Marianna V. Vardinoyannis’ action in “ELPIDA” & “ORAMA ELPIDAS” Associations
Marianna V. Vardinoyannis founded the “ELPIDA” Association of Friends of Children with cancer in 1990, aiming to help and support children suffering from cancer, as well as their families. Since then, she is the President of the Association.
She has succeeded to raise awareness in Mediterranean and Balkan societies on issues regarding childhood cancer, to mobilize volunteering and donations, to reverse prejudice against cancer and to achieve significant goals through wide fundraising campaigns including telethons, cultural events, exhibitions, artwork auctions and bazaars: the first Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in Greece at the “Agia Sophia” Children’s Hospital in Athens in 1993 where more than 780 children have received bone marrow transplants, the first Oncology Children Hospital in Greece in 2010 and the Bone Marrow Donor Registry “Orama Elpidas” in 2014. These medical facilities have given the possibility to children from Greece and neighbor countries to be cured from cancer and other neoplastic diseases. Until then, children suffering from cancer in the area were condemn to their tragic fate because no State could not cover the high cost of therapy, 500.000 $, for each child that had to go to the USA or to Europe for treatment. The hospital was offered to the Greek State in order to give the opportunity of access to all children regardless their financial capacity and the Hellenic Republic named it as Oncology Children Hospital “Marianna V. Vardinoyannis-ELPIDA” in order to honour her contribution. It receives the 80% of the childhood cancer cases in Greece, about 300 new cases annually, and 3 out of 4 children get completely cured.
Additionally, more than 1800 families of sick children have been hosted for 1-2 years time at the Guest House “ELPIDA” which was inaugurated in 1999. The families receive invaluable psychological support by the ELPIDA experts throughout the duration of their child therapy and often financial support whenever it is necessary. The Guest House accepts children ranging from a few months old to the age of 17 years old, for periods of one month to 24 months, depending on how long the treatment lasts. It also hosts children from the Balkan as well as the Mediterranean Region such as Albania, Cyprus, Serbia, etc.
In 2013, Mrs. Vardinoyannis initiated the “Affiliations Program” based on her belief that modern technology, international co-operation and responsibility towards young generations can eliminate borders between countries when a child should be saved and knowledge for therapies should be free and available for any case. This program gives the chance to the Oncology Hospital of ELPIDA to affiliate with children hospitals of other countries, to co-operate with them and exchange valuable knowledge. It is a reflection of Mrs. Vardinoyannis’ vision to create a chain of hope between children’s hospitals around the world. Her basic concern is when a child suffers from cancer to be able to stay in its homeland, not to travel to other countries in order to be cured. Therefore, when a child faces a rare form of cancer, ELPIDA Association and the members of ELPIDA’s network try to help it, to prevent its transfer from one country to another, to save time which is precious for the life of the child and financial resources of the family or the State, to ensure that the treatment can be done at the hospital of its country and close to the child’s family and friends. The child should never leave its country in such difficult moments but it must feel safe next to the people that it love. Up to now, ten hospitals or foundations that co-operate with hospitals have joined the program, which are the following: 1. The Sick Kids Hospital (Canada), 2. Pediatric Hematology Oncology and Research Hospital (Turkey), 3. Thalassemia Merkezi Center for Children (Azerbaijan), 4. Children’s cancer Hospital (Egypt), 5. Mother & Child Institute (Serbia), 6. Karaiskakeio Foundation (Cyprus), 7. Chaim Sheba Medical Center (Israel), 8. Sidra Medical & Research Centre (Qatar), 9. Lalla Salma Foundation (Morocco), 10. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (USA). More hospitals will follow from countries such as the United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, and other.
The same year, Mrs. Vardinoyannis conceived the idea of creating the “Global Electronic Cloud Network –HOPE FOR CHILDREN” adding a new active vision to “ELPIDA” Association, and a new project parallel with the “Affiliations Program”. This project aims at the cooperation of children’s cancer hospitals and organizations to support urgent and rare cases of childhood cancer through Internet. It will create cross-country lifesaving resources and will offer open access to therapy through an integrated system combining databases for enrolling young patients with cancer. The network’s electronic platform is under construction in co-operation with SAP SE (Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing), the German multinational software corporation. As soon as the platform is ready, the program’s information will be disseminated around the world and hospitals will be invited to become members and upload their medical data and patients’ clinical history. The first members of this network will be the affiliated hospitals. The platform will adjust protocols, combine experience, create data analysis for decision on individual effective treatment, trying to save as many children around the world as possible, preventing them from being transferred to other countries in order to be cured.
At the beginning of 2014, Mrs. Vardinoyannis announced the launching of the Bone Marrow Donors Campaign and the opening of the Bone Marrow Donor Registry “ORAMA ELPIDAS” , aiming at gathering 100.000 volunteer donors in the first years of operation, that will help children find transplants easier and quicker which is very essential for their life. In 20 months, more than 20.000 volunteer bone marrow donors have been registered to “ORAMA ELPIDAS”.
At the same time she is working for the creation of the first “National Transplant Center for Children” in Greece to be specialized in transplants of liver, lungs and kidneys as well as for a “Center of Excellence” for specialized research on childhood cancer.
During the last 25 years of action next to the children with cancer, she organized several events to spread the message that cancer can be defeated, to promote networking between scientists and NGOs in Europe and to raise public awareness:
The first European Conference “Europe with a human face – Aid for the sick child”, held under the auspices of the EU Commissioner, Padraig Flynn (Athens–March 1994).
The European “ELPIDA” Awards, under the auspices of the EU Commissioner, Padraig Flynn. They were granted in 1996 and in 2001, to three nominees each time and they included a financial prize. The award ceremonies were held under the auspices of the former President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Konstantinos Stephanopoulos.
The celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the ELPIDA’s Bone Marrow Transplant Unit in 2003 with the presence of the former President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, and of the 20th Anniversary of the BMTU in 2013 with the presence of the H.E. President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Karolos Papoulias. On these occasions, she honored supporters of children with cancer.
Scientific Conferences on the Transplant of Haemopoietic Cells at the Megaron Athens Concert Hall in 2003, in 2010 and in 2013.
A First Aid Supply Unit for medication, food and clothing for the earthquake victims in the Municipality of Fili in Athens (September 2000).
The reconstruction of the Rehabilitation Unit “18+” for drugs and alcohol addicted persons, at the Daphni Psychiatric Hospital of Athens, which was destroyed by the Athens earthquake.
Throughout her activities, she raised funds for the creation of the Children’s Ward at the “Aswan Heart Center” in Egypt established by the “Magdi Yacoub Heart Foundation”, in order to provide free medical services to children in need with heart problems.