CYAers Help Protect Attica’s Vital Wetlands: Vravona Cleanup with HELMEPA
Earlier in the semester, 9 CYA students, Michael (Mike) Pakuris, Sophia Musiak, Lydia Bontrager, Blaike Cheramie, Alexandra (Alex) Gallaher, Veda Chandwani, Annelisea Brand, Genevieve Fisher, and Abigail Brown participated in a cleanup of the Vravona wetlands with HELMEPA, the Hellenic Marine Protection Association.
HELMEPA’s mission is to engage the public, especially young people, in environmental protection and education. Beyond frequent beach and wetland cleanup events, HELMEPA offers classes to children about the environment, ecosystems in Greece, and how to protect the planet. This collaboration between CYA and HELMEPA was made possible by the work of CYA’s Executive Director of Student Affairs, Nadia Melinioti, who organized the event.
Greeted by the Assistant Executive Coordinator of HELMEPA himself, Costas Triantafillou, the student volunteers spent the afternoon clearing out trash and waste from Vravona’s vital wetlands, while learning important information about Greece’s landscape and how to protect it from pollution. Vravona, a prominent location in antiquity, has been recognized as a protected natural site by the European Union Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 European network of protected areas. Included in this network are sites that house important ecosystems and wildlife habitats that are in danger of destruction. Vravona’s unique placement on the Erasinos River renders it suitable for many rare and sensitive ecosystems in Attica. For this reason, maintaining Vravona’s natural landscape is of the utmost importance.
In total, CYAers filled 5 large bags with trash, including 40 plastic bags, multiple pairs of shoes, and 4 items of clothing. CYA’s participation in the recent wetlands clean-up provided the students the opportunity not only to help remove waste from the sensitive ecosystem but also to make connections in the environmental field.
Student volunteers were able to meet and discuss with environmentalists from all over the world, and they learned about interesting internship positions available to them during their time in Athens. “This is exactly the type of international exchange I was going for” CYAer Blaike Cheramie declared after speaking with the Executive Officer of the Australian Marine Environment Protection Association (AUSMEPA), Ms. Julie Nash. The cleanup also provided opportunities for continued participation in environmental activities with HELMEPA. Abigail Brown, a student who took part in the cleanup, went on to volunteer with HELMEPA throughout the semester after establishing a connection at the event.
CYA students enjoyed spending the day outside in the breathtaking Greek landscape while helping to keep it free from waste. Thank you to all who took part and gave their time to this worthy cause!