When fate calls twice – Serving as JA’s for The Smile of the Child

This blog aims to look into the past to interpret the present and bridge better the necessity of history with today’s reality and the possibility of tomorrow. It’s about culture, anthropology, history, and geography, and also about continuity, discontinuity, conflict, and reconciliation in our human affairs.

Like clockwork, with the arrival of Fall, we start our family brainstorming and planning for what is the highlight of the year – the upcoming summer vacation. In our family, we do not do relaxing vacations. We do “hectic” holidays – jam-packed with multiple legs and side trips that are designed to take us to various places that are central to our interests, connect us with people we love and admire, and, above all, allow us to link up with and serve the causes we believe in. 

Although our interests have multiple intersections, I am more of the ‘social scholar,’ fascinated with tracing the world’s problems to their historical roots and looking to borrow from the lessons of the past to propel us into a better future, which is reflected in my blog here. On the other hand, my brother, Alexander, is more of a ‘social entrepreneur’ looking for radical but also practical grass-roots solutions to our world’s problems. This orientation is reflected in in hid blog https://alexandersknowledgepath.wordpress.com/.

This healthy divergence in interests does not make summer vacation planning easy. It’s not exactly straightforward to agree on a list of activities and visits, people, causes, and events that satisfy both of us, fit within two short weeks, and leave room for some fun-in-the-sun. 

Through friends in Greece, where our family’s roots are, we had tried to connect with several organizations that reflected our interests for some time. I dreamed of visiting the refugee camps in Cyprus this year, while Alexander wanted to get in touch with a group that addressed family poverty. Unfortunately, CoViD 2.0 did not make things more manageable this summer anyway. There were multiple travel restrictions, many places that were still closed, many canceled events, and a long list of organizations that remained in shut-down or clam-down mode. 

But then it happened. As the saying goes, when planning stalls, fate calls. And in our case, it called…twice! 

The first call came when we learned, with sadness, that a little girl relative we had visited in Greece (a second cousin once removed) died at age 10. She was born with a heart defect and died from complications. The family requested that a donation be made instead of flowers to what we quickly learned was a high-profile organization with a remarkable body of work – The Smile of the Child (Το Χαμόγελο του Παιδιού). 

And fate’s second call came when a friend of the family who works in the non-governmental organizations (NGO) space responded to our inquiries. He offered us a unique opportunity to connect with what he described as an “exceptional outfit that happened to celebrate a quarter-century of amazing service to Greece’s youth and the families this year.” Its name? You guessed it – The Smile of the Child! (https://www.hamogelo.gr/gr/en/)

What happened next, we will describe in a series of follow-up posts. We hope our pots will do justice to the remarkable work of this unique organization and highlight the fantastic people who power it, including its 10-year-old founder Andreas Yannopoulos, its President, Costas Yannopoulos, and all the army of professionals and volunteers that have literally changed the Greek society over the last twenty-five years. 

So, please visit our blogs soon for the rest of the story, but here we will cut to the chase: 

After visiting and working with The Smile of the Child this summer, we have received the distinct honor to be Junior Ambassadors for this beautiful organization, spreading the word of its mission, tracking its activity, and spotlighting its accomplishments in our area. We will also work hard to support it and fundraise on its behalf. We plan to work diligently in our role, and next year, we plan to travel back to Greece to join them, deliver to them the fruits of our year-long fundraising efforts, and work with them on the ground living out the mission of this great organization! 

About the author

iangrigorakis

My name is Ian Grigorakis and I'm a sophomore at Redwood Highschool in Marin County, California. I'm interested in how the past has shaped the present and how the present foreshadows the future of civic institutions, international relations, and culture in general. I like finding the classic in the modern, and tracing the evolution of national identities.

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