The State of California and Greece experience many of the same climate challenges and risks – wildfires, droughts, heat waves. While their respective political, social, and economic contexts differ, what is shared is a commitment to securing a viable and sustainable future for all, where citizens play an active role in building resilient communities, systems, and environments. Knowing this, what I set out to absorb and learn during our time with the California Conservation Corps was: what role does a youth Corps have in these efforts in California? And my hypotheses and hopes were confirmed. Indeed, the CCC goes beyond meeting critical capacity needs to address natural disasters and local conservation issues, to instead build resilient citizens and communities – with the State’s youth at the helm.
Civic service is integral to how one practices citizenship in the United States, and in many ways has its origins in the Ancient Greek notions of democracy. I am proud to be a part of a team striving to provide the same opportunity to the young people of Greece – so that they lead the way towards a prosperous future through service. ~Melina Dunham, Development Manager of Ecogenia
During our visit, we had the privilege of visiting iconic landmarks, and were amazed by the cultural diversity that California has to offer. But what made our visit truly special was the warmth and generosity of the people we met across the state, but especially at the California Conservation Corps, who went out of their way to make us feel welcome and at home. Spending a week with the California Conservation Corps was truly a remarkable experience. I admire the commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and hard work that “the C’s” represent – this is something I would love to bring into our youth development programs in Greece. ~ Stefanos Papadosifos, Program Manager, Ecogenia
Our training in California by the California Conservation Corps, allowed us to witness what the future of our organization could look like and what it would feel like on a daily basis. The CCC took us to an inspiring journey where we saw a lot of young core members getting inspired about their CCC work and getting inspired as human beings. This impact can only be feasible through the hard work of the CCC organization, their meticulous program designing and execution and the care that the staff members share between them and the core members. We were left amazed by how passionate all the people involved with the organization were and it reinforced our deep desire to make Ecogenia a national program in Greece. I am determined to make the best out of this training by applying the findings, the systems and the culture in my work, so Ecogenia can reach into its vision.~ Damianos Chrysochoidis, Program Coordinator, Ecogenia
I was born and raised in the footprints of Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece, in a small town called Litochoro. From my early years I became a mountain enthusiast through my father who loved the mountains; my family has a deep tradition with the mountains. I have a vision and dream for the Olympus area, and think Ecogenia could be the missing link to help achieve this vision. Through Ecogenia, I had the opportunity to meet and learn from the best, the California Conservation Corps. Visiting California was always a dream of mine, simply for the incredible outdoors activities, but now I also had the one life chance to come for educational and training reasons. We managed to see central and southern California, to all sectors that the CCC is involved in, we drove 3000 km to learn firsthand how to create a similar program back in Greece.~Vasileios Diamantopoulos, Advisor and Project Coordinator for Litochoro, Ecogenia
Ecogenia’s recent trip to California was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity thanks to the California Conservation Corps. This knowledge exchange trip was a tool for me to implement the best ideas and practices learned there in the Greek landscape. I believe that we share the same values as the CCC – working with diverse communities, promoting social justice, equity and well-being is what we are trying to achieve back in Greece. ~Angelos Orfanidis, Communications Coordinator, Ecogenia
The California Conservation Corps staff exchange exceeded our expectations in every way. Everyone, from the CCC senior leadership team to their corps members and local partners, went above and beyond to share their personal experiences, expertise, and offer whatever insight they could to ensure this was a meaningful capacity building exercise for the Ecogenia team. We are inspired and humbled by the hospitality extended to us, and as a team we have – more than ever – a unified vision of what our program can aspire to become within the Greek landscape. ~Erika Spagakou, Co-founder, Ecogenia