Nia Vardalos and John Stamos, actors of Greek descent, and The Hellenic Initiative (THI) are launching an online campaign to help rebuild the Greek Orthodox Lyreion orphanage destroyed by wildfires in Greece last July.
To date, more than $200,000 has been raised and this new online campaign will generate even more funds to be funneled directly to the orphanage for rebuilding. Campaign donations can be made at The Hellenic Initiative Wildfire Relief Fund.
“My heart aches for these orphaned children who’ve been displaced from their home,” said Vardalos, a spokesperson for adoption, and author of The New York Times bestseller, “Instant Mom,” the story of adopting her daughter via American Foster Care. Social workers confirm the book has helped place more than 1,300 children in permanent homes. Vardalos donates all book proceeds to adoption charities. “Greeks living around the world care about Greece and rebuilding this orphanage is a way to help these children in need.” Vardalos’ family is originally from Kalavryta and Sparta in Greece.
“As a new father, the perils these children face hit me particularly hard,” said first-time father John Stamos, whose son Billy was born this spring.” That feeling, coupled with the Greek embrace of philotimo, which is tough to translate, but means a sense of duty and honor and the desire to help others in need, motivated me.” Stamos’ family hails from the village of Kakouri in the Peloponnese area of Greece.
The summer fires, which claimed 90 lives across Greece, engulfed 50-year-old Lyreion orphanage in Neos Voutzas, Greece, on July 23. While there was no loss of life at the orphanage, which is on the outskirts of Athens, the site remains uninhabitable. The organization had housed 65 children in five homes — one of which burned down and two of which were severely damaged, as were administrative buildings. Other fire losses include the orphanage’s school buses, trucks, farm equipment, and a 1,000-tree olive grove that provided olive oil to the orphanage.
“We are grateful the Greek diaspora has come together to rebuild for the children, who are the future of Greece,” Mark Hadjipateras, board member and supporter of the Lyreion Orphanage said. “My family started the orphanage in 1967, so the work by Nia, John, and THI is close to my heart. Their generosity will go a long way toward making the dream of a new Lyreion come true.” Mr. Hadjipateras noted that the children are in temporary accommodations waiting for their new home to be rebuilt. The Lyreion Children’s Foundation is funded by donations, and does not receive subsidies.