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The crisis is threatening the existence of The Smile of the Child organization

21 July 2015 / 19:07:45  GRReporter
2191 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Chairman of the Greek non-profit organization The Smile of the Child Kostas Giannopoulos has appealed to Greeks abroad and the international community to help it survive. In his words, the imposition of capital controls over the past three weeks has dramatically deteriorated the dire economic straits of the organization that has helped over 1 million children since its foundation 20 years ago.

"We have only a week-long economic life," he said at the beginning of the press conference that took place in Athens today and continued, "The Smile of the Child exists with the help of Greek citizens and companies. Since the imposition of capital controls until today, it has not received a single euro. The companies providing material support are finding difficult to render it and the number of citizens who help us is decreasing too." Giannopoulos explained that the annual budget of the organization is 13 million euro. "Every month our requirements amount to a little more than 1 million euro, and I would like to emphasize that only 11% of this amount goes for administrative costs. All remaining funds are used for children related activities. I am not saying that we are in a disastrous position but I am very concerned," said Giannopoulos.

Currently, the organization is taking care of 299 children in its 11 houses across Greece. The Smile of the Child is supporting 32 youths who are studying at universities or are already working. In the first half of 2015, the organization received 70 new applications to admit 103 abused children and 17 of them are already accommodated at its houses.

Another major activity is the operation of a day care centre. At present, it is taking care of 49 children while social workers are helping their parents cope with their problems so that they begin taking care of their children. In 80% of cases, the children are in the centre because of family problems associated with unemployment, the presence of only one parent who is managing with difficulty, drug use and others.

"What must be stressed is that parents in Greece do not abandon their children because of lack of funds. They always have assistance from their parents and we can say in general that society rests on family in the crisis years. The children who are with us are victims of abuse by parents, drug addicts, etc. We have taken care of children in that situation even before the start of the crisis. It has only aggravated the existing problems," said Kostas Giannopoulos.

"All children in Greece who need help find shelter and care at the houses of the organization. 25-30% of them are children of foreign origin, including immigrant children. They are children from around the world in fact," he said in response to a question asked by GRReporter. Little Maria who was found in a Roma camp near Farsala and Christina who was found only a month later are among them as well. Both are biological children of Bulgarian Roma.

During the first half of the year, The Smile of the Child provided food, school supplies, health services and responded to all other needs of 10,619 children and 1,930 of them were left in the care of the organization for the first time.

"Thousands of calls to the helpline SOS 1056 would not be realized without The Smile of the Child, said social worker Ioanna Lagoumitzi. The line receives information on child abuse and appeals to help children whose lives are in danger. It provides advice on serious social problems and support for children, victims of exploitation for profit, trafficking and crimes that take place in the virtual space. In the first half of 2015, it received 135,197 calls and in 36% of cases information on children in danger.

87 of the children were under direct threat. 69 of them were at risk at their homes and the organization took actions to immediately remove them from there. 6 children today live in a house of the organization. It is worth noting that 811 cases of child abuse were reported or 48% more compared to the first half of 2014.

Last but not least, The Smile of the Child provides assistance in cases of missing children through the European hotline for missing children 116000, Amber Alert Hellas and Thanassis Makris rescue squad for missing children. In that period, the organization addressed the cases of 62 missing children, 10 of which were identified as "alarming". All children have been found.

"A child hides behind each figure, and his or her own family cannot take care of him or her. The Smile of the Child must continue to exist for these children," she stressed.


Tags: SocietyThe Smile of the ChildNon-profit organizationCapital controlsLack of resourcesChild care
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