Κυριακή, 25 Ιουνίου 2017

The Being Green Project

"Dione" at The Being Green Project

If there is one topic which (at last) comes up regularly, it's our current environmental situation. Is this because we already feel some climate disorder? We're running out of time, and the issue can no longer be avoided and solutions have to be found.
There are no small initiatives for environmental protection. 

That's the main message of The Being Green Project, which was launched on the 2nd of June under the Erasmus+ program. Located in the surrounding of the Oil City of Okhtyrka, Ukraine, the project gathered some thirty participants from different nations (Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Denmark, Greece, Turkey, Macedonia and Ukraine) around the same table.

Friendships among members were quickly created which led to a strong team-spirit appearing and made it possible for everyone to bring their skills and knowledge at the initiative.
Many topics were discussed, such as the human footprint, the different kind of pollutions, solutions that have already been found or that are in the process of being researched. Every country that was represented could share and teach about its own ecological situation. This led to concrete and encouraging discussions.

As a participant of this Project, I want to personally highlight how cooperation revealed to be advantageous. In the second part of the week, once everyone of us had created stronger affinities between each other, we were asked to create a theatrical event to promote ecology in a Ukrainian School. The organisers only gave us 2 days to prepare for the theatrical performance. 
We felt a lot of pressure because the message we needed to transmit was very important. We couldn’t fail in our attempt!
This created, in every participant, a strong sense of responsibility which made it possible to, though effort, finalize it in time.
All the time we spent together doing group activities will not have been in vain. The children laughed, the children cried, and to see how much we managed to draw their attention meant that OUR work was a success as our message was not ignored.

Five days ago we were strangers. At the end of the project, a lot of us cried as we had to leave the Slavna Paradise Natural Bungalow Park
For the rest of the time, the participants had free time or had the chance to visit Oktyrka and Sumy, two Ukrainian cities with their own specificities. Every evening was dedicated to intercultural sharing which included participants giving presentations about their own countries. 

This was simply more than a project. This small promotion showed us that boundaries don’t exist when it comes to our common home. To reach that huge objective, you just need to plant the seed, irrigate it with motivation, involvement and an open-mind and let it grow. Only together this can be achieved.
Being Green is our common future!

Yannis Faivre, Erasmus Intern - Applied Foreign Languages,
in collaboration with “Dione” local development centre in Ancient Olympia, Greece
- yannis.faivre@orange.fr
- Vaso Charitopoulou, Head of “Dione”,

Τετάρτη, 21 Ιουνίου 2017

The “Trust Yourself’’ Project in Sakarya, Turkey

"Dione" at the “Trust Yourself’’ Project in SakaryaTurkey 

A new project under the title “Trust Yourself” was organized by the “Zift Organization” from 3 to 11 June in SakaryaTurkey.
This project focused on finding innovative ways to help and incorporate people with disabilities into the broader society, bringing together 50 participants from Turkey, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Greece.

The participants were engaged in various activities aimed at raising awareness about creating a society where disabled people could live a normal life as everyone else. The participants of the project met with disabled students at a local middle school and had also a meeting with the City Mayor of Sakarya Municipality.

“Dione” Local Development Centre, established in Ancient Olympia, was represented in collaboration with the cooperative social enterprise “Eco Divri” by the Erasmus Intern Vugar Mamedov from Azerbaijan and the Erasmus Young Entrepreneur Emmanuel Dweh Togba from Liberia.

Their participation was fruitful and contributed meaningfully towards the success of the training project. 

-Vugar Mamedov, vugar.mamedov@yahoo.com
-Emmanuel Dweh Togba, etogba95@gmail.com
-Vaso Charitopoulou, Head of “Dione”,

Σάββατο, 17 Ιουνίου 2017

Greek Apiculture

One of the most ancient crafts in Greece faces the challenges of the modern era

History of apiculture in Greece has length more than 5000 years. Through such a long period of time, the whole world has significantly changed; civilizations were built and destroyed, human mindset has become disparate, finally all inventions have reconstructed our ways to do almost everything. Nowadays, most of us cannot imagine doing agriculture without machinery or living without electricity, but Greek beekeeping remained almost untouched. 
The direct keepers of all ancient traditions are the local individual honey producers.

But who are they and why do they still follow old rules of production in 21st century? 
The typical Greek beekeeper is the person who may have any education, age, income and so on. However, all of them have a lot in common; for instance, the same strong passion for customs and honey, respect towards consumers, and, unfortunately, various problems that happen every day in their lives.  

Greek apiculture is very different than in other countries due to the uniqueness of the country’s geography. Mountainous areas, forests, hills and fields are rich with various botanic species and covered with thousands of hives. One single beekeeper usually has around 100 hives dispersed in different isolated apiaries which can have tens of kilometres distance between each other. Therefore, one of the main costs of the Greek honey is transportation expenses. According to our study of micro beekeepers in Elis region in western Peloponnese, fuel expenses can make up 20-25% of total costs. These numbers become much more frightening when we take a look on fuel prices: Greece is at the top of the list!

The second barrier for beekeepers’ prosperity is current economic situation in Europe and particularly in GreeceContinuous stagnation reduced buying power of mass customer and demand for home-made honey. Unfortunately, Greek honey is expensive, especially if it is produced at small scale, and even though small honey producers are telling that their customers are quite loyal, people are starting to buy more and more cheaper substitutes from supermarkets. Furthermore, the State is going to set up new taxes for beekeeping that can hurt a lot this sensitive industry, allowing only corporations to survive and possibly bringing negative effects to beekeepers and to us too, since quality and authenticity will be in danger of disappearing.  

As for the State, small beekeepers have mixed attitudes towards it. Some of them have only negative thoughts because of taxes, others are looking at the governmental institutions with hope, and the smallest group has already been given support, for example subsidies for transportation of hives. However, all of the apiculturists are open for any discussion and ready to suggest various win-win solutions.

The third biggest problem for small honey producers, according to our survey, is the old-fashioned way of doing business. Of course, we are not talking about production process, since traditional practices is one of the things that make products unique in Elis region, but other business activities.
For instance, very few producers, mainly the bigger companies, have their own website and a few sell honey B2B, while others sell directly, from mouth to mouth, to loyal customers who usually live nearby.
Accessibility to home-made honey is low for a common customer who has no way to find and buy it. Moreover, often people even do not know about the existence of available traditionally produced honey, since not many advertising efforts are done by honey producers. The point here is that small beekeepers cannot reach their potential clients, and this weakness is very crucial in time of high competition and big corporations. 
Furthermore, during our interview process, beekeepers have mentioned difficulties with answering one of the key questions of any business: “What is your competitive advantage?” or in other words “Why should consumers buy from you?”
Most of them could outline the high standards of quality, some paid more attention to the organic origins of their products. However, these advantages can be applied to many other micro beekeepers, who also keep the same production traditions. 

It is very essential for beekeepers to stand out with uniqueness and strong identity to gain more customers, especially in times of tough domestic competition and attempts of foreign producers to present their products as Greek ones. Cooperation between the government, educational institutions and apiculturists could be very helpful to increase efficiency and knowledge of important business practices. 

Future: does it exist? 
Nevertheless, the positive points also take place.
Environmental awareness is growing each day and people are ready to pay extra for organic and ethically produced goods, meanwhile some governmental institutions such as EU try to promote such products and support producers. 
In addition, due to rich botanic diversity Greek honey has strong competitive advantage for its nutrition and healing characteristics, which are recognized in biological laboratories. 
Also, some types of honey such as thyme, pine- and oak tree honey can be found mostly only in Greece, therefore it is possible to find the niche on the market without any competition.

Survival of small independent producers is an urgent need: the State would benefit from creating an attractive identity of local products, consumers would be satisfied to enjoy authentic and superior product, meanwhile beekeepers could save traditions and maintain their lifestyle.
It is obvious that it is feasible only by creating stable axes of collaboration.
However, it is still a big question when all these 3 parties –State, consumers and beekeepers- will manage to sit together around the same table and start changing the situation? 

Rostislav Nikulin
Erasmus Intern from Russia, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Finland, Faculty: International Business,
in collaboration with “Dione” Local Development Centre in Ancient Olympia


Τετάρτη, 14 Ιουνίου 2017

"Dione" at the ELIX annual training seminar

Elis’ local development centre at the ELIX annual training seminar for camp leaders

The last 13th and 14th of May ELIX launched officially the 2017's workcamp season with the  camp leaders' training that takes place every year and prepares the future leaders to face the experience of being the head of a group of volunteers in a volunteering program. 

Elis’ local development centre “Dione” participated in this training seminar, being represented by the Erasmus Intern Yannis Faivre from France.

ELIX was founded in 1987 and since this moment, more than 300 voluntary work programs were organized in 104 areas of Greece and more than 5.000 young people participated in workcamps in Greece and abroad. 

During the last few years, ELIX' workcamps have been focusing attention on the social problems aroused after the crisis in the country by organising summer camps for children with economical difficulties, in which volunteers from all over the world come and, in coordination with professional pedagogues, create a series of leisure activities to help them have a nice and fulfilling summer.

During the training for camp leaders, the  participants assisted to sessions to very relevant topics such us the structure of the workcamps, conflict management, intercultural learning, overcoming stereotypes or the usage of non violent communication, among others. All of them realities that they will for sure face in the workcamps. 

The next step of the leaders to be will be to attend the second part of the training in June, in which more specific details related to logistics and finance will be treated; and to fully load their batteries to make the best out of this experience and spend this summer in a unique way!

More info:
·    Yannis Faivre, Erasmus Intern at “Dione” local development centre - email: yannis.faivre@orange.fr
·        Vaso Charitopoulou, Head of “Dione” -
·        www.elix.org.gr

Πέμπτη, 25 Μαΐου 2017

What are the most challenging business opportunities in the Mediterranean & Eurasian zone?

Interview of the President of the Greek-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce to “Dione”  

Mr. Costas Vamvakas, the President of the Greek-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce, met on May 9th in Athens with the Master Student – Erasmus Intern from Baku Vugar Mamedov on behalf of Elis’ Local Development Centre "Dione" and the social cooperative enterprise “Eco Divri”, and discussed about the financial, industrial, commercial and tourist relationships between Greece and Azerbaijan.

The Interview with the President of the Greek-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Costas Vamvakas: 

-What kind of issues are the Greek companies interested in Azerbaijan
The Greek companies that get in contact with the Chamber usually want to get informed about the business and investment environment in Azerbaijan and in the Caspian area in general. More specifically, they are interested in exports to this country, mainly of products in the branch of food and beverages, ICT,  software CRM & ERP systems but also in cooperation in the fields of business consulting and development issues (sales and marketing) cost reduction (supply chain and production), exports enlargement. Moreover, there is interest in the pharmaceutical sector as well as in the sector of construction and building materials and technical companies. Companies in the fields of olive oil, packaged meals and building materials have a significant experience in Greece and are interested in expanding their activity in the concerned area. 

-What are the most frequently asked questions about Azerbaijan and what are the points of concern? 
The most frequently asked questions from the side of the Greek companies to the Chamber concern the customs tariff in Azerbaijan as well as the ways to approach the Azeri market. Particularly, companies that export products to other countries are interested in learning which products are on demand in Azerbaijan this period that the government is promoting the diversification of the economy, given the low fuel prices that strongly influenced the Azeri economy. It is really difficult to find appropriate companies from the Azeri market to represent the Greek products and enterprises. 

-According to you, which sectors are at a low level for now in the bilateral relations, but have the highest priority? 
Our view is that in the field of food products there is a high potential for the development of the Greek companies. However, Greek exports are still in low levels compared to the desired level. This is where we think it is necessary to focus even more and we are seeking for  cooperation with Azeri companies towards the further development of our relationship. Moreover, the tourism sector constitutes a potential ground for cooperation, since Greece possesses the know-how and Azerbaijan is currently developing in this field. In addition to the Greek ICT sector we consider has high potential for expansion in Azerbaijan. 

-How do you evaluate political relationships between Greece and Azerbaijan
I think that the bilateral governmental relationships are at the upmost level and the Greek government fully supports the deployment of the TAP pipeline in Greece which is a project of significant importance for both countries. 

-Exhibitions and conferences are perfect for collaborations. The EU-Azerbaijani Business Forum will be organized on 8th June in Baku. Do you have any members that are considering to join this forum? 
For the upcoming event there is strong interest from Greek companies to join the forum. Also, last year the Chamber organized a business mission to Baku and took part in the EU-AZ FORUM last May. The Forum was really successful, with workshops that covered issues about agriculture, transport logistics and tourism. Additionally, business B2B meetings took place, which were organised  for all the participants by the well-established  AHK (German-Azerbaijani Chamber).  

-Your goals contribute to strengthening the Greek-Azerbaijani business partnerships. Are you satisfied with the level of success so far?  
The Greek-Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce Chamber aims in promoting the trade of its members between the two countries and is working towards this direction. This is accomplished with the cooperation at a government level as well as with the cooperation with private institutions. Meanwhile, we inform our members about the investment opportunities in priority sectors for both countries and we direct the interested parts in their effort to encounter business partners. In this context we undertake sector-specific business missions in order to conclude business ties.
We believe that important business opportunities are emerging  in Azerbaijan and in the Caspian countries in General and the  Greek entrepreneurs are not aware of. These are politically stable countries with  friendly business environment and this is our role to communicate it to the Greek business people so that they can start considering Azerbaijan and the neibouring countries such as Kazakhstan, Georgia for possible investments and joint ventures. 

-What type of services and support do you offer to your members to join the tender issued in Azerbaijan 
We support our members by informing them about the business opportunities and networking and also we provide information about the economic and business environment in Azerbaijan. Moreover, we organize events with a business, social and cultural content, which contribute to a general promotion of the bonds between the two countries. Furthermore, we inform our members about tenders that are being procured in Azerbaijan.  

-Azerbaijan-Greece have many common characteristics. For example, the demographic situation is almost the same. What other common features take your attention? 
They are both hospitable and friendly people and take good care of their guests. A research that was conducted some years ago asked the people of Baku about which country’s people they feel are closer to the Azeris and the outcome brought Greeks in the third place, after Russians and Turkish. 

-Greece and Greek companies have also fought the crisis in the recent past. And they know how to behave during the crisis. Nowadays Azerbaijan is experiencing economic crisis. According to you, is this an opportunity for new investments?  
Azerbaijan targets to attract foreign investments and there are certain incentives towards this objective. Taxation has been reduced and motives have been given for engagement in Baku. As the last World Banks’s report mentions, Azerbaijan counts within the countries that record the highest development rates. It becomes then obvious that there are very important opportunities for business activities in Baku and this is exactly what we are communicating to our members. 

-After the oil crisis in Azerbaijan, the tourism sector started growing and getting support by the Government. How do you evaluate the tourism potential of Azerbaijan
One of the basic priorities of the Azeri government is promoting tourism in Azerbaijan. There are more than 600 hotels and accommodation establishments of all categories – of which almost half are found in the Baku region. Events with a global focus, such as the Formula 1 circuit in Baku, aim in setting the country in the global map. Therefore, the promotion of the country as an international tourist destination constitutes one of the most important priorities of the Azeri government. 

-Sustainable use of natural resources and environmental friendly companies are becoming priorities to each Economy. Do you support and promote Green Entrepreneurship in both countries?  
The deployment of the TAP pipeline has taken into consideration all these sensitive environmental issues. Additionally, various environmental NGOs recognise conventional natural gas as an effective fuel to transition to a renewable-based economy. 

·Vugar Mamedov, Marketing manager & eco-consultant, Erasmus Intern at the Local Development Centre "Dione" in Ancient Olympia: vugar.mamedov@yahoo.com
·Vaso Charitopoulou, Head of “Dione”: vasso-charitopoulou@hotmail.com
·Greek Azerbaijani Chamber of Commerce and Business:   http://www.greekazerchamber.eu/en/

Δευτέρα, 8 Μαΐου 2017

Απολιθωμένοι κήποι

Σύλλογοι που σέρνουν μαζί τους ιστορία και επιτεύγματα ανθρώπων με αληθινό ζήλο, αλλά κρατούν κλειστή την πόρτα τους στο σήμερα -ίσως γιατί το αύριο τους τρομάζει, φέρνουν στο μυαλό κήπους απολιθωμένους.
Παγωμένοι, άκαμπτοι, με τη μυρωδιά της στασιμότητας και τη σκόνη της παρακμής,
περιστοιχισμένοι από τα κάγκελα του χρόνου που έχουν γύρω τους δημιουργήσει την ψευδαίσθηση της προστασίας από την εισβολή κάθε ζωογόνας δύναμης και τη διείσδυση της αύρας ανανέωσης,
είναι οι κήποι αυτοί που, ενώ κάποτε ευωδίαζαν δημιουργία και πρωτοπορία, τώρα έγιναν σκιές.

Έχουν ακόμα ωστόσο τα ίχνη της παλιάς αίγλης από λαμπρές εποχές, μεγάλες στιγμές, δυνατές συγκινήσεις, αληθινή προσφορά και έργο που επιδρούσε στις ζωές των ανθρώπων, που σημάδευε την πρόοδο της τοπικής και ευρύτερης κοινωνίας, που ενίσχυε την προαγωγή των αξιών.
Μεθυστικό το άρωμα των αλλοτινών εκείνων εποχών. Τόσο που, οι άνθρωποι που πέρασαν την πόρτα των κήπων αυτών, με το χρόνο έγιναν ένα με το απολιθωμένο τοπίο και με καθηλωμένο το μυαλό στο παρελθόν, φυλακίζουν τη σκέψη τους στην αναπόληση και καταδικάζουν τις πράξεις τους σε στείρα απομίμηση παλιών πρακτικών. Αυτοί που κατόρθωσαν να γυρίσουν και να βγουν έξω από τους κήπους αυτούς, πριν προλάβει να τους παρασύρει το μεθυστικό άρωμα και να τους απολιθώσει, συνεχίζουν την πορεία τους χωρίς να κοιτάζουν πίσω.

Ο αέρας στους απολιθωμένους κήπους είναι αποπνικτικός, βαρύς από το φόβο μήπως και διαταραχτεί η ακινησία, μήπως και τρυπώσει καμιά ενοχλητική μελισσούλα που ψάχνει για ζωή και αναγέννηση.
Η επιγραφή ωστόσο απέξω καταφέρνει και κρέμεται ακόμα, μεγαλειώδης και γυαλιστερή: Καλωσήλθατε στον μαγευτικό μας κήπο!
Πριν ακόμα καταφέρει η ματιά του περαστικού να δει πίσω από τα κάγκελα, ξεγελιέται από την περίτεχνη διακόσμηση και το εγκάρδιο μήνυμα του καλωσορίσματος. Το πνεύμα αρχίζει να ονειρεύεται, πετάει σπίθες και ανυπομονεί να μπει στους κήπους, να μετάσχει στο μυστήριο, να προσφέρει και να ανυψωθεί. Φτωχό μου πνεύμα…

Όταν η πραγματικότητα ξυπνάει απότομα το ενθουσιώδες πνεύμα που αυταπατάται ότι θα φέρει νέα πνοή και όραμα, ικανά να αποτινάξουν την απραγία και το μαράζωμα στους απολιθωμένους κήπους, δεν αφήνει περιθώρια για πολλές επιλογές.
Το σύγχρονο πνεύμα πνίγεται όταν εισπνέει την παραπλανητική μυρωδιά που αναδύεται από τους κήπους αυτούς, συρρικνώνεται όταν την ενέργειά του προσπαθούν να απομυζήσουν τα απολιθώματα, επαναστατεί όταν βλέπει καθαρά το χαλί της υποκρισίας να απλώνεται σε κάθε του βήμα.
Και τότε, γίνεται το θαύμα! Το καινούργιο αρχίζει να σπάει τα εκτρώματα του παρελθόντος, όχι με βία, ούτε με λύσσα. Γιατί, η δύναμη της αλλαγής είναι το ισχυρό του όπλο, που τόσο τρέμουν οι κήποι αυτοί.

Αφιερώνω το άρθρο μου στους συλλόγους εκείνους που θυμίζουν απολιθωμένους κήπους, με την ευχή να ανατείλει σύντομα ένας ήλιος που θα νικήσει τη φθορά τους.
Το αφιερώνω επίσης σε όλα εκείνα τα σύγχρονα πνεύματα που επιχείρησαν να αφιερώσουν χρόνο και ενέργεια στους συλλόγους αυτούς, και διαπιστώνουν στην πορεία πόσο βαθιά απολιθωμένοι είναι. 

Βάσω Χαριτοπούλου

Κυριακή, 30 Απριλίου 2017

Greek Honey, the Food of the Gods

Past, present and future

Nowadays, most of people know honey as common natural nourishment accessible in a closest super market. However, in some way, honey can be compared with a crocodile, a modern well-known descendant of primordial reptiles which have been occupying our planet hundreds of thousands of years ago. Honey keeps its ancient and authentic beauty thanks to long traditions of apiculture that prove its important place in humans’ history, therefore this “reptile” from food world has a lot of mysteries and undiscovered secrets around it.

Honey in Greece
In modern Greece honey plays much bigger role than anywhere in the world. From archaic times, honey has been considered as the food of the gods. Great ancient poets and scientists such as Homer, Aristotle and Pythagoras praised honey, its taste and medicinal features.
Greek honey is nowadays a source of income for more than 15,000 beekeepers and a traditional food for millions of people.
But what is the difference between the Greek honey and the honey from other countries, besides its glory and history? The answer is hidden in the botanic affluence and diversity of Greek landscape, which allow bees to mix pollen of different plants and create absolutely unique varieties of honey.
Today it is possible to outline the 3 most popular honey types on the market:
- pine tree honey (60%-65%),
- fir tree honey (5-10%) and
- thyme honey (15%).
In fact, there are many more types, but they can be found mostly in particular regions.  
However, the advantage of this diversity is not only a huge assortment of honey, but also in medical features. In addition to recognized medical characteristics of most of honeys such as wounds, burns and cough healing, gastrointestinal tract protection and sugar substitution, Greek honey has high volume of phenolic compounds and protocatechuic acid which have significant biological effects in human cancer cells.

Honey of Ancient Olympia
The area of Ancient Olympia is one of the most famous places in Greece visited by thousands of tourists each year. However, Ancient Olympia is not only the place of epic sites and popular museums, but also the land of origin of pure unique honey, which is still hidden from a mass customer. Honey of Ancient Olympia is mainly represented by pine and fir tree honey, and a special local oak tree honey as well.
This type of oak tree honey comes from the mysterious Foloi forest, the biggest Balkan oak ecosystem which was occupied by mythological centaurs and dryads. Today it is hard to find those creatures, nevertheless the forest is full of wild bees, which in cooperation with talented dedicated beekeepers produce oak tree honey. According to the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the strongest honey in terms of antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory activities, is oak tree honey that helps us with preventing and healing tumors, stomach ulcers and cell degeneration.

Giorgos Gardikis, a young beekeeper of mountainous Ancient Olympia
“For me, beekeeping is more than a hobby; it is my permanent job. It means to me lifestyle, passion and long family tradition.
I have to travel long distances from apiary to apiary to check all conditions in hundreds of hives, and sometimes I must work without any weekends more than 8 hours per day, but efforts lead to results that make me proud.
I have been trained in beekeeping from my father, who has an experience of 30 years in this field. All my efforts are focused on following the traditional way of production, in order to get absolutely pure honey that can be called truly Greek authentic honey with no doubt.
Traditional producing is not only what I believe in, but also my main competitive advantage which allows me to differentiate from thousands of producers and companies. My customers are mainly my local neighbours who have been loyally buying honey from my family for decades, because they have witnessed how honey is produced by us. Therefore, quality in honey producing is always for me a cornerstone for beekeeping.

The future of the Greek honey
Taking into account its medicinal superiority and high quality, the question why the Greek (Olympian) honey is still not opened to mass consumer is raised.   

It is clear that beekeepers need us to survive and preserve traditions, and we need them to receive the best quality of honey for medical use and gastronomic pleasure!

Rostislav Nikulin
Erasmus Intern from Russia, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Finland, Faculty: International Business,
in collaboration with “Dione” Local Development Centre in Ancient Olympia

email: nikulin95@yandex.ru