Last night we witnessed one of the best ever events organised by the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund in support of people in multiple needs.
Once again this was organised at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, attracting nearly 350 members, guests and their friends from the international shipping fraternity mainly in the United Kingdom and Greece.
The reception room was bursting to its seams during the pre-dinner drinks – quite a unique atmosphere with all participants in a jovial mood.
After the drinks all guests were asked to proceed to the Westminster Ballroom for dinner.
When all were seated and everything was set the very eloquent president of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund John M. Hadjipateras delivered not just the usual fit to the occasion annual speech, but a very powerful one including the very serious migrants problems the island and all Greek islands face in the Eastern Aegean Sea, the relentless provocations by Turkey. Special mention was made of the islet of Panagia which lately has become the focal point given the despicable actions by Turkish forces intruding on Greece’s and Europe’s airspace pushing the patience of the locals and that of all Greeks worldwide to the limit. The words of Mr Hadjipateras can be read in full at the end of this report*.
Approaching next year the 75th anniversary of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund the president stressed the work that has been done after the successful involvement of the islanders with respect to the calls of big ferries at the Oinoussai port, the Merchant Marine Academy issue and he thanked all for continuing the fundraising for the various purposes which each individual identifies.
Just about the entire Square Mile was present supporting the event with representatives/guests from classification societies, P&I clubs, shipbroking firms, accountancy companies, marine insurers, legal practices, marine equipment & products and services. Among all these were DNV GL, Bureau Veritas, Lloyd’s Register, the American P&I Club, JLT, the London P&I Club, Moore Stephens LLP, the Chartworld Group, Seadock Marine Agencies, Seascope Insurance Services, TLT LLP, Fidentia Insurance Brokers, the West of England P&I, Victoria Steamship, Anemoi Marine Technologies and many others.
Good to see so many young people who continue to have an interest in the maritime adventure networking and participating and behaving as equal amongst equals!
The food and drinks were excellently selected as well as the service by the hotel’s personnel. DJ Avgoustinos continued, as last year round, to excite us with his music selection and fill the dancing floor…
The 14 raffle prizes were a treat for all winners and more importantly a big thanks to those offering same!
The scope of the evening too exceeded that of last year as it included the real charitable work and issues we have never heard in detail before such as “Volunteering in Chios” and many photographs of the work done as well as important visits and events on those blessed islands. More contributions in the form of advertising denotes the support of the international shipping community towards this charitable society; excellent!
Obviously most of you have read the acknowledgements in this year’s programme; one of them goes again to Stavros Haidemenos for his help in sourcing and supplying the Skinos Mastiha drink-shots in the appropriate glasses and temperature… Now you can see why we are all in high mental spirits…
Continue to visit the charity’s website www.oinoussaibenevolentfund.
See you all next year at the 75th anniversary event!
*Mr. John Hadjipateras’ speech:
Ladies and gentlemen, friends of Oinoussai,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this year’s Oinoussian Ball.
On behalf of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund, I thank you all for being here, and for your continued support towards our cause.
The Fund has now been operating for 74 years, since 1942, offering financial assistance to poor and sick compatriots, whether on the island of Oinoussai or in wider Greece.
Over the decades, the Fund has also supported the educational, cultural and athletic institutions on the island.
Having completed my first eighteen months as President, I’d like to update you on the main events which have recently affected our island. But before that, I should mention three recent events, coincidentally all starting with the letter B, which are likely to change the world we know. Firstly, the Baltic Exchange, which is now in the hands of SGX, Singapore. Secondly, we have Brexit…………or do we?, and finally, we have the Buffon Blond, who will be moving into the White House early next year. Indeed interesting and challenging times ahead.
Going back to our Benevolent Fund and Oinoussai, perhaps the most important and significant development was the commencement of the direct ferry service from the port of Piraeus, last November. As soon as the new jetty on Oinoussai was completed, Blue Star Ferries began a twice weekly service, linking the island with Piraeus, via Mytilene, Psara and Chios. This has put Oinoussai well and truly on the map and has greatly facilitated the delivery of goods and building materials to the island.
Secondly, as I mentioned lastyear, Oinoussai did not escape from the migrant crisis which affected Greece and all of Europe. Being situated only a few miles from the Turkish coast and the port of Cesme, the island became a regular stepping stone for migrants seeking a route to Western Europe. During 2015, approximately 20,000 people passed through the island – an island which has one village with a winter population of around 500 people. Clearly the island’s resources were stretched, despite the migrants usually spending only around 48 hours on Oinoussai before being transported to Chios. Several young Oinoussians of the diaspora volunteered to help in the migrant camps in Chios and at the front part of your programmes there is an interesting first-hand account by Costas and Sophia Hadjipateras of their volunteer work experiences.
Thirdly, there were territorial claims and provocation by the Turkish military around Oinoussai’s eastern-most islands of Panayia and Vatos. Whilst Vatos is uninhabited, Panayia’s island accommodates the Greek military look-out and guard-house, as well as a small chapel dedicated to the Zoodochos Pighi, or Life-Giving Spring. In order to protect the boundaries of Oinoussai, which are also the boundaries of the Diocese of Chios, a boundary of Greece and a boundary of Europe, the Metropolitan Bishop of Chios instigated a campaign to nominate the small chapel as a place of national pilgrimage.
Normally a miracle has to be recorded in order to become a place of pilgrimage. In this case, the awe-inspiring achievement of this remote chapel was deemed to be the contribution of Oinoussian shipping to the area and to the Greek nation as a whole. This was unanimously agreed by the Greek Orthodox Church and a decree was passed by the Greek Parliament in July of this year. The Bishop of Chios has nominated the first wardens of the chapel to be the ambassadors of Oinoussai on a local, national and international level. As ambassadors for the Oinoussian diaspora overseas, the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund has been appointed one of the six trustee wardens. A celebratory service was held on the island in August and some photos from the event can be found in your programmes.
Returning now to the activities of our Fund, we continue to find that, whilst capital controls remain in place, we are of great use, being situated outside of Greece and thus able to offer assistance to compatriots who, for example, have had their pensions slashed, or who require medical assistance which the state can no longer subsidize, or whose medications have drastically increased in cost.
We are pleased to report that the island’s infirmary and doctor’s surgery are presently undergoing a complete refurbishment, fully financed by the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund. This important project is critical for the infrastructure of the island.
Furthermore, due to the state’s cutbacks, the schools on the island, including the prestigious Naval Academy for Merchant Mariners, have all suffered due to lack of financial and material resources.
Recognising the importance of these institutions to life on the island, the Fund has continued to proudly support the Subsistence Fund which provides subsidised meals for the students of the Naval Academy. This Fund was set up and run by the late Alexandros Lygnos and the current mayor, Captain Stefanos Voyatzis. Sadly, Alex Lygnos, passed away in August, and is greatly missed by all of us. He passionately supported the pastoral care of the students of the Naval Academy and gave so much of his own time to ensure that the reputation of the Naval Academy was upheld.
By focussing on the medical and educational facilities on the island, the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund is helping to keep a strong sense of community, always in good and close cooperation with our brother organisation, the Society of Friends of Oinoussai (SFO), and the Municipal Office.
Our thanks, as always, go out to SFO’s President, Mr George Daniil, and the Mayor of Oinoussai, Captain Stefanos Voyatzis, for their continued support and cooperation.
I also thank all the members of the Executive Committee for their support and assistance in the smooth running of the Fund.
The Ladies Entertainment Committee deserve all of our great thanks for their tireless efforts in putting together this wonderful evening.
It is worth noting that the voluntary nature of both of these Committees and of the Membership all confirm the Fund’s purpose.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our members, fellow-Oinoussians and you all, who by being here tonight are showing your support and faith in our cause. On behalf of the Oinoussai Benevolent Fund, I thank you all for joining us tonight.
Finally, I remind you that next year, the Fund will be celebrating its 75th anniversary and I do hope that you will all join us for a very special celebration. Details will be announced early next year.
Meanwhile, please enjoy this evening’s food, wine and entertainment.