A year after discussions took place to mobilise an Australian arm to The Hellenic Initiative (THI) – the philanthropic organisation established in the US to assist crisis relief and business entrepreneurship in Greece – THI’s executive director Mark Arey visited Melbourne and Sydney this week to prepare for the launch of THI Australia.
Darwin-born Andrew Liveris, president and CEO of the Dow Chemical Company, is the chairman of THI in the United States. Its board members include solicitor and chair of South Sydney NRL club Nick Pappas and Perth lawyer Nicholas Mitaros, who will be closely involved in rolling out the new Australian initiative.
Since its conception in 2012, THI, based in New York, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to Greek NGOs to provide crisis relief in the country, along with business entrepreneurship and venture capital programs, with the funds being provided by hundreds of individual US-based donors.
The idea now is for the same approach to be adopted in Australia. At a media briefing event at Melbourne’s Greek Centre, Mr Arey told Neos Kosmos that his visit was to discuss the “pitfalls and opportunities” facing THI Australia, and that the US not-for profit’s mission had always been to develop a global response to assisting Greece as it deals with the ongoing impact of the economic crisis.
“We’ve distributed something like $US2 million into direct crisis relief, and in investment in entrepreneurship – outside of the [$US7 million] Hellenic Entrepreneurship Awards which is a zero-interest loans program, and we’ve committed something like $US750,000 to help Greek entrepreneurs,” said Mr Arey.
“What we hear when we go to Greece is always the same – ‘we need capital and we need liquidity. We need to be able to borrow money’. And what THI is about is building those bridges.”
Last year THI invited fifteen new Greek companies to the US to explore venture capital opportunities. As a result, three of the start-ups received nearly $US 5 million worth of investment.
Through its crisis relief programs THI has funded NGOs such as SOS Villages Greece, Praksis and Doctors of the world.
THI is expected to make an announcement in June concerning the structure and programs of THI Australia and its board composition.