A holiday with friends turns into a major aid project

A shared love of the sea and desire to make a difference led a group of doctors to set up one of the largest and most interesting voluntary organizations in the country. Aigaio began as a small group of friends and now numbers 40-50 members, including a number of doctors, such as cardiologist Dimitris Hasapis, who spoke to Kathimerini about the group’s work. «Eleven years ago, when a small group of friends was on holiday with their inflatable boats on the island of Ios, there was a car accident and the two doctors in the group went to provide assistance, saving a person’s life,» he explained. «So the idea emerged for a group to visit the outlying islands every year to provide preventive medicine, medical aid but also to meet the people’s other needs with educational material, laboratories, libraries, computers, even bicycles and cameras.» «We set out every May, near the anniversary of the liberation of the Dodecanese, in inflatable craft, outside the tourist season. We have everything we need to carry out biochemical tests, X-rays, cardiology tests and even minor surgery.» Epidemiological study The group noted over the years that the isolation of these populations had led to a number of social and medical problems. «There were fishermen who could eat as much fish as they liked but still had high cholesterol levels. We provided preventive medicine, child orthopedics and cardiology, and while we were examining children for scoliosis, we found that they were obese.» «We were also surprised by the fact that more ham is consumed on Leros than anywhere else in Greece. Because ships do not visit frequently because of the cost, the islanders live on frozen lamb and a lot of cheese, but not enough fruit and vegetables. If no ship comes for 15-20 days because it isn’t economically viable, the population will slowly die off.»