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Learn, Love, and Connect with Greece through Sports and Culture

By on March 13, 2019

Learn Love and Connect (LLC) Globe Program is an athletic, educational and cultural program which aims at connecting Greeks from different parts of the world with Hellas through sports, culture and arts.

This program was born as an idea two years ago in the minds of two men: Thanos Softsis, Professor of Physical Education and Sport, also serving as a federal basketball coach for 15 years, and Giannis Kalampokis, an established ex basketball player, coach of Men National Basketball Team of Greece.

Kids meeting Vassilis Spanoulis

Kids meeting Vassilis Spanoulis

It all began when Mr. Softsis and Mr. Kalampokis were invited to give a speech at a basketball camp program which was organized by Hellas Esslingen, a group of Greeks living in Stuttgart, Germany. It was a unique, unforgettable experience for both of them. Throughout their stay they also felt how passionate Greeks abroad are about Greece and everything Hellenic.

The intense feeling of nostalgia for the land of their ancestors, nature, ancient culture and civilization, cuisine, religion, history, sports and the Greek way of life in general, are some of the common elements of Hellenes from all over the world. The love and appreciation expressed by everyone they met in Stuttgart was the source of inspiration for Softsis and Kalampokis and, on the flight back home, they came up with the idea of LLC Globe Program.

Students with Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Students with Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Sports oriented and being basketball a very popular sport in the country, this weekly program includes morning camp activities and evening basketball games where teams from all over Greece participate. Along with the sport, a series of activities are being planned from visits to museums and monuments, to speeches, workshops, experiential projects carried out by specialists in art, history and culture such as archaeologists, historians and tour guides as well as meetings with distinguished athletes from all kinds of sports and cooking classes by established chefs.

Thanos Softsis, coach and creator of the program

Thanos Softsis, coach and creator of the program

The program starts with the selection of the most suitable location for its implementation. Then, the weekly schedule is drawn up, in which in consultation with the group of participants and based on the morning camp, all the other events can be added. It is flexible and it can always be adjusted according to the requirements and needs of each group, as well as the infrastructure and particulars of each region.

With Nick Kalathis

With Nick Kalathis

The aim of this weekly program is for all participants to experience as many unique features of Greek life and culture as possible. As Thanos Softsis pointed, “The purpose of this program is the dissemination of the Greek ideals and elements of culture and cultural heritage to the new generations in an experiential way.” He also stressed out that the interactivity of the project is based on two main factors: a) to encourage the Greeks of the Greek community and the Greek of diaspora to come into contact with Greece and the people who live there, and b) to revive the sport-cultural-historical ideals and values ​and transmit the flame of this heritage to the younger generations of Greeks around the world. In this way, the preservation, understanding, appreciation and promotion of the Greek heritage is enhanced, and values and ideals are passed on. At the same time, everyone involved in the program experiences the feeling of emotional fulfillment. That is to say, everybody ends up feeling full of Hellas!

With coach and program creator Giannis Kalampokis

With coach and program creator Giannis Kalampokis

As Sepheris once wrote: “The Greek language, the man, the sea….It is so wonderful to know that since Homer, we all speak, breathe and sing the same language.”

In 2018, the first LLC Globe Program took place in Athens, on 21st to 27th of May, with the participation of about 50 Greek expatriates from Germany. The program was also attended by three German families as they wanted to experience the Greek way of life and get acquainted with Greece in general. And they loved it!

Some prominent athletes were invited to talk to the participants and in the afternoon, several basketball games were held against the teams of PAO, Olympiakos , Peristeri and Paleo Faliro. Also, a number of visits to several archaeological monuments were organized, as well as speeches by experienced tour guides and archaeologists-historians. The program also included a number of outdoor activities, such as tours to the historic center of Athens and meals at restaurants in the city center. Many photos of famous basketball players and the kids-athletes who participated in the friendly games were also taken as a reminder of this unforgettable experience. In addition, excursions to the nearby beaches and taverns by the sea were organized as well as a day trip to the very attractive and of great historical significance tourist destination of Nafplio.

Valando Sidiropoulou, head of the Greek expatriate group, said with excitement: “We expected to experience life in Greece, but not to such an extent. Within a week, you get so much filled with Greece and in so many ways. A program that shouldn’t be missed!”

Due to the positive feedback from last year’s program, this year has seen an increased interest in participation. The new educational/cross-curricular program is going to be held in Thessaloniki from June 13t to 20.

“We  have already  organized the weekly plan in Thessaloniki,” says Softsis. “It includes morning practices on the gym, afternoon games with the teams of Paok, Aris and Iraklis as well as the Mantoulidis and Chatzivrettas  academies, a lecture by a specialist on the Mediterranean diet and its benefits to health and wellness, a tour at the Athletic and Archaeological musea of Thessaloniki, a visit to Vergina and ancient Pella and a tour of the waterfalls of Edessa accompanied by an experienced archaeologist.” Also, daily trips to the beaches of Chalkidiki and the famous Waterland and visit a horse farm for riding lessons. The legendary player Nikos Galis and coach Giannis Ioannidis top the list of famous athletes and guests during the morning practices .

Visiting Acropolis

Visiting Acropolis

Along with the LLC Globe Program, a new program was created in northern Greece and specifically in the picturesque area of Goumenissa. It is an interactive basketball camp with outdoor activities in the mountain of Paiko, including learning traditional Greek dances and getting acquainted with the vineyard and wheat streets and the Balkan melodies of the famous Chalkina of Goumenissa as well as visiting the local silkworm factory-museum and learning everything concerning silk.

The five day program, called SMOBAC (Mountain Basketball and Adventures Camp), is for children aged 12-18 years old. Based on the same experiential philosophy of the LLC Globe Program, it applies values such as team spirit, cooperation, persistence and patience, healthy competition, understanding of diversity and contact with nature.

Many expatriates when coming to Greece for vacations, are looking for opportunities through which their children will be able to learn and develop a more intimate connection with Greece. These programs are meant to fulfill this role.

Greek Americans are welcome to participate as the program seeks to include Hellenes from all over the world. For more information their website is llcglobe.com. You can also email them them at thanosoftsis@yahoo.gr or smobac@hotmail.com

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