HOPEgenesis welcome newest family member on the island of Kasos

On October 4th, a healthy baby girl was born on Kasos, a small, remote Greek island with a population of just 990 people. This birth, which was supported by THI Canada and HOPEgenesis, is the third of a new program that was launched at the beginning of 2021 to help address some of the lowest birth rates in Greece. It is also the second birth on the island of Kasos following the birth of a baby boy on September 2nd. HOPEgenesis has also shared with us the happy news that we are expecting one more baby on Kasos before the end of 2021.

“Hope for Babies”, the THI Canada and HOPEgenesis program, aims to help young families with low income and limited access to healthcare services who live in remote areas of Greece bring to the world healthy babies. The program covers all pregnancy-related expenses, from medical tests to doctor visits and all birth-related expenses, including transport to and accommodation at the Maternity clinic. All program participants are monitored regularly by dedicated doctors and nurses, who offer them both medical advice and a sense of security during this special period in their lives.

Baby girl born on Kasos, Oct 2021

Baby girl born on Ag. Efstratios, May 2021

Baby boy born on Kasos, Sept 2021

With the support of THI Canada, HOPEgenesis has also provided the beneficiaries of the program with 15 telemedicine devices and tablets that help them monitor their and their babies’ health daily. HOPEgenesis has developed a specialized app, which allows expecting mothers to easily take their readings from telemedicine devices that are connected to tablets via Bluetooth, and keeps records of their readings over time. The results are then shared with their doctors to advise on any medication or medical care needed.

Below are pictures of some of the recipients while being trained on how to use their assigned devices.

Under its program “Greece against low-birth rate”, HOPEgenesis’ long-term goals include programs that will further help new families by providing child day-care and family support centres, creating employment opportunities, and offering the continued support new families require. As their isolated communities grow and their population increases, we can also look forward to new schools, children’s activities centres and new business growth strengthening the local economies. The young couples residing in these communities, who were at one point even considering moving, now have an important motive – some much-needed support – to stay and start their families at the place where they grew up themselves.  

New Leader Ambassador Marissa Papaconstantinou

Introducing THI Canada New Leaders Ambassador Paralympic Bronze Medalist Marissa Papaconstantinou

Being born without a right foot has never got in the way of Marissa Papaconstantinou pursuing what she wanted to achieve in life. Originally a soccer and basketball player, Marissa fell in love with track after being fitted for her first running prosthetic (blade) at the age of 12 at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (whom she is currently a proud ambassador for).

Marissa joined a local track club in Scarborough, the city she calls home, becoming a Canadian record holder just a year later. She competed in her first World Championships at 16 years of age, making it to the finals of both the 100m and 200m. At the 2016 Paralympics in Rio, Marissa finished 9th in the 100m but was disqualified during the 200m finals for stepping on the line. Seeking redemption at the 2017 World Championships, Marissa placed 6th in the 100m. Then while sprinting to the finish line in podium position in the 200m, Marissa tore her hamstring. Despite agonizing pain and heartbreak, she got up and finished the race in dramatic fashion, with the support of 40,000 cheering fans. Images from that moment went viral on social media all around the world.

Fully recovered from her injury, Marissa carried the momentum from a Canadian record T64 200m run set at the 2021 Toronto High Performance Twilight event to an incredible performance at the Tokyo Paralympics. Breaking the Canadian record again with a 27.08 second run in the T64 200m event, Marissa went on to win a Bronze Medal in the T64 100m event with another personal best and Canadian record time of 13.07 seconds.

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

When we asked her to share something that inspires her, Marissa provided us with the quote from Kobe Bryant: “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise”. It reminded us of an Aristotle teaching, that “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour. We can vouch that Marissa is a living example of living by courage, and for this she serves as an inspiration to us all!

Off the track, Marissa is studying sports media at Ryerson University with aspirations of becoming a sports broadcaster. She is also a proud dog mom to Myles, a cockapoo. Marissa is an experienced public speaker sharing her messages and experiences to youth about never giving up, resiliency, and believing anything is possible.

We are excited to be announcing Marissa Papaconstantinou’s new Ambassador role for The Hellenic Initiative Canada’s New Leaders section, and we look forward to working with her on our exciting future plans!