Both the Laona Foundation and Terra Cypria- the Cyprus Conservation Foundation, started as initiatives of Adrian Akers-Douglas, a British expatriate who settled in Cyprus in 1973 and within a few years founded his first NGO, the Cyprus branch of Friends of the Earth. By the mid-1980’s concern for the fate of Akamas, the unspoilt western peninsula of Cyprus, made Friends of the Earth realise that specific action was necessary in order to demonstrate to locals and government alike, that mass tourism development was not a solution to the economic problems of the area, but rather the preservation of its natural beauty and traditional culture. Artemis Yiordamli, at the time a planning consultant, was brought in, and so the Laona Project, funded by the EU MEDSPA programme was set up in 1989, evolving three years later into the Laona Foundation, which aimed to support rural communities. At the same time, Terra Cypria was set up with a different, but complementary objective: to provide environmental education for young people, the citizens of tomorrow, while sensitising decision-makers about the environment and how their decisions affect peoples ’lives.
The Leventis Foundation (see below) and many individuals contributed to the evolution of both Foundations, some being still involved, while others have moved on. Costas Kleanthous, a Cypriot living in the UK and Dolores Rebello, a Briton settled in Cyprus, played an instrumental role in the formal establishment of both foundations, serving also on their boards, and Costas remained chairman of both boards until 2018. Others with key roles were architects Martin Schuler, Roxane Coudounari-Vernardaki and the late Pefkios Georgiades, all of whom contributed much more than their architectural skills; environmental educationalist Nicholas Symons; archaeologist Vassos Karagiorghis; Paphos district inspector George Nicolaou; Iossif Nicolaou, president of the local authority of Kritou Terra village; financial advisor Frederiki Coudounari; British tour operators Noel Josephides and the late John der Parthog; Skevi Symeonidou, the Foundations’ administrative officer of 25 years, Costas Orountiotis, Deputy Director, of both Foundation for 11 years, Stalo Vassiliadou who was in charge of finances since 2002 and last but by no means least, Elena Kalliri the architect who led Laona teams into the field and died tragically young in 2011.
Undoubtedly both Foundations may have faced many more difficulties if it were not for the unfailing support offered by the Leventis Foundation and the personal involvement of key members of the family who displayed their confidence in the work of both Foundations for over a quarter of a century. Edmée and Myriam Leventis were board members, while their respective spouses, the late Deno (Constantine) Leventis and his brother, Taso (Anastasios P) Leventis have successively chaired the Annual General Meetings of Laona. The Leventis Foundation remains Laona’s major benefactor.
It would be an impossible task to record all the persons who have given of their time and energy for the benefit of the Laona Foundation and its causes through the first 25 years of its existence. While we enter a new phase in the Foundation’s operations, as it moves forward independently of Terra Cypria, we gratefully acknowledge all those unsung heroes and welcome those who have joined us since on this voyage.