Evgenia Saridou & Maria Louiza Andriakopoulou
On November 16 & 17, Katheti hosted the third part of the seminar Resolving Conflicts through Peer Mediation. The newly formed Peer Mediation group of Galatas Junior High School participated in the seminar. Facilitators were once more the volunteers Evgenia Saridou and Maria Louiza Andriakopoulou (“Dialogos Civil Company of Commercial and Family Mediation“).
The following interview includes interesting information about their professions (lawyers and mediators), the financial crisis, School Peer Mediation and of course their impressions from the local area.
Tell us about your work.
E.S.: I am a lawyer and mediator. That means I am a freelancer in both my capacities, but with collaborators. So, as a lawyer, I am a partner at the “K. Konnidas & Collaborators Law Firm” and, as a mediator, I am a partner at “Dialogos Civil Company of Commercial and Family Mediation”.
M.A.: I am a lawyer and mediator as well. I work as freelancer in a law firm I have with my sister in Athens. As a mediator, I am a partner at “Dialogos Civil Company of Commercial and Family Mediation”.
What is your relationship with the local area?
E.S.: I had only been in the area as a visitor until Katheti decided to organize a training seminar in mediation at school for children for the children and teachers of Galatas high schools. Now, after Katheti has hosted us 3 times and we have collaborated with some wonderful junior-high school children and some admirable teachers, I feel like I have a special family here.
M.A.: As a child, I had come to Poros for a few day vacations. As an adult, I had come to Poros when a client was interested for buying a house there. So, I thought of Galatas as the place from where you take the boat for Poros. With the opportunity of the activities for the promotion of peer mediation in school that Katheti has been organizing since last school term, I had the opportunity to come three times to Galatas, which I now think of as a hospitable and very beloved place.
How has crisis affected your work and your life and how do you deal with it?
E.S.: Both the professions I am trying to serve have to do with human relationships, hence the financial crisis and the austerity measures that were deemed suitable for combating it had a serious financial impact on me. The most direct way was the change of my object of work as a lawyer. Meaning, my work to a large degree seized to be creative, e.g. real estate, construction, establishment of new companies, and became more barren, e.g. company bankruptcies, debts, etc. As a mediator I don’t have a measure of comparison, because mediation was legislatively introduced in Greece in 2010 and I was accredited in 2011, amidst the crisis.
On a personal level, I find that, at first, I became introverted and blew off steam by… cooking and consequently I became extroverted and sought solutions in giving, which is disconnected from financial gain.
M.A.: A lot. I faced many difficulties and challenges that I had never thought I would face after 21 (in the beginning of the crisis) years of working as a lawyer. Mediation and volunteering for the promotion of school mediation was how I dealt with them, because it gave me mental strength. It was and still is an eternal source of joy and creativity.
Which of your knowledge and personality traits have been most useful to you in your professional life?
E.S.: In which of the two? I’m kidding! In both my professions, I believe that the knowledge that you get from books is combined with day-to-day experience. You try, you make a mistake and you correct it, if it can be corrected, and next time you do it differently hoping that this time your way will be proven better. I don’t think that I have any personality traits that invariably help or hinder me. Circumstances ask of something else each time, which is inside us and we use it in order to cope. My involvement with mediation, on the other hand, has been a catalyst for the “revelation” of traits that existed, obviously, but I didn’t know I had them, such as patience.
M.A.: Both my parents were, each in their own way, fighters. So, I learnt not to lose my inner truth, even if I didn’t dare to express it to others out of fear that they would judge me. My mother’s wisdom and love, a friend that helped me a lot during my university years, the lawyer with whom I worked as an intern and my training in person-centered approach and counseling strengthened my innate love for, faith in and understanding of people, in any stage of their life.
What would you like to improve in your personality or work? What are your weaknesses and how have they influenced you?
E.S.: I will look stupid if I say that I don’t know. I have trouble thinking like that; every moment, I want and try to respond to the circumstance, to the need. The next moment, whatever I went through has become an experience and influences my next decision. This way, I feel that I improve myself.
M.A.: I think that it took me at least 50 years in order to recognize my value as a scientist and as a human being. Now I give myself more space than I used to and I express more boldly my thoughts.
What would you do differently and what do you consider as right steps in your career?
E.S.: As a lawyer, I believe that, if I started now, I would try to specialize more in a field. It was a piece of advice that an older lawyer had given me in the beginning of my career, but I didn’t choose to listen to him. Now I believe that maybe I should have. However, I continue to believe that there are no rules in these choices; What I now think as more desirable may be the wrong way to go for someone else.
What I feel as decisively right is the choice (?) to work through collaborations, even though I could, due to the nature of both the professions, to work alone. I’m certain that the interaction through collaboration improves me both professionally and personally.
M.A.: I believe that I was right to choose family law, since it is a field that really interests me. I also consider my decision to become a mediator correct, because it is a vocation with which I absolutely identify. The same applies to my decision to increasingly often collaborate with other colleagues. Training teachers and students in school mediation gives me energy, creativity and strength.
What piece of advice would you give to a young person who would like to do what you do?
E.S.: For both professions, that it should be something they want.
M.A.: That they want it very much, otherwise it would all be a pointless waste of time and energy. Life is short and precious and it is not worth it to waste it in things that are meaningless to us.
What are your plans for the future, short-term and long-term ones?
E.S.: I don’t have plans. I wish I can make my livelihood from my professions, so that I can also have the possibility to support my need for giving.
M.A.: I want to be healthy so that I can work and be able to give.
Why is peer mediation in school useful?
E.S.: In the short term, it helps children solve particular problems/conflicts/disputes of their daily life through talking. The children, with the trust that we show in them, take on the responsibility to solve their own daily issues through dialogue and collaboration and not with fighting and violence.
In the long term, school becomes a more peaceful space, where the community members learn to discuss about the things that trouble them openly and respectfully. Society in its entirety benefits from school mediation: the students are the future; they will show us the alternative way of settling our differences!
M.A.: As to ourselves, it helps us solve our differences in a more efficient way and become more responsible people. Listen and respect other people’s opinions and try to understand them, to learn and love ourselves more. It also helps us live better, in schools that have as little violence as possible and more empowerment, understanding and love among the students. If we look even more forward in time, it will contribute to the creation of a more peaceful and people-friendly society, no matter how different people are.
What were your impressions from the seminar on school peer mediation that you just held in collaboration with Katheti?
E.S.: Katheti is a nucleus of giving. It constantly organizes, hosts, offers. It gives to the local community in the best way. And this is something that all participants are recipients of. Although it is the weekend, teachers and children come in with a great attitude and give their best, dedicate themselves and do wonders!
Every time I leave Galatas I have a sense of warmth and fulfillment! I see the miracle of giving: the more you give, the more you receive.
M.A.: Katheti and what Ms Fay Orfanidou gives is amazing! When I come to Galatas, I always feel that there is for me, as a trainer and as a person, a warm embrace. Katheti’s space is beautiful and inspires immediate familiarity to all of us who are there. For the successful outcome of the trainings, the faith of Ms Maria Pateraki in mediation and in her really amazing students played an important role. My gratitude to both her and Ms Orfanidou!