by Silvia Lubitz-Skaramagkas, Angelica Eder & Eleni Palaiologos, March 2001
Health is a precious gift and to secure this gift is an issue of concern to us all, especially once we decided to make our homes on an island where weather conditions can at times make it difficult to leave. Don’t you sometimes worry whether you might make it in time to the nearest hospital if you were suddenly to be taken ill or involved in a serious accident?
This is a subject we have discussed a number of times during our International Women’s Group meetings in an effort to find ways in which we might be able to support the Health Centre of Paros. But why is it needed in the first place to support the Health Centre? Isn’t there a notice displayed in the building which says that the provision of medical services is a benefit provided free of charge by Greek law? In order to properly understand the situation, I should explain that under Greek law and the Cycladic Prefecture, our nearest hospital is on Syros, responsible for all of the Cycladic Islands. At the local level, each island is responsible only for providing immediate assistance to the best level it can - in our case to the standard classified as “Health Centre”; in others sometimes no more than a first-aid station. In any case, we do not have a “hospital” on Paros.
Consequently, if we feel the need for a higher level of support, it is up to us, the residents of Paros, to use our initiative and become involved in the process of developing our Health Centre to the highest level we are able. An interesting and important challenge to us all.
This concept of “helping us to help ourselves”, was also recognized by the German embassy through the generous donation to the Health Centre during the official visit by Dr. Kuhna in October 2000 to thank the authorities and people of Paros for their assistance to the German passengers in the Samina Express tragedy. And, last November, the Halloween party organized by the International Women’s Group proved that this serious issue can also give us a lot of fun. We raised a total of 443,000drs towards this goal. Our “sister” group (the International Women’s Organization of Santorini) has been working along exactly the same lines now for over two years - they too organize fund-raising activities - their latest effort being a sponsored walk which raised over 600,000drs for equipment for the gynaecological department at the Santorini Health Centre.
So, what can each one of us do to support the development of the Health Centre?
Since 1999 a group of Parian people (consisting of 43 individuals) have been concerned with this very question. They came together to create a official society called: “Association of Friends for the Support of the Health Centre of Paros” (S.F.S.K.Y.P.A.) which was finally established last year.
On 19th November 2000, those 43 persons elected the first 8-member Board (Maria Arkalimilia, Emmanuel Drakopoulos, Spyros Kalakonas, Evthimios Kebapis, Anna Navpliotou, Anna Polykandrioti, Yiannis Chaniotis and Xenofon Flokos). Eleni Palaiologos and Angelica Eder attended the meeting on behalf of the Women’s Group. Dimitris Stavrakis, President of the Health Centre, made a particularly moving and inspiring speech which really sums up the purpose and the spirit of the Association:
“Dear Friends, this is the first time that the Health Centre opens its doors to the public - to Parians, non-Parians, to Greeks and to foreigners. We are called upon to join our efforts and take action to improve the health service on our island. The recent tragedy of 26th September has made it clear that the people of Paros gave an outstanding example of love, solidarity and humanity.
All of them helped in their own way: The fisherman, the boat-owner, Parian and Antiparian, the private citizen, the doctor, the nurse, the housewife, the driver of the ambulance and of private cars and hotel coaches, the employees of the health centre and the community services, the major himself - coordinating, the shop owner, the hotelier, the Church of the 100 Doors, and the list does not end here.
Given these facts, the foundation of the Association of Friends for the Support of the Health Centre is not only of immediate relevance but will also assure success in the future. The main objective of this Association will be that each Parian or foreign resident of the island may become a member, and that we may all together give an example of compassion and humanity to anyone that needs care and help - local, foreigner or visitor.
Let us all give a bright example to our children, who grow up in a faceless, anonymous, globalised consumer-society, that humanity has not yet died in this place.
The Association does not aim at releasing state authorities from their duties towards the Health Centre but, on the contrary, to pressure them to respond to the needs and demands of the people on this island and thus bring about an improvement in health services. Paros deserves it and the state authorities are in the position to do so. Let the joint efforts of all these factors lead us to create a prototype of Health Centre and a functioning independent medical care unit.
We have to aim at long-term objectives, even if they may seem far away at the moment. The corresponding Association on Naxos (with donations of 500 million drs.) has existed already for some 20 years, has pressured the state and is now looking forward to the opening of a new hospital! The Association on Syros supports the unit for kidney diseases.
Isn't Paros also part of the Cyclades, isn't it one of the most beautiful islands, an island blessed with grace and culture, a home for many - summer and winter - as well as a popular summer resort for thousands of tourists? It simply needs a small flame, an opening of the spirit, so we may all work together without compromise towards creating a dynamic that promises development, towards a vision of quality. May our objectives be long-term, so that our children may be proud and grateful for the decisions we made today.
All of us, whether born on this island or not, temporary visitors or inhabitants, as long as we live together on this beautiful rock, we are sailing with the same vessel in the same waters. We share the dangers - nothing that occurs to our neighbour is only his problem.
We have common objectives. Let us all work together for the preservation of our most precious property - our health.”
The Ordinary Members of the Association now number 160, including three of us from the Women’s Group - Silvia Lubitz, Eleni Palaiologos, Loni Ekonomou.
The Association is now ready to support the Health Centre for any need, creating volunteer groups, fund raising, etc. Working together with the Board of the Health Centre, the Association Board will clarify needs and priorities.
So, what can YOU do?
1. For an annual fee of 5,000drs, you can become an Ordinary Member.
This gives you the right to vote in the next Board elections (the Board is elected for a period of four years, so the next elections will be at the end of 2003). It also gives you the chance to be elected to the Board yourself. The more members we have, the more votes and the more support we can offer! Ordinary meetings will be held twice a year - the next meeting is planned before the start of the summer season. The Board will meet twice a month and Ordinary Members are welcome to attend to give new ideas to the Association and to offer help to raise funds or supply materials. Small committees will be set up according to the skills of the members.
2. Offer your time and skills
(fund raising committee, volunteer nursing group, etc).
Silvia and Loni attended the Board Meeting held on 14th February to express our wishes regarding the money we have already raised and our willingness to be of assistance in any way we can for the future. They received a warm welcome and the Board were very pleased to know that Paros’ foreign residents are also concerned and interested in their objectives and willing to offer their experience from other countries of Europe and elsewhere.
For more information or to arrange to become an Ordinary Member, call Silvia on 22983, Loni on 51825 or Eleni on 61580,61474 or come to the Women’s Meeting on 28th March (see page 2). You CAN make a difference!