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A common system for tracing missing children in South East Europe

28 March 2012 / 19:03:56  GRReporter
2279 reads

Victoria Mindova

Greece has a centre for immediate social assistance for children on the initiative of The Smile of the Child Foundation, which has been working 16 years now to protect child-victims of violence, trafficking, homelessness and any troubles. The new centre is the link between all 11 homes and departments of the Foundation. There are two more such centres in Greece, located in Thessaloniki and Patras. The Smile of the Child Foundation has an emergency centre too, which is based in the central building of Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens. It is a reserve office in the event of a natural or other disaster that may damage the Foundation’s existing centres for assistance and communication.

"The entire organization depends on donations by volunteers and companies who want our activity to continue. All efforts we are making are aimed at giving a chance to a child in trouble to survive and to live as he or she should live," said especially for GRReporter the president and founder of the non-profit charitable organization The Smile of the Child, Kostadinos Giannopoulos.

The centre in Maroussi in Athens coordinates the activities of fast response departments with the national call centre for children in need in Greece SOS 1056, the pan-European hotline for missing children 116000 and Amber Alert - Greece. The building housing the new centre was donated, as well as the furniture and telecommunications systems used by the Foundation. The services employees and volunteers of the Foundation offer are focused on the immediate need of rescuing children in trouble, improving the living conditions of children who are victims of any type of violence and conducting regular educational seminars on the types of violence and the way in which adolescents can overcome those difficulties.

90 cents of each euro donated to the Foundation go to support the activities related to helping the children and 10 cents are used to cover operating costs. It employs 320 people and there are around 2,000 volunteers in whole country to date. The Greek Amber system for tracing missing children is one of the most efficient in Europe and experts from The Smile of the Child Foundation advise their colleagues from different countries on how to act in different cases. In 92% of the cases taken by the Foundation, the children return safe and sound to their parents.

The Smile of the Child Foundation cooperates with the Bulgarian Centre Nadya Foundation, which this year has introduced the single line for tracing children 116000 in Bulgaria. "We have very good relations with our colleagues in Bulgaria, but we know they have serious problems with the assistance of public institutions," said Giannopoulos for our Bulgarian readers.

Prevention, awareness and rapid response to a signal are the most important in saving a child in trouble. Giannopoulos said that after a lecture in an Athens school, a girl aged 10 went to an official of the Foundation and said, "It is lucky you explained to us what harassment means and my father does some of the things you spoke about. Can you help us and make him not do them anymore?" The case was assigned to the prosecutor and after the investigation the child has been separated from the abusive father and has gone to an aunt, who has been trying so far to cope alone with the situation. The child was given free psychological help and now, she has returned to the normal life, which she should lead, said Giannopoulos.

Tags: SocietyAmber AlertThe Smile of the ChildMissing children
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