Our Greek Village immersion camp in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco has been going strong for ten years. During the past decade, this ministry has established itself as our most innovative camp experience for youth, immersing them in Greek language and culture classes that connect youth to their faith and ancestral heritage.

Gv2020 Sophia Pennino Scratch Art Age 10 Anchorage 1
Sophia Pennino (age 10), Holy Transfiguration in Anchorage, AK with her “scratch art” drawing from Kerkyra.

With the significant changes this spring and summer brought forth by the Coronavirus pandemic, the leadership team for Our Greek Village sprang into action to develop a comprehensive and engaging program for youth ages 4 – 18. Utilizing videoconferencing through Zoom, the Metropolis of San Francisco welcomed 120 participants from the west coast to the east coast who were taught by 17 skilled teachers during this four-week program. Our Greek Village quickly found a place in the hearts and homes of the campers and their families. Instruction was offered in Greek Language, Folk Dance, Family Cooking, Arts and Crafts, Photography, Culture and Traditions, and Zumba. Each camper received a care package that included arts and crafts supplies, camper t-shirt, a Greek Village face mask, and more!

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LEFT: Maria Morearty (age 17), Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco, CA, prepared a delicious Kreatopita. RIGHT: Raymond Kapsas (age 9) learns the Greek language is in his online class all the way from New Jersey.

“I continue to be inspired by the ministry of Our Greek Village and their ingenuity and resilience to create such a wonderful program for our youth, especially during these unprecedented times” remarked His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco. “I had the opportunity to witness this program in action and I was impressed with the quality of their curriculum and instruction, which was enthusiastically received by the participants and their parents.”

Gv2020 Nefeli Liakopoulos Age 6 Downey
Nefeli Liakopoulos (age 6), Saint George in Downey, CA, displaying her Karsaniko Kentima embroidery.

This year’s camp theme was the Ionian Islands, providing campers with the opportunity to take a virtual trip to Corfu, Kefalonia, Lefkada, Ithaki, Zakynthos and Kythira. The advanced language classes included poetry by the renowned Constantinos Cavafy, while Greek Dance instruction featured Manetas, Mermiggas/Koutsos and Balos. Family cooking brought everyone into the kitchen to enjoy regional favorites such as Strapazada, Riganata and Kreatopita. In Arts and Crafts, campers created Karsaniko Kentima/embroidery (Καρσάνικο Κέντημα) from Lefkada, constructed replicas of Odyssea’s boat commemorating his ten-year journey from Troy back to his beloved Ithaki (Το καράβι του Οδυσσέα), and developed their drawing skills with Amphora (scratch art) depicting designs on ancient Greek pottery made popular by the artisans from Kerkyra. Zumba was a new feature added this year, providing an opportunity for physical fitness, while exercising to traditional and contemporary Greek music. The photography class inspired campers to look more carefully at their quarantined surroundings to appreciate the beauty of nature and all its colors and dimension. In the Culture and Traditions class, students learned about Saint Spyridon and his four miracles on the island of Corfu and the Paschal custom of Botides (Μπότηδες) – dropping red clay pots filled with water from the balconies. Students also traveled virtually to Kefalonia, a beautiful island whose patron is Saint Gerasimos. His feast is celebrated on both August 16 and October 20, and he is known for his miraculous healing of illnesses.

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LEFT: Panagioti Faraone (age 7), participated from Connecticut where he prepared Riganata. RIGHT: Tino Flokas (age 15), Saint Katherine in Redondo Beach, CA, rolls out the dough for his Kreatopita.

Our Greek Village is coordinated by a dedicated team of volunteers led by Katerina Iconomou, Executive Director; Georgia Covell, Program Director; and Tessy Tzoytzoyrakos, Educational Consultant. This year’s staff included language teachers: Evangelia Dimitropoulou, Eleni Mathianaki, Evi Miaouli, Dora Pitsidianaki, Ioanna Thanasi, and Tessy Tzoytzoyrakos; Greek Dance Instructors Gabriella Papatzimas and Elena Guillen; Family Cooking with Chef Tony Kostas; Arts and Crafts with Maria Polson and Sandra Karafotias; Photography with Dimitris and George Tzoytzoyrakos; Culture and Traditions with Katerina Iconomou, Georgia Covell, and Elias Petrou; and Zumba with Faten Shehaden.

Gv2020 Alexandra And Nicholas Katopodis Ages 11 And 9 Las Vegas
Alexandra (age 11) and Nicholas (age 9) Katopodis, Saint John the Baptist in Las Vegas, with their culinary creations Riganata and Strapatzada.

Our Greek Village plans to resume an in-person immersion camp at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center from June 19 – 26, 2021 for youth ages 8 – 15 highlighting Constantinople: The City of our Dreams. Plans are also currently in development to offer a virtual program for children ages 4 – 7 to prepare them for the full camp experience in the coming years.

For more information, please visit www.ourgreekvillage.org or contact ourgreekvillage@gmail.com.

See you in the Village . . . Το Ελληνικό Χωριό!