Dr. Stefanos Chandakas, the Founder and President of HOPEgenesis, one of the best companies to watch for in 2021. HOPEgenesis is a non-profit organization that is constantly growing uphill to fulfill its mission. Today ranked amongst the prestige, this organization has an inspiring story behind the inception and the motivation that drives the team to work relentlessly every day.
The Journey to Establishment
Born in Athens, 1972, Dr. Chandakas received his medical degree in medicine from the University of Athens. Later he completed his Ph.D. distinction with a degree. He also has studied in London at the Imperial College of Medical Business Administration and earned his MBA in 2002. Dr. Chandakas is an obstetrician, a gynecologist, with training in England and America, and specialized in laparoscopic surgery, robotic surgery, and infertility. Moreover, he is one of the youngest gynecologists in England’s National Health System in 2001 (NHS). He is a member of the scientific board and the Chairman of the board of directors of Mitera Hospital and a member of the Medical Scientific Committee of the Startup OramaVR, which is focusing on changing current medical education through virtual reality surgical tutorials.
In 2007, he developed an intense charity action with the NGO ‘Omada Aigaiou’—associated to date—for providing free health services to the isolated islands in Greece. While traveling to the Aegean islands with a group of doctors and volunteers to offer free health care, he noticed that numerous pregnant women were suffering from little to no medical attention during their pregnancy. Due to this many of them postponed or even declined the possibility of motherhood. Being a doctor and a European citizen in the 21st century, Dr. Chandakas could not accept this reality.
Besides, researches and statistical data have been hinting towards the decline in birth rates in Greece threatening the future. It is estimated that by 2050 Greece’s population will have fallen to 6.500.000-8.000.000 citizens from 10.800.000 million today. According to official data of the Hellenic Statistical Authority, in 2019 Greece reported 83.763 births compared to 124.965 deaths, resulting in a dramatic population decline.
Dr. Chandakas established HOPEgenesis in 2015, with a mission to reverse the low birth rate and offer free medical care and treatment to women living in isolated regions in Greece. This non-profit organization is enabling underprivileged women to have access to one of the organization’s affiliated Medical Units and be properly monitored during their pregnancies by a team of obstetricians-gynecologists—free of cost.
Eight Program Pillars of Mission
HOPEgenesis motive and actions are derived from the concepts of equality, human dignity, and human rights. After being faced with the reality of Greece undergoing a demographic deadlock that must be dealt with immediately it was only human to offer help in the tough situation. The non-profit is operating under the principle of—Together we give hope to mothers who give hope to our future.
HOPEgenesis fulfills its mission through the following program pillars:
- Adoptions of frontier regions and remote islands: It covers all costs of pregnancy, childbirth, transport, and accommodation of pregnant women at affiliated hospitals and medical centers, by ensuring that no woman is deprived of equal rights to maternity due to her place of residence or financial status.
- Provision of in vitro fertilization (IVF) services: Under this program, women who face fertility issues have access to IVF treatments. This program is being implemented in 28 islands and the treatment is provided by collaborating with large fertility centers in Greece.
- Remote medical monitoring of the program’s beneficiaries: By leveraging the advanced and pioneering medical Bluetooth devices and a specially-designed platform, the team can monitor the safety of pregnant women and their babies at all times and aid help whenever needed.
- Preschool children’s activity centers and nursery schools: Under this program, HOPEgenesis is establishing public preschool children’s activity centers in areas that they operate. The construction and staff of preschool are managed by the organization.
- Researching to document and set out the birth deficit issue: The organization assigns well-known academic institutions to research and record the causes and aspects of the birth deficit in Greece, to find comprehensive solutions to resolve it and spread awareness.
- Planning of the “Neighborhood Nanny” program: As HOPEgenesis established preschool and children activity centers, this program aims to support the working mothers in urban and semi-urban areas, as well as help Greek women combine motherhood and employment. This program is designed in collaboration with the General Secretariat of Family Policy and Gender Equality, the Region of South Aegean, and local municipalities.
- Organization of meetings and workshops: HOPEgenesis arranges several workshops and meeting to train different authorities, as well as inform and raise consciousness about the underlying issues and their consequences in Greece, not just to the population but worldwide.
- Participation in the “Renaissance” program in frontier regions: Through this program, the aim is to reinforce local communities and native populations, and is being implemented under the auspices of H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, on the islands of Antikythera, Gavdos, Kastellorizo and the Diapontian Islands (Othonoi, Ereikoussa, Mathraki).
“We ensure that we adhere to our values through our monthly board meetings, where we review each action concerning HOPEgenesis’ general mission,” stated Dr. Chandakas.
Benefits of the Program
Since its inception, HOPEgenesis has expanded its foothold in more than 350 remote regions, 317 local communities, as well as on 40 islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas while it is in the process of including 102 new regions from the Regional Units of Ioannina, Preveza, Imathia, Kilkis, Pieria, Serres, and Lakonia. Currently, it collaborates with 27 medical centers in Athens—both public &private—the staff consists of more than 80 doctors, midwives, and other health professionals located in 15 different places across Greece. The non-profit has been successful in aiding the lives of more than 420 families through its programs and positively affected the socio-economic welfare of the social communities.
Women have free access to IVF treatments in 28 islands. Apart from this, HOPEgenesis accepts pregnant women until the 18th week of pregnancy or the ones who wish to become pregnant and permanently reside in the organization’s operating region so that the team can rush to aid whenever necessary.
Free services to pregnant women cover,
- The cost of childbirth, transport, and accommodation at a location near an affiliated medical center during the week of childbirth/ during the pregnancy.
- Medical care to pregnant women at a reputable hospital with reliable obstetrical staff and suitable medical infrastructure.
- Provides coverage for any emergency that may occur during pregnancy.
The efficiency of the Program
By far, HOPEgenesis has been the only organization dedicating its efforts towards the grave situation in Greece. Although, its contributions speak volumes and as aforementioned, aided hundreds of families. HOPEgenesis has been able to keep the issue vocal and on the frontline of news through constant surveys and domestic/international coverage. Also, the relentless efforts have helped increase the birth rates in the isolated areas of Greece.
To understand their growth and the issue that needs attention, HOPEgenesis uses its own metrics by including an annual or biannual appraisal and rating system for each project, the same is conveyed to its sponsor and strategic partners. It also equally participates in workshops where they evaluate its contribution in comparison to other non-profits. Moreover, one of the major sponsors of HOPEgenesis evaluated the efforts through Social Return on Investment (SROI) methodology and the result indicated that for every 1 euro invested, a social value equivalent of 3.80 euros was created. “This result gives a very clear picture of the efficiency of our program,” Dr. Stefanos adds.
Social Media and Promotion of Volunteerism
Social Media is honed to be a great tool for marketing and creating awareness—especially in today’s time. HOPEgenesis has leveraged the platforms as powerful communication channels. Equal efforts are dedicated to creating social media posts and campaigns, which has resulted in a wide media presence for the organization. It operates in more than 350 regions in Greece with stakeholders internationally, making social media an important medium to reach the targeted audience and inform people about the current operations. Social media also promoted volunteerism and helps HOPEgenesis’ initiative reach people who want to help.
Currently, the non-profit has a large group of people, several companies, public authorities, and organizations have equally supported the efforts and brought happy children’s voices back in the country through different categories.
“We strongly believe that people nowadays are much more sensitive and aware of their social duties, and these figures show the inclining trend in social responsibility,” said Dr. Chandakas.
Pandemic is No Excuse
The unprecedented crisis of COVID-19 further burdened the already exhausted healthcare system of the Greek public health sector. Despite the challenges, HOPEgenesis did not halt its operations. There were several obstacles due to pandemic like no accommodation support, lack of transportation, and funding issue—granted the economic disruption. However, the organization welcomed every woman who needed help during their pregnancy. Moreover, the organization used the quarantine time to further augment its services and efforts while creating a new database format to ease the communication with the stakeholders.
The organization also established Remote Medical Monitoring of Beneficiaries (individual telemedicine) that were operated through advanced Bluetooth medical devices and a specially designed platform (mobile app). Through this app, the medical information resulting from the measurements of the beneficiaries is easily transferred directly to HOPEgenesis’ doctors, ensuring the safety of pregnant women and their babies at all times.
Together We Can Change the Narrative
HOPEgenesis acknowledges that the pandemic was challenging for all—independently, socially, and financially. Despite the situation, there were several people involved in social welfare and also in the HOPEgenesis mission. Expressing his gratitude, Dr. Chandakas says, “We are grateful to have so many “#Filos” (friends) and volunteers, who, despite the crisis, support us in every way they can. Our message would be that together we can make a change even during the most difficult times.”
“Our future goal is to work collaboratively with institutional and state authorities, EU and International academia, to establish a coherent strategy to reverse the birth deficit in Greece.”