Ecogenia: Unapologetically Ambitious

Damianos Chrysochoidis, one of Ecogenia’s founding team members, reflects on how the idea of civic service inspired and captivated him as a young Greek, and shares the story of his experience and growth with Ecogenia from the organization’s early stages to its establishment.
February 3, 2020 – a day that marked the genesis of an idea that Lia had nurtured for many years. An idea that would become a catalyst for change in Greece – the birth of Ecogenia.
As a student, I found myself abruptly ending my Erasmus program in Poland due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Uncertainty emerged and the future was looking too unpredictable to cope with. Instead of letting the pessimism give in, I felt an urgent call to envision a brighter future, both for my personal journey and the world at large. Lia’s AmeriCorps service testimony, Greece’s financial crisis, and the environmental challenges, formed a compelling narrative that advocated for the necessity of an organization like Ecogenia. In a few words, when Lia presented her vision, I answered the call.
Ecogenia in Joshua Park during a capacity building mission with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) in March 2023
In those initial months, Lia wanted to grasp the challenges facing Greek youth and their perception of a program like Ecogenia. I reached out to friends, forming a network of about 20 young individuals. These focus groups not only yielded invaluable feedback but also laid the foundation for the name ‘Ecogenia’ – a term embodying the essence of our aspirations: Home, Generation, Family. A shoutout to Giorgos P. and Amalia L. for contributing to this defining moment. Shortly after, Stefanos joined, paving the way for an exploration of starting an Ecogenia pilot program in Chania (which indeed happened 2 years later). But Lia needed another partner in-crime, a person that is going to be as much responsible as she is to bring this idea into life, a co-founder, and she found that in Erika and as time progressed, Celia, Melina, Eleni, Angelos, and Vassilis joined, ensuring the continuous growth and expansion of Ecogenia.
The Ecogenia team on a staff retreat in February 2023 in Litochoro, Pieria
Initially tasked with financial, youth outreach, and translation duties, my role evolved into visual storytelling when Celia suggested I edit our first Ecogenia video. This marked the beginning of my responsibility for crafting all of Ecogenia’s videos, offering me profound insights into impactful storytelling. Juggling various roles in the organization, from measuring the impact on cohort members to handling Human Resources tasks, I embraced versatility – a quality I cherish the fact I could develop during my tenure.
Over three and a half years, I witnessed a whirlwind of developments, mirroring the transformative journey of Ecogenia. From a young person with zero work experience, I emerged having navigated diverse tasks, adapting to new challenges while learning from my (many) mistakes. Most significantly, Ecogenia instilled in me an unapologetically ambitious spirit. I recall the skepticism surrounding Ecogenia’s inception – people claiming it couldn’t thrive in Greece or dismissing it as “too ambitious.” Today, after three successful pilot programs, I can confidently affirm that even in a country grappling with youth unemployment, corruption, and pessimism, organizations like Ecogenia can indeed flourish.
During the 2022 Ecogenia service project pilot on Education in Chania
As my almost four years with Ecogenia drew to a close, the highest point of my time in the organization arrived with the creation of The European Grand Tour Documentary. Across three European countries – Italy (Bologna, Trento, Bolzano), France (Paris, Angers), and Greece (Dorida) – the documentary showcased unique civic service experiences. Engaging with around 40 individuals, including civic service members, funders, staff members of hosting organizations, and political leaders, I witnessed a common thread: a resolute commitment to creating a more equal and sustainable society.
Damianos in Bolzano, Italy producing a documentary on European civic service for the Erasmus+ project "European Grand Tour"
This realization intensified during the European Parliament announcement in Brussels, Belgium, where all hosting organizations, Ecogenia included (with a special nod to Erika), declared the imperative to reinforce the civic service model across Europe. Looking back, the significance of organizations like Ecogenia became clear, and I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for being co-responsible for its creation. This sentiment amplifies knowing that Ecogenia is set to make an even greater impact through a fire prevention program in Litochoro, addressing the escalating fire catastrophes that Greece faces each summer.
In essence, Ecogenia has not only reshaped the narrative of my personal journey but has become a beacon of transformative change, proving that ambitious dreams can indeed thrive against all odds.e