SOCIETY

Elix volunteers helping to make Greece a safer place

Two years ago a group of young volunteers taking part in a fire protection program for the Nea Makri forest detected one of the sources of a major fire which ravaged a large area of Mount Pendeli, north of Athens. The volunteers, who were participating in a program organized by the nongovernmental organization Elix, notified the fire brigade, which as a result was able to extinguish that part of the blaze and stop it from spreading.

This year, as the NGO and the Municipality of Marathon celebrate 11 years of fruitful collaboration, a group of more than 50 volunteers from countries including Turkey, Korea, Germany and France are taking part in forest and beach protection projects in the broader area. The programs got under way on July 5 and run to September 1.

Guided by specialists, the volunteers are taking part in patrols covering areas in Eastern Attica. Led by Elix group leaders, the volunteers will also undertake to clean Nea Makri beaches and raise public awareness about environmental issues.

Meanwhile the current financial crisis has without doubt affected the NGO?s activities. For the last 25 years, Elix (formerly know as PEEP) has been giving youngsters over the age of 18 the chance to get better acquainted with their own country, as well as others, through a series of two-week programs based on various activities ranging from environmental protection to cultural heritage.

?Due to the Kallikratis scheme [the goverment?s plan to redraw administrative boundaries] and reduced funding, there were delays in agreements this year. As a result, only 16 programs have been organized so far, as opposed to our yearly average of about 36,? Dora Vougiouka, Elix?s communication manager, told Kathimerini.

What?s more, it seems that this year young Greek volunteers are more likely to opt to participate in local rather than international programs. Up until recently, going abroad had become the norm, given that volunteers were given the opportunity to discover new places at minimum cost. Since the organization?s establishment in 1987, more than 280 volunteer programs have been organized in over 104 areas around Greece.