Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bill Gates invests in Greece!

The reader Tsigantes recently made a reference to 'a small town near Veria in northern Greece which backed the vision of its trained librarian and has produced probably the most educative, much loved and inspiring library in Europe!' So I became curious and started to google.

Out came the Veria Central Public Libary. Now that may not be the library which Tsigantes referred to because it is in Veria and not near it, but it is nevertheless a learning experience to look at their website.

Up in the right-hand-corner of the homepage, it says that the library was the '2010 Access to Learning Award' recipient. Not all that exciting news because there are so many awards being given these days that one more of them for a library in Veria isn't necessarily breaking news. But I did check what this 'Access to Learning Award' was all about. And...

I landed on the homepage of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Now, I may not be all that familiar with Veria but I have heard of Bill and Melinda Gates before. And here I read in the press release that 'a Greek libary receives a USD 1 million international award for embracing technology and creating a vibrant community asset'. There is even a very nice video about the library.

That piece of information took a while to settle with me. I mean, we have now seen for almost 3 years an unparalleled undressing of a nation/society, coming up with every piece of dirty laundry that one can imagine. Presumably, even the natives of a most remote island on the other side of the globe have heard by now that there is absolutely nothing positive to be said about Greece. And now this?!?

I googled a bit more to check what kind of headlines this award had prompted in the Greek media. Regrettably, I am a poor Google searcher which is probably the reason why I couldn't find any.

Now let's get this straight. Here is a foundation which isn't exactly like any other foundation in the world. Presumably, only the most qualified projects attract the attention of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. And here is a Greek project which did attract the attention of this foundation. A project about the blue skies of Greece? About the blue waters of Greece? About the ancient treasures of Greece? About the hospitality of Greeks? About any other Greek stereotypes?

No! A project about 'embracing technology and creating a vibrant community asset' instead!

Ever since the Euro-crisis erupted, the term 'contagion' has made the rounds. Meant by that was the risk that the crisis of one country could spread to another country, and so forth. The classic domino effect.

There is another kind of contagion, namely the contagion of negative information. Everyone knows the question whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Imagine a situation where there are 70% negatives and 30% positives. If you only talk about the negatives, the 70% will gradually move towards 100%. But if you talked more about the positives, the 70% might even retreat.

I trust I have made my point.


  1. The Stavors Niarchos Foundation has announced that Yannis Trochopoulos, who used to be the director of Veria Central Public Libary, will be the CEO of the currently constructed Stavors Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre. The project will cost approximately €566 million and will be funded exclusively by the Foundation.

    1. Thank you for the links. I have looked at the 'project' and I stand in awe!

    2. @Christos Y: Thank you very much! Such a positive wonderful message.
      So well fitting within the post of today.

  2. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is not unlike the Rockefeller and Carnegie Foundations.

    The Varia Library has also received support from SNF, I can't help but wonder if it played a part it getting the Gates Foundation Award, as in "hey, Bill & Linda here's something you might like" - the SNF support for Varia Library was mentioned in To Vima last year Creative Summer in the Public Library of Veria

    SNF has established a €100M fund for Greek Crisis Relief Antoinette - I see that SNF pays for some of Baroume's expenses. In 2012 it made 96 social welfare grants in Greece - maybe you could make a composite video about of some of them.

    The Onassis Foundation Cultural Centre in Athens was opened a few years ago.

    Are there any other Greek shipping magnate foundations we ought to be celebrating.


    1. Eugenides Foundation, that created Athens Planetarium, is important as well. The foundation was established in 1956, two years after Eugene (or Evgenios) Eugenides' death.

      And what a coincidence Onassis Cultural centre, Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre and Eugenides Foundation are on Syngros Avenue, an avenue named after Andreas Syngros.

      The Goulandris family is not to be forgotten.Nicholas& Dolly Goulandris created the Museum of Cycladic Art, Angelos& Niki Goulandris created the Goulandris Natural History Museum and Basil& Eliza Goulandris created the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros.

      Many people consider Latsis Foundation important.

      Arguably though, the commonly called National Benefactors (mostly from Epirus) in the 19th and early 20th century played a much more important role in Greece's development than contemporary foundations do.

      P.S. Mr. Kastner, did you know that the major donor for the construction of the Musikverein was Nikolaus Dumba?

    2. Christos Y

      No, I did not know about Nikolaus Dumba but, then, it doesn't surprise me. There have been many Greek/Austrian connections. Herbert von Karajan, for one, was of Greek decent (Karaiannis?). The Pappas-family is among Austria's foremost (and richest!) industrialists. I might even add that the Vice-Mayor of Vienna is Maria Vassilakou but that's a completely different (political) story...

  3. Christos Y - I enjoyed the Goulandris Family links and the Nikolaus Dumba link led me to a streaming of Arrau playing Schubert Sonata D.960 - what could be better than that - thanks.

    Do you know if Stavros Niarchos had any association with Buddhism. I saw that SNF funds a more than a few institutions in northern Thailand with strong Buddhist links - a boys home, a university that provides secular training to monks and a number of others. I'm always looking for financial support for a Buddhist welfare institution in India in which I have a personal interest.


    1. Canutely King, I 'm glad you liked the links:-)

      Sorry, I don't know if Stavros Niarchos or any other member of his family had any association with Buddhism.

      I searched for that on google (in greek) and there were no results either.

      Good luck with the financial support seeking!

  4. Christos Y - thanks for doing a search in Greek, that was very kind of you.

    I shall contact SNF and tell them about our project. I already asked Bill and Linda Gates, but there's no ITC, education or communicable diseases involved, so no luck there - so far.

    I'm not very good at fund raising (in fact I'm hopeless), but gestures such as yours give me the courage to keep trying.