CULTURE

Bernadette Chirac, Marianna Vardinoyianni meet at Palais de l’Elysee in aid of sick children

Shared concern for their fellow human beings, particularly sick and abused children, has opened the way for broader cooperation and meetings, such as one held on February 21 between France’s First Lady, Bernadette Chirac, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna Vardinoyianni in Paris at the Presidential Palace. The invitation to the Palais de l’Elysee came from the French president’s wife to Vardinoyianni for the latter’s philanthropic work and the recent honor bestowed upon her by the French Republic in the form of a Knight of the Legion of Honor. Chirac heads the Fondation Hopitaux de Paris – Hopitaux de France, a volunteer organization aimed at improving the quality of life of children, teenagers and the aged in French hospitals. Since 1989, the foundation has funded more than 7,000 programs in France and abroad, aimed mostly at maintaining family relationships during hospitalization, such as establishing rooms in hospitals for the parents of hospitalized children. The Elpida Foundation has done something similar with the Elpida Hostel for parents of children who are cancer patients, as well as with the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, at the Aghia Sofia Children’s Hospital. Official guests who have been shown the facilities by Vardinoyianni, who heads the Elpida Foundation, have had nothing but praise for them and have expressed a desire to set up similar centers in their own countries. Chirac’s foundation has also set up recreational facilities in hospitals, such as playgrounds, sporting facilities, school equipment and programs such as the refurbishment of waiting rooms and corridors, designed to make the hospital a friendlier place for both patients and visitors. In Athens, where there are insufficient Intensive Care Units and camp beds are still seen in corridors, private initiatives such as that undertaken by the Elpida Foundation with its hostel have set an example. The two women had much to talk about; they have been collaborating for some time in the sector of children’s care and health, and the protection of children’s rights, particularly regarding the findings of a conference held in Paris on January 17 by the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They agreed to meet at the next conference, to be held in Alexandria, and discussed their future collaboration in the sector of children’s health. Vardinoyianni talked about the work of the Elpida Foundation and announced its next goal: laying the foundation stone of the first Oncology Hospital for Children in Greece. Chirac expressed her undivided support for the project.