NAME: Maria Tsoutsou
CITY: Agrinio, Messolonghi
BACKGROUND: University Degree
ACTION/SECTOR: Siences, Health, Research and Technology, Third Sector
ORGANISATION: Panayia Eleousa Workshop
My Background and Career
I was born in Mytilene, Greece, where I completed primary and six years of secondary education. I then did a four-year course of study at Virginia Skylitsi School of Midwifery at Elena Venizelou Maternity Clinic and I graduated with an excellent grade.
I taught at Marika Iliadi Maternity Clinic’s school of midwifery, for 5 years, through a donation made by Ms Elena Venizelou. I worked in senior positions, as an Assistant Manager at Athens Maternity Clinic, providing high-quality services, and as a coordinator at Mitera Maternity Clinic, devoting myself to maternity protection and serving the newborn infants and their mothers, both as mothers and women.
I married a doctor from Agrinio, Greece, in 1962 and I had my son, who was mentally disabled. This was a deciding factor that influenced the years to come. I interpreted my only son’s intellectual disability as God’s will and I consciously chose to dedicate the rest of my life to the challenging and socially beneficial work of educating people with mental disabilities and related impairments and supporting their social inclusion and rehabilitation.
I founded Panayia Eleousa Workshop for young people with intellectual disabilities and related impairments in 1989 when no such social welfare services whatsoever were provided in Aetolia-Acarnania prefecture. Great friends, women from Agrinio and Messolonghi, have always stood by me, worked with me and helped me. They are Panayia Eleousa Workshop’s Board of Directors. Both my work as the President of the Board and theirs is voluntary. My mother introduced me to volunteering when I was fourteen and, God willing, I am determined to go on with voluntary work at Panayia Eleousa Workshop till my end.
For years, I did voluntary work for the well-known cultural club, Agrinio Gymnastics Company, as a member of the Board of Directors, of the cultural and art events committee and of the Folklore Society. Working tirelessly together at the workshop for 23 years, we as the 7-member Board of Directors, have managed to improve living standards for the most vulnerable group of people, that of persons with mental disability and related impairments, and change preconceived ideas about them. The workshop has the support and encouragement of Aetolia-Acarnania citizens, the State, the Church and a great number of prominent Greek personalities
We have had many financial problems. Acquiring the necessary resources to secure the smooth running of Panayia Eleousa Workshop has been a constant struggle. Being a mother of a child with mental disability makes it particularly difficult to successfully combine demanding work commitments and family care Personal: I have faced many personal difficulties. However, both persistence in my vision and my work mission have always given me courage and I never gave way.
Setting up and running Panayia Eleousa Workshop for 23 years has been an innovation in Aetolia-Acarnania prefecture and has changed the social exclusion of people with mental disabilities and related impairments into social integration and suspicion about trust and solidarity.
Among my competences, I am able to learn and put into practice new information in my work. I easily adapt myself to changes. I know and I use the required techniques to do a good job. I am a good coordinator. I listen and I pay attention to other people’s problems. I like partnership building. In case of arguments I look for peaceful solutions. I like to negotiate and that everybody ends up satisfied. I like to work as a team I schedule activities and organise myself easily. I solve problems and I find solutions. I like to have objectives and to reach my goals. I am able to quickly make up my mind. I know how to manage all my activities (at work and in my private life). I don’t hesitate to ask for advice. I am able to use other people’s experience and advice.
Among my qualities I’m modest, active, talkative, critical, cooperative, persistent, optimistic, innovative, flexible, tense, fast, open-minded, confident, self-developed, patient, far-sighted, organised and democratic
Hints & Tips
My lucky phrase is: An open sea is your strength and my will a rock
Florence Nightingale’s personality has always inspired me.
My advices to other women: Hold on to moral values; Work hard; Maintain a deep sense of duty and responsibility; Be vigorous and dedicated to what you do; Maintain high quality of services; Focus on continuing your work steadily and consistently over time
Assets to be developed: Research, planning, good organisation, methodology, evaluation, being confident of success
Weaknesses to overcome: Lack of self-knowledge; selfishness