On November 10, 2017 Helmepa celebrated 24 years of operation of the Helmepa Junior Program. On November 10, 24 years ago, that Helmepa’s board of directors, chaired by Basil Phr. Papachristidis and with the sincere, warm support of the late Captain Vassilis C. Constantakopoulos, then vice chairman, unanimously approved the proposal to create the educational environmental program Helmepa Junior. It was and still is, the offering of Helmepa’s volunteer members to children aged 5-13, in order to enhance the environmental awareness of tomorrow’s citizens.
• Since then, the Program, with the approval of and in close cooperation with the ministry of Education, Research & Religions as well as with the ministry of Shipping & Island Policy, has been implemented throughout Greece with a total participation of 99,150 children and 3,604 volunteer teachers in 1,361 kindergartens and elementary schools.
Up until today, the young volunteers, under the guidance of their teachers, implemented with great eagerness and enthusiasm 30,000 actions of the action plan, which is renewed every year and approved by the State. In and out of the classroom, the children turned their concerns into action for a better environment around them but also for “Planet Earth, our one and only home”. They “adopted” beaches that they cleaned up, produced and disseminated informative material, created artworks from trash materials, recycled, staged theatrical performances, located illegal dumpsites and spoke about them to local authorities and Media. They learned about the marine environment through simple experiments and games, they discovered the world of shipping and the nation’s maritime history through visits to port authorities and maritime museums as well as discussions with veteran mariners.
With the annual Panhellenic Drawing Contests, the children sent 5,200 colorful messages, through their imaginative group artworks. Many of these have been presented in special exhibitions organized by the Athens City Museum, the Maritime Museum of Greece, the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Palaio Faliro and the ministry of Macedonia & Thrace, at the port of Thessaloniki.
• In 1998, the Program was awarded the Global 500 Award by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) while in 2000 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) invited 2 kids members of the program in London to speak to the Plenary of the Organization’s members, then 166 countries and 63 non-governmental organizations. They stated their concerns about the marine environment and made reference to the voluntary activity of Greek children through their participation in Helmepa Junior.
• In 2002, the Office of the European Parliament in Greece recognized the children members of the Program and their teachers for their voluntary environmental action, which Helmepa spread to other countries.
• In 2005, children members of Helmepa Junior from the island of Kalymnos, and from the relevant programs of Cymepa in Cyprus and Turmepa in Turkey, represented IMO as its ambassadors in the “World Children’s Conference of the UN for the Protection of the Marine Environment”. The conference was held under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Program in Japan in 2005, Malaysia in 2006 and Norway in 2008.
• In 2016, Helmepa Junior received the Lloyd’s List Greek Shipping Award for “Achievement in Environmental Protection”.
During all these years of the Program’s operation, HELMEPA’s scientific staff visited public schools in 85 towns and informed students and teachers. The 89 issues of the quarterly newsletter titled “Young Seagulls” in 75,000 copies, informed kids and teachers on the members’ activities in various regions and hosted students’ articles addressed to other children and the adult society.