Ms Vana Lavidas at the TOGETHER program: Disability Awareness Action Project- Awards Ceremony, September 24th 2013, at ACG – a DEREE Collaboration with MDA HELLAS to promote social responsibility among young adults.
ACG’s new Trustee, Ms Vana Lavidas, founder and chairman of the Board of Directors of MDA Hellas – an association for the care of people with neuromuscular disorders – talks to Touch Base about her work and vision, as well as her student years at DEREE.
What would you advise those considering studying at ACG? Why should they choose it?
I could find many reasons why someone should study at ACG. Trying to be as objective as I can, I would first like to talk about the valuable history of this College.
In my opinion, this could be better noticed if we take into consideration that ACG is the oldest and largest US accredited colleges in Europe, with a double accreditation from the NEASC (New England Association of School and College) and the OU (Open University). It’s a College that successfully combines the past with the present, the long-lasting tradition of Greece with a contemporary and international aspect of higher-level studies, offering at the same time a variety of possibilities for its students.
A large number of courses both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, along with the International Internships, the Study Abroad programs, as well as the high educational level of the teaching faculty – these all contribute to creating the ideal conditions for studying at ACG.
And, of course, I should emphasize the importance of the multi-cultural experience ACG offers, since it attracts students from more than 54 countries. As a result, there is a bonding and interaction among students, through a variety of clubs and activities that brings them together and helps them to later become members of a powerful alumni community.
So, for all the afore-mentioned reasons and many others, rather sentimental, I would definitely recommend ACG.
What impact did ACG have on you?
ACG taught me the value of time management. I strongly believe that if you know how to properly manage your time, you can achieve anything. Furthermore, and equally important, ACG taught me how precious and significant it is to work as a team. Having a Greek education, where a rather individualistic way of working is promoted, but then as a DEREE graduate, DEREE helped me realize one thing: In spite of a strong personal desire, there is great need for a responsible operator that will be able to motivate and encourage team effort, through the core of two main principles – consistency and effectiveness.
Please tell us why you think it is important as an alumna to be involved with The American College of Greece?
Education provides us with the platform for our future success – as an alumna it is important that the very best opportunities are available for future generations of students. By being involved with ACG I can help to make sure this happens.
Why did you decide to take on the role of Trustee of ACG?
My recent selection as a Trustee of the Board of ACG was a very big honor for me. I am really glad as I will have the chance to work with responsibility and share my inspirations with the children and the youth of tomorrow. I believe very strongly that investing in education is one of the best things we can do – individually and as a society.
What is you biggest accomplishment?
As far as my biggest accomplishment is concerned, I would say there are two answers. On the one hand, it’s my personal life, and I mean my family and being a mother of four children, and on the other hand on a professional level, the work I do for MDA Hellas.
Can you tell us about the work of MDA Hellas?
MDA Hellas is what I like to call my ‘professional child’ and a vision that came true. It’s part of a worldwide network of 185 MDA organizations. It was founded in Greece in 2000 having as its main purpose the improvement of the quality of life of people with neuromuscular disorders.
Up until now, we have established three Specialized Units for people with neuromuscular disorders, at the Aghia Sophia Hospital in Athens, the AHEPA Hospital in Thessaloniki and at the University Hospital at Rio, Patra. Our purpose is for our patients to enjoy upgraded medical services, relevant to their diseases, from specialized doctors.
Furthermore, the inauguration of our new “HOME”, a Youth Center that was designed according to the principals of palliative care for the needs of 800 families, registered to our Association, and their friends, is another dream that has been accomplished.
Our ‘HOME’ as we like to call it, is a place where our guests and friends can receive psychological support, therapeutic exercise but also, and more importantly, they can socialize and spend their free time creatively, by participating in many activities. At the moment, we have seven standard workshops, with great participation in all of them.
Moreover, we continuously support scientific research, collaborating with organizations such as the Choremio Research Laboratory, and we also organize scientific seminars and lectures in the field of neuromuscular diseases.
How has the economic crisis affected your work?
MDA Hellas is a nonprofit organization, which is not subsidized by the government and whose revenues rely only on private initiatives and company donations. Therefore, and due to the financial crisis, our income has been reduced similarly to other organizations. But, as far as I am concerned, crisis is an opportunity to become more productive, inventive, and more innovative.
Do you have a lot of interest from volunteers to help? How can one volunteer?
There are many people who come in contact with us in order to provide voluntarily help in any way they can. So, according to their time, availability and knowledge people can find a lot of ways to become part of our big family. All they need to do is to contact us at [email protected] or, at +30 210 3616980-1.
You’re a very active philanthropist. Which causes are close to your heart?
I am very sensitive to children who don’t have the opportunity to have a proper education, due to various obstacles. I believe that everyone should have opportunities in the educational system.
One of our many priorities at MDA is to support in every way we can our children in the field of their studies. Recently, one of our members, Jenny Leivadarou, managed to attend an international forum held in India. Right now, Jenny is studying at Cambridge University, with financial support from MDA. In the same way, Mary Goungor is studying at the moment at Paris-Sorbonne University.
What would you advise young people who are struggling to find work in Greece? Should they go abroad?
That is, I think, quite subjective. It really depends on the personality and on the character of a person, as things abroad aren’t that easy. Competition is quite strong and someone has to be prepared to work really hard. Nothing is easy when it comes to real life. But, the important thing is to be well prepared. If someone has the chance to study in his own country, at an international level of education, then everything is possible.
Did you have a role model/ mentor growing up?
The person that influenced me the most was my grandfather, since my father passed away when I was very young. My grandfather was a professor of Chemistry at the Technical University of Athens.
He is the one that made me realize the value of analyzing and evaluating things. He encouraged me to try to observe things first and then synthesize and combine them as a whole, in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
Later on, in my marriage, it was my husband, who also as a chemist and a businessman inspired me. He encouraged me to keep in mind the experience of my grandfather and what he taught me when I was a child. He supported me during life’s hard times and helped me overcome difficulties and obstacles with strength and belief. That is also one of the things we have tried to nurture in our children.
What inspires you daily?
My daily inspiration is the motto: ‘Every day is a new day,’ which I try to keep in mind in everyday life. I am the kind of person who enjoys doing and learning different and new things, always making one more step forward.
I like exercising; I am a proud marathon runner and I have been practicing karate for many years.
My children inspire me every moment, and MDA keeps reminding me that with patience, persistence and systematic work, everything can happen!
Vana Lavidas was born in Athens, attended Arsakeio Psychikou School in Athens and studied economics at DEREE College, graduating in 1979. She earned her MBA at the University of La Verne in 1981. In recent years, she has devoted herself to philanthropy and to social work. She is the chairman of the Board of Directors of MDA Hellas – an association for the care of people with neuromuscular disorders, which she founded in 2000. Vana Lavidas is the mother of four children and spends most of her spare time with her family, but also tries to find time to enjoy sports such as karate and running.
See also Alumna Success Story, Vana Lavidas
Ms Vana Lavidas with DEREE students
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