Helen Zahos has once again been recognised for her work and humanitarian efforts with a nomination in the Social Responsibility category in this year’s Greek International Women Awards (GIWA).
Speaking to Neos Kosmos, the registered nurse and paramedic says she couldn’t feel prouder as a Greek Australian woman to be part of the awards and to be representing her birth country.
“I feel really privileged and honoured to be considered worthy of being nominated, particularly looking at the other nominees,” Zahos says.
Based in London, the awards are designed to recognise, reward, and celebrate Greek women’s professional achievements and outstanding performances around the world across a range of fields, and Zahos couldn’t be a more fitting candidate.
This year alone the registered emergency nurse and paramedic has volunteered her services in Greece to assist with the refugee crisis, and in Iraq to help set up a field clinic in ISIS territory.
Meanwhile the Queenslander has also volunteered closer to home in the Northern Territory to help victims of the Bali bombings, in the Philippines to assist locals in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, in Nepal following a horrific earthquake, and on Christmas Island and Nauru.
Despite all the injustice she has faced around the world, when asked about the biggest challenge she has faced to date, her humour shines through, replying “my mother”.
“Well breaking the news to my mother: ‘Mum, I’m going to Iraq’ or ‘Mum, I’m leaving for Nepal there has been an earthquake’. You know exactly the montage of disapproving looks and words of resignation that were given, particularly being a Greek mother! We have a running joke that it’s yet another ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’,” she laughs.
“In all seriousness though, each disaster that I attended had its own challenges, from sleeping on mountains with continuing aftershocks and landslides, still being in danger; with no running water or power or infrastructure; to dealing with families that had lost loved ones, or leaving people behind to die.”
However the most challenging experience for Zahos thus far has been the refugee crisis in Greece, and bearing witness to the impact on an already struggling country with limited resources.
“It was a lot more personal than the other disasters I had attended,” says Zahos, whose parents were born in Katerini.
But despite what seems to be neverending adversity, Zahos says she can’t help but persevere having seen the difference an individual can make, even with limited resources.
“I guess for me, nursing is a way of life not just a job,” she says.
“You make a difference just by listening to a grieving parent, or holding an orphaned child, giving someone that is thirsty some water to drink or wrapping them in a blanket when it is cold. Doing this without prejudice for race or religion is just basic humanity. When you hear firsthand accounts of the journey some people have been on just to survive and how by chance you were born into a completely different life, it inspires you to go on and continue helping.”
For her next mission, Zahos has her sights set on a rather personal project that will take her back to her ancestral roots.
After cancer took her father in Australia and two uncles in Greece, and after witnessing the difference in services available in each country, she is looking to raise funds to help set up a hospice centre in Katerini for palliative cancer patients who are nearing the end of their life, to die with dignity.
In the meantime she is taking a much needed rest, before heading to East Arnhem Land to work in an indigenous community.
“As you know, we have our own problems here close to home,” she says.
While already an inspiration to so many, it is no surprise that Zahos sees her potential win as a chance to give back, and to empower other women to realise their own potential.
“I hope to inspire other Greek women to follow their dreams, to help them push passed the fear or negative thoughts that may be holding them back, particularly when they want to pursue their careers and think they aren’t good enough,” she says.
“I’m just a normal, ordinary person who has had the opportunity to do some extraordinary things. If I can do it, they can too.”
Voting is open to anyone to submit their choices until Tuesday 31 October. Judges will announce the winners at a ceremony at the British Museum in London on 9 December. To cast your vote, visit the Greek international Women Awards at https://goo.gl/8duUmy