Project Spora

Watch this video to learn more about the situation on Lesvos, how locals are stepping up to the challenge, and how Afya can help support their efforts

The surge of refugees into Europe represents one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time and a significant challenge to European unity and humanitarian will.

Greece’s geographic location places it on the front line of this crisis, with its border islands forced to take on a critical first responder role.

Severely limited by the ongoing financial crisis and crippling austerity measures, Greece is ill-equipped to handle the extensive humanitarian needs arising from the influx of refugees.

The most urgent needs are those that affect the health and well-being of the 2,000-6,000 refugees landing on the shores of Lesvos each day — sick, injured, traumatized, pregnant — after fleeing the atrocities of war and making the harrowing trek across the Aegean sea.



What is Project SPORA?

Like so many others, Danielle Butin, Founder and Executive Director of The Afya Foundation, has been profoundly moved by the Syrian refugee crisis and the related humanitarian failure unfolding before the world’s eyes.  With much of the media focusing on horrific images of war-torn cities and drowned children, and stories about the political, social and financial impact of the refugees on Europe, Danielle sought to understand the human side of the story.

She traveled to Athens and Lesvos, Greece in January 2016 to assess the situation and identify ways The Afya Foundation could help make a difference.  [Watch the video of Danielle’s trip].  While there, Danielle assembled a diverse group of Greek and American business, governmental and religious groups, all with the shared goal of supporting the Greek healthcare infrastructure and enabling Greeks to attend to the needs of both its people and the refugees arriving in droves each day.

The name of this initiative is Project Spora.  “Spora” means “sowing of seed” in Ancient Greek, and speaks to the collaborative approach to Afya’s work and its broad, diverse base of support.  Project Spora is proudly supported by:


By bolstering the Greek healthcare infrastructure, Afya’s Project Spora is sowing seeds of hope for dislocated refugees and selfless Greek humanitarians.

Zoi Livaditou

A 60 year old emergency care physician trained in diagnostics and urgent care medicine, Zoi has used her magnificent training to help people around the world, including Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Indonesia, Haiti and many more. The Port Police have asked her to run all diagnostics, triage and care for Coast Guard Boats doing search and rescue 24/7. She does this with almost no medical supplies. Her commitment to delivering care is soul deep and her expertise incomparable. She doesn’t sleep…every moment awake is a moment she dedicates to saving a life.

Stratis Pallis

This retired elder has chosen to spend his retirement (he was the Mayor of Mytilini) taking care of refugees. He and other retired colleagues and friends spend every day on the top of the cliff welcoming refugees to Lesvos with warm blankets, water and food. They are the elder caregivers and are proud to use their time welcoming people who are just like them-they lead by example and welcome all with an abundance of genuine warmth.

Panagiotis Proventzas

A proud and highly respected OBGYN, Panagiotis is the Medical Director of Lesvos’ only hospital, Mytilini.  Committed to delivering care to Greek citizens and refugees, he is in desperate need of all supplies and provided us with an extensive list from every department in his hospital to take back to NY and find for him.  He showed us a newly-renovated operating room with no equipment or operating room table; rooms for patient care exist, but they are devoid of beds and supplies. Despite the challenges he faces every day, he remains completely invested and optimistic that the situation will improve with better solutions and access to care for all.

Stratis Palaskas

Heralded for remarkable reporting of the refugee crisis at the biggest news agency in Greece, Stratis brings sensitivity and compassion to his story telling. Not afraid to trudge into the water, pull the boats ashore or sit on rocks with refugees in the camps, he seeks out truth and tells stories with an honest and compelling voice. He recently won an international award for his reporting of the refugee crisis. His grandfather traveled the road of the refugee from Turkey to Lesvos.  He thus believes all on the island are refugees, one and the same, and he brings this perspective to the distinctive voice he uses for reporting.