What is the relationship between a European Commission head, a philanthropist and a person who until his early adulthood spent summer family vacations on a cruise ship sailing at the Ionian Sea and docking at Katakolo Port in south-east Peloponnese?
This is Jimmy Jamar, a Belgian politician and Head of Belgium’s representation in the European Commission. Mr. Jamar is currently married to a Greek woman, Mrs. Ioanna Synadinou, bought a summer house in the island of Folegandros and published a new book entailing his letters to Lord Byron. Irrespective of these developments, Mr. Jamar is best known for his extensive philanthropic work in Greece.
On 1 March 2012 Mr. Jamar institutionalised a new charity organisation called ‘12 Hours for Greece.’ Under the new initiative, the Goodwill Ambassador of Greece invited renowned musicians and other representatives from the cultural and arts world to participate in fundraising events in Brussels. The most renowned charity action of the organisation has been the so-called ‘Fuel for Schools’ initiative. The initiative raises money in Brussels and directs them to cover fuel costs across schools located in the Evros region and adjacent territories in Northern Greece. More than 7.000 children and 40 schools heating costs have been covered on an annual basis from the above initiative in recent years.
For the year 2018, the 12 Hours for Greece organisation held a reception on 17 December in the Embassy of Belgium in Athens. The organisation had accumulated in previous year donations exceeding €105.000. Of them, €72.500 were directed to 26 families struck from last year floods in Mati and wildfires in Neos Voutzas regions. The remaining €30.000 were given to cover the requirements of the Fuel for Schools initiative in Northern Greece. For her part, Mrs. Aspasia Leventi,President of the International Foundation for Greece, will oversee the efficient allocation of these funds towards the schools of Northern Greece.
On 7 March 2019, the Goodwill Ambassador visited the region of Mati and donated bags with clothes and Belgian chocolates to victims of last year’s wildfires.
Ten days later, on 17 March 2019, the 12 Hours for Greece held another packed musical concert in central Brussels. The guests were entertained by the live performances of Lavrentis Machairitsas, Nikos Portokaloglou, Mirela Pachou and the guitar solos of Steve Tesser.
Recently, the Goodwill Ambassador reviewed the beginning of his philanthropic acts towards Greece stating that:
‘The initiative began in 2012 at the height of Greek financial crisis when I served my tenure in the Netherlands. During my travels, I received highly critical comments about Greece, comments entailing unsubstantiated and distorted truths. This situation incentivised me to take the initiative. I should not only promote Greece with positive words but I should also deliver something concrete to the country. It was during this time the idea of the concert fundraising events was born.’
‘My first thoughts were on music and culture. I consulted a nearby theatre to book it as a venue for the next event. The event occurred ten weeks later. During this time I made all the necessary amendments to set up a non-governmental and fully transparent organisation [the 12 Hours to Greece] and persuade all stakeholders involved to direct substantial help towards Greece.’
Further, the Belgian Commissioner acknowledges that:
‘These events progressively ameliorate Greece’s image in the world. The cultural background of the country contributes the most to this image. The ambience during these events is always positive and highly emotional. Of course fundraising is another positive development which cover important needs of the Hellenic society. During our first year, donations were directed towards the Smile of the Child. The second year, we directed donations in cooperation with ELEPAP, Doctors without Frontiers and Make a Wish to a school for children with disabilities. Since then we have been assisted by the Leventis Foundation to direct funds towards 40 schools in Northern Greece from Alexandroupolis to Florina.’
Finally, Mr. Jamar reassures the Greek population that crisis will soon be over, denoting that:
‘Your glorious history has bestowed you creativity and determination/persistence to succeed. You are relentless fighters. You have also created a new word – non-existent in any other language – the so-called Philhellenes. I belong to these people and I will do my best to help Greece and its people.’