The logo of the Greensider website.
Filotas at a tree-planting event in Fyli, Greece

Filotas at a tree-planting event in Fyli, Greece

Episode 6

8 Nov 2021

17 min 🎧

6 min 📖

Filotas on How He Chose to Work for His Passion — Planting Trees in Greece

Alongside the pandemic, we witnessed yet another summer of wildfires. In Greece, 125,000 hectares (The size of Greater London is 159,000 hectares) of forests were ravaged with 3 people killed. But that did not eliminate hopes. Today, we’re speaking with Filotas from We4All about how he combines his passion and professional skills in tree-planting.

Listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.

Greensider: First of all, tell us about your role and the organisation that you work for.

Filotas: I work for an NGO called We4All. I’m the Action Manager. This week, I’m also responsible for the communication of our organisation.

We4All’s mission is to plant trees in Greece and abroad. We have already planted a lot of trees in and nearby Athens, as well as Thessaloniki this year during the quarantine time. We have also planted trees with our friends in Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria, Australia and Brazil. Apart from that, we organise beach cleaning events, usually during summertime when tree planting is not recommended because of the warm weather. Another thing we’re going to organise this year is Our Green Future. This program is about educating schools and students about environmental issues.

My role, as I said before, is the action manager. I look after the whole process of every action. As for being a communication manager, I’m responsible for the newsletter and the communication between We4All and other companies about sustainability.

Greensider: Before joining We4All, what did you do? Is your previous work experience helpful for your current position?

Filotas: We4All is actually an organisation that I established with my friends. Before that, I worked in two of the biggest Greek telecommunication companies, in their sustainability department and digital department. The experience was helpful. From the sustainability department, I got to know what big companies need from NGOs and how cooperation is done between the two. Now, I’m able to use the knowledge to enable efficient discussions between We4All and partner companies.

From the digital department, I saw it grew from 20 people when I started, to 100 people more. I learnt a lot about how to promote my cause within and beyond the company, which is very helpful for my role as the communication manager in We4All.

Greensider: How did you prepare yourself for the change of industry, from telecommunication to tree-planting?

Filotas: It’s actually a huge step. When I was in my previous jobs, I didn’t feel complete even though I learnt many things. I was always passionate about the environment. I couldn’t stand the environment being destroyed, especially with trees burning down in Greece. When we started We4All, even though I wasn’t in the office every day, I took part in actions during the weekends, because I wanted to maintain a connection.

Later, I decided to work some days in We4All. Just then, the company I worked at made staff cuts. I believe that, when you want something very hard, everything will work towards it, such as your surroundings or working environment. Even though being fired was a very disappointing thing, I knew it was for my good. I wasn’t sad. I was actually very happy inside because I was going to work on something I had passion about.

Greensider: You’ve managed to combine your passion with your professional skills. That’s perfect! What’s your biggest challenge at work right now?

Filotas: A lot of challenges, but I will try to sum up the most important ones. First of all, working for an NGO is difficult, especially if it’s your own NGO. Everything we did at first was to make it viable. We wanted it to make it something big in order to succeed. And there was no other thing than success. We worked very hard every day in order to be better than yesterday, not only in donations, but also in our roles. We have some seminars to help us improve with our work.

Another challenge is comparing what we do to the scale of the issue. For example, we have planted more than 65,000 trees in Greece and abroad. This summer, 125,000 hectares were burnt. In the face of disasters like these, the amount of trees we have already planted is so small. But then, at least we’ve done something about it. Also, I want to inspire more people to do something about it.

Another challenge is that working in an NGO is very different from working in a multinational company. You have to make your life more concrete and control your spending. But when you aim for something that you are passionate about, I believe that this is the first thing that you have to put away and don’t think about it because you love what you do. I wake up every day and I say, what more things can we do? I don’t wake up disappointed or feel that I have to go to work. I don’t see it as work. It’s a passion to me. It’s my everyday life. Even on weekends, I want to do something.

Greensider: I really admire your passion for what you do. Planting trees is indeed very important. Finally, how do you expect to grow with your role?

Filotas: First as the Action Manager, what I aim and what the team also aims is that, we don’t want to be yet another NGO that brings in volunteers and plants trees. We want to make it an experience. That’s why in every action, we have music and put on a small show to make everyone active. Besides getting the trees planted, we want to attract more people along the way. We hope more people will volunteer in the organisations that they’re passionate about. When this is achieved, I think we will live in a better world day by day. What I want to achieve as an Action Manager is to attract more people to join our actions and to make them more passionate about tree planting, to share knowledge and to create a family vibe. This is also the goal of We4All — we are all a family of volunteers.

As for the communication part, I want to improve my skills so that I can touch people’s hearts. I don’t want to manipulate people, but I would like them to understand why and how we do what we do. For example, we never go to a place to plant without a licence. We always communicate with the local authorities and the forest administration in order to plant specific trees that won’t harm the place. Many people in Greece, unfortunately, believe that NGOs lack transparency. But it’s not our case. We always welcome people to see what we do and participate. We want to show that there is a different aspect of NGOs. That’s why we show our faces in every action, so that people get to know each other and get a clear image of who we are. What I want to do digitally with my role is to make people come to the actions, get to know each other and make a community of volunteers that are interested in tree planting and the environment.

Greensider: That sounds very inspiring. I hope both your trees and career will grow well.

Filotas: Hopefully yes. But I don’t see what I do just as a career. I want to meet new people and make them passionate. I don’t want them to be sad at the situation that every country and every person faces. I want them to be happy, at least during the time they are at the action. When you see someone smiling and planting a tree and you know that this person is happy, you’re double happy. This motivates me to initiate more actions open to the public and bring happiness to more people, not just for the environment.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the mentioned organisations. Greensider Foundation does not accept sponsorship for the production of this content. The above interview transcript has been edited.