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.
I am fascinated with the ways our past has shaped our present and how our present foreshadows the future. In my previous posts, I have used this angle to look at some captivating episodes of history (like the Cypriot refugee crisis or the fall of the Berlin Wall), tracing the links between civilizations across time and reflecting on the parallels between heritage and personal interests.
In what follows, penned together with Alexander Grigorakis ( https://alexandersknowledgepath.wordpress.com/ ), I am following up on my last post that tracks my journey of volunteer service with The Smile of the Child / To Hamogelo Tu Pediu. In November 2021, this incredible organization will mark a quarter of a century of reflecting the best of our past humanitarian traditions into our challenging present and projecting the best of our present into a hopeful future for all children and families in need. I am very proud to have connected with Hamogelo and be a small part of their work.
Over the centuries, our societies have changed a lot. Much of that change has been an improvement – from poverty to disease to slavery, our global society has made significant strides. And much of that improvement is the fruits of the community pioneers and social entrepreneurs whose work has brought about astonishing progress.
Enter Andreas Yannopoulos, the inspirational 10-year-old founder of “The Smile of the Child” (Greek: “Το Χαμόγελο του Παιδιού” / To Hamogelo Tu Pediu), a Greek nonprofit organization (https://www.hamogelo.gr/gr/en/ ) with world-class record of service, which this year celebrates its 25th Anniversary! I am proud to have connected this summer with ‘Hamogelo’ (“The Smile”) and to have volunteered to be for them, along with my brother Alexander (http://civictree.com ), their Junior Ambassadors in our San Francisco Bay Area.
After being with Hamogelo on the ground this summer, after connecting with their remarkable volunteers, and after having the honor of meeting Costas Yannopoulos, the President of Hamogelo and father of its founder, Andreas, I feel I have formed a life-long ‘knot’ that reflects the best of our society and will never be cut. Still, I want to start this journey of serving with Hamogelo by focusing this year on spreading the word about their mission. And I can think of no better way of doing that than introducing to our community Andreas Yannopoulos, the pre-teen founder of one of the world’s most remarkable organizations that supports youth and family.
It all started back in 1995, when Andreas Yannopoulos, who battled a terminal, happened to give a TV interview that became viral across Greece and resonated with the hearts and minds of the entire nation.
In that interview, Andreas expressed his dream of a society that came together to secure that every child facing challenges and was at risk would find the care and love needed to restore his smile.
Shortly after that interview, Andreas lost his battle. Still, his vision became a nationwide call for action. It gave rise to the excellent organization of Hamogelo, which has served the welfare of over 1.7 million children over the last 25 years!
The single page from Andrea’s diary that was featured in that TV interview and became the charter of Hamogelo put in his simple words the dream that has inspired thousands of volunteers and made a significant difference in the lives of millions of kids – here it is translated into English:
“We all know and talk about children in the streets that don’t smile. They don’t smile because they don’t have money, no toys, they don’t have any food and some don’t even have parents. So, start thinking and stop talking empty words; let’s all unite and give what we can to the poor ones: Albanian children, white and black, they are all just children and deserve to smile. This organization shall be called ‘The Smile of the Child.’ So, let’s all help; united, we can make it.”