burned through some 10,000 hectares of forest.
The areas most impacted were mainly at the south part of the island, however no human lives or villages were impacted. The biggest part of the forests burned was in the mountains and fortunately, not all forests were destroyed.
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited the island and said that “the destruction was extensive, but Thassos has huge reserves of green areas and will remain a very important tourist destination”. Thassians also believe that the sections of forests lost to the fires will eventually grow back, bigger and greener than ever before. The Deputy Head of Tourism for the Region of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Michalis Amoiridis, stated that despite the fires, tourists continued visiting Thassos and the situation did not impact the tourism industry.
For over a week, Greek media depicted with the most horrible colors the story, presenting Thassos as if the entire island was burned to the ground. This is clearly not the truth. Indeed certain images have been dramatic and no one can claim that this was not an unexpected natural disaster but Thassos remains a beautiful and safe destination.
Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras stated that affected farmers, livestock farmers and beekeepers will be compensated by the Ministry of Agriculture and ELGA (the Farmers’ Insurance Fund). Greek government also promised to prepare studies on flood protection and land reforestation.
But until this happens, Thassians are sad to see the aftermath even though we all know it will recover with time and care. The coming months will be difficult as we all adjust to what was lost to the fires. Until the Greek government allocates funds to re-forestation and the affected areas, the question rises as to what can we do to help? It is moments like these that make us come together and think how we can all contribute to our motherland.
I am a Thassian. I was not there to volunteer where everyone was rolling their sleeves up and helping with whatever way they could. My only way to stand by my homeland’s side (from a distance) during this challenging time was to help by creating a fundraising campaign. There was no better way to turn my sadness into something productive and positive for my homeland. There was nothing else I could do other than raising awareness and motivating people to donate a small amount that could go a long way.
In collaboration with the Youth Association of Thassos, I created this fundraising campaign https://www.youcaring.com/youth-association-of-thassos-youthassos-662091 All donations go directly to the Association and will be used for re-forestation.
I know that we will witness the rebirth of the forests as the island’s soil is blessed. But I also wish you can help us make this happen faster.
Thassos remains a welcoming, beautiful and green island. The island and its people are looking forward to welcoming you on your next holiday and thanking you for your support!
- Stella Mandehou is Director of Undergraduate Career Development & Employer Relations at the Hult International Business School, San Francisco, California.