14th Summer Academy

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We are delighted to report that the 14th Summer Academy, Rural NGOs: Catalysts of Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development, was a great success. Below are just a few impressions of what turned out to be a very productive 8 days of capacity building, knowledge sharing, networking and making new friends!
As usual with our summer academies, on the first evening the participants came together to meet each other, share stories and delicacies from their home countries. And, as usual, we had far too much food and drink for just one night! But not to worry, we had another seven days to share everything around.

On the first morning, all was quiet at Agroktima Marini. The tables and chairs had been arranged in the newly decorated main hall. The sound technician had set up the microphones, and the interpreters were sipping their coffees waiting for everyone to arrive.
The participants were staying at the beautiful Messinan Bay Hotel, just a few kilometres up the road. The night before, we had been busy preparing the participants’ portfolios and they were ready to be handed out. Both Greek and English versions were available to suit our participants’ language needs.
As the Elenis – our smiley interpreters – did their last sound checks, the sound of a bus approaching caught our attention. The participants had arrived! Fouli Papageorgiou, President of Euracademy Association, opened the 14th Summer Academy by welcoming the approximately 40 participants from 16 different countries including Afghanistan, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Turkey, Egypt and many more from the European Union. She spoke about the We are all Citizens programme and the project which Euracademy is currently involved with entitled Rural NGOs: Catalysts of Social Cohesion and Sustainable Development, which also lends its name to this year’s summer academy.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Thomas Liebig, Senior Administrator, International Migration Division at the OECD. His gave some very interesting insights, particularly as regards Greece, during his presentation entitled: “Integrating immigrants and their children – an overview”.
After each presentation, participants formed small workgroups to tackle questions set by the presenters at the end of their presentations.

And then present their findings durning a subsequent plenary session. Here is Demetris of Euracademy Association sharing his group’s conclusions during one of the plenaries. The conclusions were presented as posters, which remained on the walls of the main hall so that everyone could take a closer look. 

Throughout the academy we heard from a total of 15 expert speakers from throughout the EU and beyond.  Dr Wojciech Goszczynski of Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, spoke during the first day on The balance of social capital in rural communities as a factor to analyse social cohesion. Mohammed Dhalech of the North Wales Regional Equality Network  shared real life examples and experiences during his aptly named presentation: Rurality and Migrant Communities – … no problem here!! And Joe Brady of the Scottish Refugee Council spoke on New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities. Roger Evans, Euracademy Board Member, presented on Strategic and business planning for NGOs: a luxury or a necessary chore?  And here is Thanos Papamattheou, sharing the experiences of his NGO, PRAKSIS, in relation to issues of capacity building.
We also heard Martin Kalenga of the Greek Refugee Forum, who gave a passionate account of the experiences and work of his NGO.
And Erdem Vardar, Director of YUVA/DVV International Turkey about the NGO cooperation and contribution to refugees’ training and welfare in Turkey.
During one of the panel discussions, Lili Mahne, another of Euracademy’s board members, spoke on the  Capacity building programme for NGOs in Slovenija -experiences from the period 2007 /2014 and the challenges for the future.
Fotini Papoudakis, Associate Professor at The Technological Educational Institute of the Peloponnese, used a specific case study in the presentation entitled Conditions of civic development in small rural communities. The case of Anavra-Goura”. And Iren Kukorelli, Vice-President of Euracademy Association, together with Patricia Honvari of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, gave some insights on what is currently happening in Hungary, in their presentation entitled Inclusion or Exclusion – Immigrants and Refugees in Hungary”. As well as attending the lectures, workgroups and plenary sessions, participants also had some free time to explore the surrounding area and get to know the locals and enjoy the beautiful surrounding scenery of the Taygetus foothills. Oh, and I almost forgot – everyday we were treated to amazing Greek food, always served with a good glug of the local speciality: Kalamata olive oil. In the evenings participants either had free time to go swimming in the crystal clear water of the Messinian bay, or simply relax and take in the amazing sunsets that brought each day to a close.

One night we ventured into the old town of Kalamata, where everyone was treated to an evening of Greek traditional music and, of course, lots of Greek food! 
And after the food was gone, there was only one thing left to do – get up and have a dance! It would be impossible to write about all the highlights of the academy in one post. This was just to give you a little taster of what went on during the 8 days. In the posts that follow we’ll be sharing the experiences of this year’s study trips and their reports, together with detailed information on the conclusions, feedback and suggestions for the future.

This project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Grants Greek NGO Programme “We are all Citizens”. The Bodossaki Foundation is the Fund Operator of this Programme. The Programme aims to strengthen civil society and enhance the contribution of NGOs to social justice, democracy and sustainable development.

About the EEA Grants:

Through the EEA Grants and Norway Grants, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway contribute to reducing social and economic disparities and to strengthening bilateral relations with the beneficiary countries in Europe. The three countries cooperate closely with the EU through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). For the period 2009-14, the EEA Grants and Norway Grants amount to €1.79 billion. Norway contributes around 97% of the total funding. Grants are available for NGOs, research and academic institutions, and the public and private sectors in the 12 newest EU member states, Greece, Portugal and Spain. There is broad cooperation with donor state entities, and activities may be implemented until 2016. Key areas of support are environmental protection and climate change, research and scholarships, civil society, health and children, gender equality, justice and cultural heritage. Learn more: http://eeagrants.org/

About the Bodossaki Foundation:

The Bodossaki Foundation is the Fund Operator of the NGO Programme named “We are all Citizens” in Greece. The Bodossaki Foundation is one of the largest privately owned public-benefit organizations in Greece. It was established in 1973, by Prodromos Bodossakis – Athanassiades, who decided to donate his entire fortune in order to promote the provision of health care, equality of opportunity, education, scientific progress and environmental protection. The Foundation also supports the work of NGOs that treat socially vulnerable groups. The Bodossaki Foundation has a deep knowledge of the non-profit sector in Greece and has managed since its inception more than €400m that have been spent placing a great emphasis on decreasing inequality of opportunity, on contributing to the education of young people, on improving medical and research infrastructure and on promoting environmental protection. Learn more: http://www.bodossaki.gr/